Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham is going to be seeing Clemson defenders coming at him when he closes his eyes for the foreseeable future.
The No. 3 Clemson defense racked up an incredible 11 sacks of Stidham, throttling No. 13 Auburn’s offense in a 14-6 win Saturday night.
The Tigers’ defensive front has shown it’s one of the best of the country in the College Football Playoff over the last two seasons. But its Week 2 performance might have been defensive coordinator Brent Venables’ unit’s finest showing. Stidham, Auburn’s transfer and heralded offensive savior quarterback, had no time to throw downfield. Heck, it felt like he didn’t have opportunities to go past his first read at times.
Heck, it felt like he didn’t have opportunities to go past his first read at times. The 11 sacks were one short of a Clemson record, though it should be noted that the record came in 1996 vs. FCS school Furman. This is a far more impressive achievement.
The Auburn rushing offense couldn’t get going either. While Stidham’s sack yardage is factored into the team total, Auburn’s leading rusher Kamryn Pettway had 22 rushes for 74 yards.
Stidham was 13-24 passing for 79 yards. It was an ugly offensive performance; as ugly or maybe uglier than the duds that plagued the end of Auburn’s 2016 campaign.
Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant was efficient, if not spectacular. And unsurprisingly, he relied a lot on wide receiver Hunter Renfrow, who had nine catches for 62 yards.
Bryant briefly left the game in the first half after he was driven to the turf following a screen pass. But he returned on the next drive and scored one of his two rushing touchdowns. Those were the only two scores Clemson had all night. But Auburn’s only two scores came on Daniel Carlson field goals.
The performance solidifies Clemson as the new favorite in the ACC. Though given that the Tigers are defending champions, you can make a convincing argument they should have been the favorites to start the season.
With Florida State quarterback Deondre Francois out for the season and the Seminoles coming to Clemson later this year, the ACC is once again the Tigers’ to lose. And with Clemson’s defensive front, a unit that has freaks like Christian Wilkins, Clelin Ferrell, Dexter Lawrence and others, opposing quarterbacks are never going to get comfortable.
The prospect of Clemson-Alabama III is already getting realer two weeks into the season. And we’re damn excited about it.
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