It wasn’t easy for the defending national champions, but the Clemson Tigers did manage to hold off the visiting Auburn Tigers on Saturday night at Death Valley.
Coach Dabo Swinney’s squad struggled offensively, but Clemson’s stifling defense shut down QB Jarrett Stidham and the Auburn offense in the impressive 14-6 win.
To twist the knife into Auburn a little deeper (though he likely didn’t mean it as an additional insult), Swinney, in his postgame press conference recalled his days playing for Alabama, though he recalled a year when the Crimson Tide lost to the Tigers 15-10 in the annual Iron Bowl showdown (via AL.com):
“I feel like I’m back at Alabama in 1988 after that one,” he said. “What a tough, gritty game. That’s such a reflection of the heart of our guys. You have to find ways to win games, especially early in the season, and I’m just really proud of our guys, particularly on defense. Hats off to those guys — 11 sacks and 14 tackles for loss. Our defensive line controlled the game. Really, all three levels of the defense played well. I can’t say enough good things.”
Still, Swinney’s point stands — Saturday night’s battle between the two groups of Tigers did have the feel of an SEC matchup. Swinney added that the energy provided by the fans at Memorial Stadium gave the Tigers a big boost and reminded him of a classic SEC showdown:
“I just appreciate the environment and the atmosphere that they helped create tonight. I know this was a low-scoring slobberknocker, but they stuck with us and helped create a good energy for us tonight.”
It wasn’t the best all-around effort for Clemson, but a win is a win, and Swinney will certainly take every victory he can get this early in the season.
It would be interesting to see these two teams meet again down the road, though, as Stidham gets settled into the Auburn offense a little more.