Published September 18, 2011 - 11:36am
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Auburn’s 17-game winning streak didn’t end with a bang, even though the game was filled with offensive fireworks. It ended with Clemson mercifully taking a knee deep in Auburn territory. This game was eerily similar to the 2010 Outback Bowl against Northwestern, and the 2010 Arkansas game.
In each of those games, the Auburn defense was as equally inept as in the Clemson game. The difference in those two games and Saturday’s game, other than both of them being Auburn wins, was the defense made some key defensive stops and helped themselves with turnovers converted into scores. There were no such plays against Clemson.
I’m not going to start pointing fingers at any particular coach, but even Ray Charles could see this Auburn defense has played terrible through the first three games. You’re not going to win many games when your defense is giving up over 36 points a game, regardless of how good your offense is.
Though Auburn has a stellar record since Coach Chizik returned to the Plains, the defense has not been good in either season. A championship caliber program has great recruiting AND great coaching on both sides of the ball. The 2010 championship team overcame the play of it’s defense with a great offense. That’s a luxury this Auburn team does not have.
Auburn actually had control of the game early with a 14-0 lead, and had the Clemson defense on it’s heels, but a key punt return mistake swung field position and momentum. Trovon Reed fielded a punt inside his own goalline and attempted a return. He was stopped at the 4-yardline. After punting the ball, and giving Clemson a short field to work with, Clemson responed with a touchdown to cut the lead to 14-7.
This mistake may have allowed Clemson to grab the momentum and get back in the game, but anyone watching the game would realize the outcome would have been the same. Though Auburn’s offense also failed to make some plays they’re going to have to make later on in the season, they’re light years ahead of the defense. When you set up flare passes and screens that are designed to get good yardage, you have got to catch the ball.
I haven’t lost faith in this Auburn team. I still believe they’ll be bowl eligible at the end of the season. I know there are probably going to be more games like Clemson, but I also believe that there are going to be times where Auburn wins games they’re not supposed to win. Auburn still has a lot of talent on both sides of the football, and with maturity and better preparation, I see bright times ahead for this program.
For video highlights of the Auburn-Clemson game, click here.