CLEMSON -- Chandler Catanzaro thought he tied the score in overtime last season at Auburn, nailing a pressure kick before 87,000 raucous fans in Jordan-Hare Stadium. But a flag was thrown.
Then Clemson long snapper Matt Skinner double-clutched the snap and Clemson was forced to re-kick. Catanzaro missed. Auburn went on to a national title and Clemson went on to its first losing season in 12 years.
If Clemson is to improve in close games, much of the pressure could again fall upon Catanzaro. The Tigers are 2-6 in games decided by four points or less under coach Dabo Swinney while Auburn is 8-0 in games decided by four points or less under coach Gene Chizik.
Auburn's Wes Bynum was 17 of 22 on field goals last year -- including the game-winner against Clemson. Catanzaro was 14 of 22. But Swinney sees improvement in Catanzaro, now a sophomore who could face his first real pressure kick of the season Saturday against Auburn (noon, WCIV-TV/ABC).
"(Last season at Auburn) he was a freshman and points came off the board and the weight of the world was on his shoulders," Swinney said. "He's gotten tougher. I'm proud of how he finished the season. That kick he made at Florida State last year was a monster kick that tied the game for us. He missed a kick Saturday, but I'm confident in him."
Catanzaro made 3 of 4 field goals this season and 9 of his last 11.
Who's to blame?
Catanzaro took much of the blame for Clemson's close-game struggles last season, but is he really to blame? Auburn's 2010 season suggests great teams sustain drives and score touchdowns. Auburn had 66 red-zone trips last season, producing 44 TDs. Clemson had 42 red-zone trips, leading to 25 TDs.
Urban said it
Urban Meyer will be a television analyst for Saturday's game, and he watched Clemson's Thursday practice, telling reporters afterward: "Clemson fans are going to wake up one morning and realize they have a really good offense. Things are in place for them here to have a pretty special program."
Guard David Smith (shoulder) is out for this week after Thursday shoulder surgery to repair his labrum. Swinney says he could be back for Florida State. Mason Cloy starts in his place. Safety Rashard Hall (knee) is expected to start.
Up and down
Clemson is fourth in the ACC in scoring (39 points per game) and yardage (472 yards per game), but the Tigers are ninth in defense, allowing 411 yards per game.
Kenneth Massey's computer, one of six used in the BCS formula, predicts Clemson to go 3-7 over its final 10 games.