— Washington gets facemasked on the second-half kickoff return and still manages to make the 30-yard line, meaning that post-penalty, Auburn sets up on the 45-yard line. Between the end of the previous drive and the beginning of this one, things are happening for Auburn that are … “good”? Is that right? “Positive”? Is that word? I hesitate to use it.
— Nevermind, holding call on Pugh on 2nd-and-8, 2nd-and-18, let’s see if we get an interception or sack or second straight hold. My bet is on “sack.” Nope, none of the above: the pump-and-go gets Adams open and it’s a 35-yard gain. Wow. That was pretty good, Cam. Oh, and now you’re going deep again, Kitchens is there …
… picked. Great play the Clemson defender, but if that ball is six inches higher, it’s a touchdown. Dammit, Cam. Dammit. Not to go too emo on you, Cam, but you’re destroying my dreams, man. A score there actually makes things interesting. The officials inexplicably spot the ball at the 1, though, so maybe coming out of halftime Auburn’s D can do something?
–Yes, Zach Clayton can wrap up Kyle Parker five yards out of bounds, that’s what they can do. Clemson escapes out to the 18.
— Bynes is having a Nick Fairley-type game. First a TFL on first down, then a tackle of Ellington for two yards, then a crazy bloodlust howl or something standing above Ellington afterwards. Josh, you’re awesome, don’t change a thing but this one thing, but please please please don’t pick up a flag like that, thanks. Check-down is incomplete on 3rd-and-9, Clemson punts, Carr doesn’t fumble, hooray!
— 3rd-and-1 after a Newton run. Please convert this. A deep pass? A deep pass directly to the safety? No no no no YES YES YES! Adams makes a tremendous adjustment on the ball, 34 yards, first down inside the 20. 3rd-and-4, McCalebb, cuts back, TOUCHDOWN! 17-10. I can’t believe Auburn’s that close already. C’mon, guys.
— Herbstreit says Auburn has made some “adjustments” on defense as Bynes picks up yet another TFL; I think the adjustment was to trick Clemson into going away from the delays and screens on this drive. 3rd-and-8, Parker drops the snap, takes off, and this is the play where he gets McNeil’s helmet in the back. Musberger clearly feels it’s a dirty play and I’ve seen some other fan rambling to that effect, but on replay, that’s crap: Parker is already starting to get down and McNeil is already falling forward to make the tackle when Carter catches up to Parker, pulling him around and exposing his back to McNeil. This is football. These things happen.
— Clemson punts. KodiCat, handoff to McCalebb, 15 yards? Best thing that’s happened out of that formation this season. Auburn gets the tempo going, maybe grab some momentum … if Ziemba doesn’t false start and Greene doesn’t let Bowers torch him for a TFL. 2nd-and-16. Newton, drops back … a strike to Adams! For 17! OK, this is no fluke any more: the offense is actually doing things. Welcome back, guys.
— MORE: Dyer for 9, Dyer for 23 (!), Dyer for 4. Bowers blows up another sweep; 3rd-and-6. Newton, a dart to Adams in the front corner of the end zone, complete, touchdown?!? Nope. Incomplete. Foot on the out-of-bounds line. Replay: THE OTHER FOOT IS DOWN. The other foot is down! No question about it. But will the replay official view it as “indisputable”?
YES HE WILL! TOUCHDOWN, AUBURN! Tie game, 17-17! Oh man oh man oh man. By the by, in case you forgot: Darvin Adams is an amazing freaking receiver.
— Clemson’s return man alllllllllmost steps out of the end zone before taking a knee. Frankly, Chris Davis is extremely lucky not to pick up a flag here–he comes in and makes contact with the return man, motionless on a knee, with the whistle having been blown a good couple seconds beforehand. Throwing away “Big Mo” on a beyond-dumb special teams play would be a pretty huge mistake at this point.
— Of course, throwing it away by letting Ellington loose for 21 yards right up the middle isn’t so great, either.
— But hey, as long as Clemson keeps trying to get Harper going up the middle, there’s hope. Two runs go nowhere, 3rd-and-9. Parker flushed, throws, incomplete. I would say this game has turned around 180 degrees, but that’s not a strong enough description, since it’s turned around, like, twice that hard, more like 360 degrees, amirite?!?
(I am aware I am not right.)
— Auburn’s offense retakes the field with the chance to take the lead, words at halftime I would have said were less likely for me to type than “Erin Andrews just casually mentioned she’ll be staying in Room 212 at the Heart of Auburn and said she will not have the door’s peephole covered with some sort of covering.” 2nd-and-5, huge pump fake by Newton, takes the hit, launches deep … ZACHERY! HE’S GOT IT! HE’S IN BOUNDS! TOOOUUUCHDOOOOWWWWN! 78 yards!
Incredible job by both Newton and Zachery there. A perfect pass despite the pressure, remarkable balance on the sideline. 24-17 Auburn, and we’re not even out of the third quarter. They’ve had four possessions, three of them ending in scores and the first ending in a pick at the goalline. Maybe it’s the buzz of watching it happen, maybe it’s just me being forgetful, but I can’t remember a quarter like this for Auburn against competition of this caliber. I’m trying ,and I can’t.
— 2nd-and-10 Clemson, and here, I’ll let you Herbstreit explain why this pass interference call is so terrible:
“There isn’t any contact there at all.”
Washington doesn’t look for the ball at all, sure, but face-guarding isn’t illegal in college, you know. Just a garbage call.
— Well, I guess Auburn wasn’t going to keep an offense with guys like Parker, Ellington, and Harper down forever, especially when they get that kind of help: Harper for 6, Harper for 6, Ellington for 21 (a fantastic run), pass for 3, pass for 7, Harper for 6, screen to Ellington for 11, Ellington an easy 2 for the touchdown. 24-24, Clemson’s easiest drive of the night. And here I was thinking the quarter break would have helped the Auburn defense. I’m so confused.
— Washington’s return only gets to the 36 (and then Sanders does something probably stupid to get himself a personal foul call, taking it back to the 21), but that doesn’t do his effort and balance to break about a half-dozen tackles on this return justice; he’s going to break a big one sometime this year.
— Zone read, McCalebb takes it around the edge for 12. If that play starts working, hoo boy. Of course, the problem is that the reverse to Zachery had stopped working: here it loses 7. 3rd-and-14, Newton’s sacked, Auburn punts. But first A.J. Greene goes down, and both the cart and Dr. James Andrews have to come out to help him off the field. That’s a bad, bad sign for Greene. But I do have to say, it’s pretty cool seeing the world’s most famous orthopedic surgeon on Auburn’s field wearing an Auburn hat.
— 3rd-and-7 Clemson, Fairley abuses the poor Clemson backup guard and sacks. All of a sudden the offenses are off the rails again.
— 8 minutes left. Come on Auburn. Newton keeps on the zone read, eight yards. Dyer, 15 yards, great run. Newton for 3. Flip to Smith, 8 yards, great effort, another first down. Dyer, nothing. Newton scramble, 8 yards. 3rd-and-2.
3rd-and-2. Game on the line. You’ve got to get this, Auburn. Timeout. Come on.
Newton, option … not a prayer. DAMN. Damn damn. At least Shoemaker, who’s been iffy tonight, forces a fair catch at the 9.
— OK, Clemson has the ball, potentially driving for the win. Let’s go, Auburn D. Letting Ellington loose for 12? Watching Harper pick up 17 on 3rd-and-1? This is not going.
— Peculiar reverse call nets Clemson a loss of 1, and it’s 3rd-and-9, just shy of midfield. Carter with pressure, Parker fires … just overthrown. He had the tight end. Wide open. A catch equals, at the very least, a makeable field goal. When you look at how bad Auburn’s coverage broke down, you have to think … wait, am I breathing? I’m not breathing. Gimme a sec. Stupid lungs.
— Clemson punts. 70 seconds or so, Auburn takes over at their own 12 … and Chizik decides to play for overtime. I know Newton’s been a little shaky going downfield, but come on: we have a receiver that’s caught everything thrown his way tonight. Newton has the arm and proved just a few minutes how well he can stand in against pressure. Most importantly, we have a kicker with range out to probably 53 or 54 yards who’s missed one unblocked field goal in 16 games. Play to win the game, coach.
But he can’t hear me, and for the second time in four Auburn games, we’re off to …
— Auburn loses the toss. But it worked out against Northwestern, so I’m not freaking out. Herbstreit notes that “if it comes down to field goals,” Auburn’s in better shape. Mmmmmm, that is some absolutely delicious foreshadowing. Rich, oaky, maybe with just a hint of cherries in that foreshadow. I loved it.
— Newton keeps on the zone read: 2 yards. Wildcat with Burns: NOW? Gus, come on man, it’s 2nd-and-8 in overtime and we’re breaking out the KodiCat NOW? No. No no no no no no. NO! Whatever: McCalebb on the same end-around that netted 15 earlier, this time it gains two … and it’s only because McCalebb is cat-quick to the edge. And he gets knocked slap out on the sideline. If we go to a second overtime, he’s done.
3rd-and-6: to the end zone, to Adams … just out of reach. Terrific coverage, but Newton almost got in there. Then again, what the hell good does “almost” get us in this situation, especially when Zachery had leaked into the flat and had no one within 15 yards of him? Byrum comes on for a 39-yarder.
Wes, you’ve got to hit this. You’ve got to. Kick is up … never a doubt. 27-24, Auburn. He’s the best.
— Screen on 2nd-and-5, and of course it works. 8 yards, and only another excellent play by Bynes kept it from picking up 8 more. Ellington for 5. Holy crap, Auburn, come on. Clemson has a lineman injured … and he’s not getting up. Oh man, that sucks. Eventually the cart comes out. Not what you want to see.
But am I going to pretend I’m not glad Auburn’s defense gets the blow? No, no I’m not.
— 2nd-and-5. Ellington, over left tackle, he’s got space … tackled. Etheridge! Bounced off a block by the fullback to make a game-saving play; there was a nanosecond there where I thought the game was over. Whew.
— 3rd-and-5. Parker rolls out, throws … and misses. He missed him. He missed him! The receiver was wide open and Parker just missed him. No real pressure, no great play from the secondary. Just a miss. Also: Craig Stevens pulls around up to the end of the defensive line on this play, and clearly steps offside before the ball is snapped.
Auburn was not lucky to win this game; they played just as well as Clemson statistically, maybe even better down-to-down when everything is considered, and both teams got their fair share of breaks over the course of 60 minutes. But on this one play? Auburn was extremely, extremely lucky.
— Field goal up: good. Whistles? This cannot be offsides. Good sweet merciful heavens, Auburn, you cannot lose this game because you jumped offsides on a field goal. You just can’t. But maybe you haven’t? The officials are conferring, even after the initial signal … illegal snap? THEY CALLED AN ILLEGAL SNAP! Replay shows: it’s absolutely the correct call. Terrific piece of officiating.
So … another field goal. A freshman kicker. Not far, but on the hash. On the road. And he’s done it once already. You know, I wouldn’t be surprised if he missed this …
… and he does. He missed it!
WOOOOOOOO YEAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH! HELL YEAH!
Auburn wins, 27-24. Auburn wins 27-24! War Eagle!
That was … what the hell was that? I don’t care. Auburn is 3-0. Two tests down. A long way to go, a lot more tests to come, but two of them are in the books and Auburn has passed them both. Condolences to Clemson: that’s a terrible way to lose, and not something Parker or Ellington or Bowers (all of whom I am quite glad to see the back of) deserved.
— All right, the postgame interview, Chizik is asked about the game, and says, and I quote, “we’re blessed, man, this is a God thing tonight, now, I’m gonna tell you.” And no, for those of us who believe God has more important things to do than decide the outcomes of college football games, that doesn’t sit particularly well. But I can’t imagine that’s what Chizik actually meant there–he’s actually meaning to say, on national television, that God took sides with Auburn over Clemson? Naaaaah. If someone stuck a microphone in my face immediately following the events that had just occurred, I’d have probably said something a little foggy, too.
— 3-0. Carolina this week. Let’s go, Auburn.
WAR DAMN EAGLE!