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Top 5 Games vs. Clemson: No place like Dome

(Editor’s note: Each week this football season, Auburn University Journalism Instructor and The Auburn Plainsman Adviser Austin Phillips will break down the greatest games against that week’s opponent or notable games in that week’s history. Break it down, Austin.)

You’ll never guess where we rank the original God Thing…

The Auburn Tigers will take on the Clemson Tigers for the 49th time Saturday, Sept. 1, but the rivalry is much more than two teams with the same nickname (Auburn will also play Tigers against LSU and Missouri). Last season, Clemson got the better of Auburn, 38-24, ending a 14-game losing streak to Auburn that dated back to 1952. The 2011 victory avenged an overtime loss to Auburn in 2010, but Auburn still holds the series lead 34-12-2 in the rivalry that dates back to 1899.

No. 5: Dec. 31, 2007, Chick-fil-A Bowl, Atlanta
AU 23
Clemson 20 (OT)

Auburn had just 10 days for prepare a new offense, as offensive coordinator Al Borges was shipped out and Tony Franklin was ushered in, but the good Tigers got busy during those 10 days. Auburn posted 423 yards of total offense in a 23-20 overtime thriller. While the two Tigers’ records looked similar entering the game, with Auburn coming off its sixth-consecutive victory over cross-state rival Alabama, the stat sheet was nothing close when the game ended. Franklin utilized his two-quarterback system of Brandon Cox’s arm and Kodi Burns’ legs to wear down the Clemson defense. Cox finished 25-of-39 for 211 yards and an interception, while Burns finished 1-of-4 passing for 22 yards and a touchdown and 13 carries for 69 yards and a touchdown. Wes Byrum nailed a 36-yarder to give Auburn a first-quarter lead, but Clemson answered on C.J. Spiller’s 83-yard second-quarter touchdown run to put Clemson up 7-3. Mario Fannin gave Auburn its second lead of the game on a 22-yard touchdown pass from Burns in the third quarter, but Clemson would prove to fight until the end. Mark Buchholz nailed a 22-yard field goal on the first play of the final quarter to tie the game 10-10, and then James Davis gave Clemson a 17-10 lead on a 1-yard run that capped a seven-play drive. Ben Tate tied the game up for Auburn on a 1-yard run with 8:27 left to play, and that would be all the scoring for regulation. Buchholz gave Clemson the OT lead on a 25-yard field goal, but Burns sealed the deal on a 7-yard scamper to give Auburn its ninth win of the season and the Chick-fil-A Bowl championship.

Nov. 4: Oct. 7, 1919, Auburn
AU 7
Clemson 0

The 1919 matchup between the two Tigers marked the 15th game in the series, with Auburn holding an 11-3 advantage going into the game, while also enjoying a nine-game win streak over the Tigers from South Carolina (Auburn would go on to win 12-in-a-row over Clemson from 1907-21, tying the Tigers in 1923, 0-0, and then winning three more from ’24-260). Auburn narrowly escaped with a 7-0 victory thanks to Ed Shirling’s 23-yard touchdown run over left tackle in the fourth quarter, and went on to finish 8-1 and as the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association Champions (probably because of this girl).

No. 3: Nov. 22, 1952, Auburn
AU 3
Clemson 0

From the 1953 Glomerata: “Howard goes for a first down.”

Clemson was in the midst of a six-game unbeaten streak against Auburn (Clemson won three-in-a-row from 1946-48, tied Auburn in 1949, 20-20, and then picked up two more wins in a row from 1950-51 by a combined score of 75-0) when the Tigers from South Carolina came strutting onto The Plains. Although Auburn needed just one Joe Davis field goal (in the final 90 seconds) to win their second game of the season (Auburn finished the season 2-8, while Clemson finished 2-6-1), the victory propelled Auburn to a 14-game win streak over Clemson that didn’t end until 2011, spanning nearly six decades. Clemson left the Southern Conference after the ’52 season, joining others in what is now the ACC.

No. 2: Jan. 2, 1998, Peach Bowl, Atlanta
AU 21
Clemson 17

Auburn made its first same-season return trip to the Georgia Dome after the new year following a heartbreaking loss to Tennessee, 30-29, in the Tigers’ first trip to the SEC Championship game. The SEC Western Division champions were determined to get revenge in the dome, and Auburn did just that behind the leadership of quarterback Dameyune Craig after scoring 15 unanswered fourth-quarter points to earn the come-from-behind victory, 21-17, in what was then known as the Peach Bowl. Auburn struck first on a Jaret Holmes field goal in the first quarter, but a special teams miscue cost Auburn in the second quarter as Rod Gardner blocked Holmes’ punt and Chad Speck returned it 18 yards for the Clemson touchdown. Holmes added his second field goal of the night after Craig led the Tigers on a seven-play, 67-yard drive to close out the opening half. Clemson once again seized on an Auburn special teams miscue in the second half when Rahim Abdullah blocked another Holmes punt and Mal Lawyer recovered it on the 2. Clemson scored on the next play, and then David Richardson nailed a 48-yard field goal minutes later to give Clemson a 17-6 lead going into the fourth. In the final quarter, Craig led Auburn on three consecutive scoring drives, including a 22-yard touchdown run, a 7-yard touchdown run by Rusty Williams and a 22-yard field goal by Holmes, his third of the night, to give Auburn the 21-17 redemption win in the dome.

No. 1: Sept. 18 , 2010, Auburn
AU 27
Clemson 24 (OT)

It’s the night we all started to believe.  After a convincing win over Arkansas State to begin the season and a narrow escape at Mississippi State, the Tigers turned on the lights for the national spotlight as ESPN came to town with the traveling circus known as “Gameday.” With the all eyes turned toward the Loveliest Village, the Tigers stumbled out of the gate and looked like a much-overhyped No. 16 team in the nation. Clemson came out of the gate firing on all cylinders, scoring on an 8-yard strike from Kyle Parker to Jamie Harper to cap a 12-play, 76-yard drive. Clemson added a 42-yard field goal by Chandler Catanzaro and another touchdown from Parker to Harper, this time from 24 yards out, to jump out to a 17-0 lead. Clemson’s defense also didn’t disappoint, holding Auburn to three three-and-outs on the first three offensive possessions, four punts and an interception in the first half. Wes Byrum, as he did all season, gave the Tigers a much-needed boost on a 35-yard field goal as time expired to end the first half, and Auburn found its momentum in the second half. Despite Cam Newton’s second interception of the game to open the second half, Onterio McCalebb got the offense going following a quick defensive stop as he scampered into the end zone from 12 yards out to cut the deficit to 17-10. Darvin Adams gave Auburn the lead on an 8-yard touchdown catch from Newton to tie the game at 17-17 before Terrell Zachery hauled in a 72-yard pass from Newton to give Auburn the 24-17 edge heading into the fourth quarter. Andrew Ellington tied the game up for Clemson on a 2-yard run early in the fourth, and both teams’ offenses stalled as overtime loomed. That’s when business picked up. In overtime, Byrum gave Auburn a 27-24 lead on a 39-yard kick, a kick that would prove to be the difference in the game, and eventually the season. On Clemson’s ensuing overtime possession, a wide open Jaron Brown failed to haul in a Parker pass on third down of the opening drive, and Clemson was forced to attempt a potential game-tying field goal. Catanzaro’s 27-yard field goal sailed through and it appeared the game was heading into another overtime. But wait! A flag? On who? Clemson snapper Dalton Freeman for illegal procedure, negating the field goal and forcing Clemson into a 32-yard field goal attempt. Catanzaro’s kick sailed left, pandemonium erupted on the field and the Tigers notched win No. 3, thus paving the way for an undefeated season and a run at the BCS title.

Top photo: Getty Images. 

Austin Phillips is an Auburn University journalism instructor and adviser to The Auburn Plainsman. He can be reached at [email protected], or follow him on Twitter @ScoopPhillips.

Related: Every Phil Neel-drawn Auburn vs. Clemson program cover… even the dirty ones.

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