Clemson wins CFA Kickoff

Brian Jones

When it comes to college football, the SEC has been the most dominant conference the last six years. The proof to that statement: Six consecutive BCS National Championships.

But the ACC wants to be where the SEC is now. Not only do they want to win championships, they want to get the attention.

Clemson took on Auburn in the Chick-fil-A College Kickoff game on Saturday night at the Georgia Dome. Normally the SEC representative wins the annual ACC/SEC contest, but with the help of quarterback Taj Boyd and running back Andre Ellington, Clemson came out on top 26-19.

Clemson, the defending ACC champs, never had a problem moving the ball all game. They just had issues punching it in the end zone, at least in the first half. On its second possession of the game, Clemson got the ball all the way down to the Auburn 1-yard line and were going to go for it on fourth down. But a false start penalty pushed them back and had to settle for a field goal to take the 3-0 lead.

“Our toughest is Clemson and we made enough mistakes that we probably lost to them,” said Clemson head coach Dabo Siwnney. “But we overcame them.”

Auburn responded on the ensuing drive when quarterback Kiehl Frazier found Emory Blake for a 54-yard touchdown pass. Clemson answered back early in the second quarter with 10 points in three minutes. After a 40-yard field goal by Chandler Cantazaro, Clemson got the ball right back after Frazier threw an interception to Rashard Hall. That led to a 68-yard run by Ellington and a 7-yard touchdown run by Roderick McDowell to give Clemson the 13-7 lead.

“I went and talked to my offensive line and they felt like they were pushing them (Auburn) around,” said Ellington who had a career high 231 yards on 26 carries. “Our stamina from working so hard in the offseason really showed and we felt like they were wearing down and I was able to keep going.”

After that it was the battle of field goals as Auburn and Clemson exchanged field goals from the end of the second quarter to the start of the fourth. In reality, Auburn got the better of the field goal battle because Cody Parkey had four field goals droning that span and Clemson only had one. That gave Auburn a 19-16 lead early in the fourth, but Boyd and Ellington took matters into their own hands for Clemson.

On the ensuing drive, Clemson put together a 10-play, 75-yard drive which included a 27-yard and a 10-yard run by Boyd and 20 rushing yards on three carries by Ellington. The drive ended with a Boyd 4-yard touchdown pass to DeAndre Hopkins to give Clemson the 23-19 lead.

They added on to their lead later in the quarter with a Cantanzaro 18-yard field goal, which was possible because a 45-yard run by Ellington.

“We knew he was an extremely talented young man,” Auburn head coach Gene Chizik said. “We’ve played against him for three years now. There were times where we took bad tackling angles, but other times where we hit him and he kept his balance. He’s a fantastic football player.

Auburn, who played in the Georgia Dome in their final game of last season in the Chick-fil-A bowl was able to move the ball, but only scored field goals the three times they were in the redzone which was the reason why the fell short. Despite being disappointed with the outcome, he was glad his team got the opportunity to play in the kickoff game.

“For our fans and players, it’s an exciting way to start the year,” Chizik added. “I didn’t enjoy the outcome, but I was glad to see the reaction from our fans and our kids.”

Swinney also loved playing in the Georgia Dome to start the season because it got Clemson nation motivated since the end of last season.

“It was awesome,” Swinney said. “This brought excitement and a sense of urgency to our camp. This was a special opportunity.”

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