AUBURN, Ala. -- Prior to traveling to Auburn, Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney said the game reminded him of Clemson's trip to Georgia Tech last season. Like the visit to Atlanta, Saturday was the first opportunity for Swinney to stress test his team.
Saturday night's performance was a near polar opposite to that of Week 2 last September. Clemson was prepared and poised early against Auburn, before a third quarter unraveling and overtime agony. Last season, it was Clemson that fell into an early deficit before rallying.
After the first Georgia Tech game last season, Swinney and the players seemed to take something of a moral victory from their near comeback. In the post-game interview room at
Jordan-Hare Stadium, there was perhaps a greater sense of disappointment -- telling of the opportunity slipped away -- but there was again a belief Clemson (2-1) had proven something to itself by going on the road and competing with a top-20 ranked SEC team.
"Coming in, I thought we had the ingredients to be a good team," Swinney said. "We had not been tested yet with adversity or played on the road. I saw some good things. There are still some things we have to clean up. It is not easy to come into this place."
Clemson will have two weeks to think about the loss as the Tigers are idle until they host No. 19 Miami on Oct. 2. What the Tigers can be pleased with is how they dominated Auburn in the run game.
"We physically imposed our will in the fourth quarter to get that last touchdown," Swinney said. "We made some great runs and great blocks. ... That is a big gorilla that gets on your back when the momentum shifts on the road.
"Our guys rose up."
Clemson was effective in the first half and in the fourth quarter on both sides of the ball.
But Auburn won the battle of halftime adjustments, and big plays plagued Clemson in the third quarter.
"It was not anything more than stutter-go routes and we bit on them," Swinney said. "It was not anything fancy, they just made a couple of huge plays that got them right back in it."
Said Clemson defensive coordinator Kevin Steele said: "They did a couple things different. ... It was really just some big plays. I thought the guys played extremely hard. They really, really played dominate defense in the first half, the fourth quarter and overtime."
Clemson Nation also held its collective breath in the second half as Kyle Parker played through rib and shoulder pain after sustaining several hits. The staff did not believe the injuries were serious after the game.
Parker wouldn't use injuries as excuse for a pair of potential game-winning throws that were just off the mark to Dwayne Allen and Jaron Brown.
"I just got beat up and I feel awful," Parker said. "But I didn't come here to watch our guys and leave them when they needed me.
"I think our guys played pretty well. We competed and that's all you can really ask."
Swinney said Sunday he expects Parker will play against Miami.
X-rays on Clemson offensive lineman David Smith were negative.
Check out the Clemson blog at postandcourier.com/blogs/tiger_tracks and follow Travis Sawchik on Twitter (@travis_sawchik)