AUBURN, Ala. -- The Clemson Tigers are halfway toward striking a blow for the ACC’s battered football pride, leading 16th-ranked Auburn 17-3 at halftime in Jordan-Hare Stadium Saturday night.
Walking into the storm of Auburn’s pre-game enthusiasm, Clemson appeared unimpressed, taking the first possession and marching 76 yards for a touchdown.
Auburn’s defense looked unprepared for the Tigers’ running game, which was responsible for 10 of the 12 plays on the opening drive which culminated in an eight-yard touchdown pass from Kyle Parker to Jamie Harper with 8:59 left in the opening quarter.
Andre Ellington set the early tone with a pair of strong runs as Clemson marched crisply downfield for the first score.
Meanwhile, Auburn’s offense couldn’t get started, failing to gain a first down in the Tigers’ first three possessions.
Clemson stretched its lead to 10-0 on a 42-yard Chandler Catanzaro field goal midway through the second quarter. The Tigers appeared headed for a second touchdown until an Auburn blitz led to an eight-yard loss, stalling the drive.
Late in the second quarter, Clemson’s DeAndre McDaniel made a leaping interception off Auburn quarterback Cameron Newton at the Clemson 39-yard line.
Moments later, running back Jamie Harper laid out in the end zone to make a spectacular 24-yard touchdown reception, giving Clemson a 17-0 with 1;14 remaining in the first half.
In a young season in which the ACC’s image has been battered by losses in high-profile national games – and some not-so-high-profile games – Clemson’s visit to Auburn offered a chance for the league to pick up a valuable victory over the 16th-ranked Tigers.
For Clemson, it was also a chance to erase more than 50 years winless years against Auburn. The Tigers entered the steamy evening having lost 13 in a row to Auburn, their last victory coming in 1951, 18 years before Clemson coach Dabo Swinney was born.
-- Ron Green Jr.