By Jeff Shearer
AUBURN, Ala. - No finger pointing. No ‘us versus them’ among teammates. In the aftermath of Saturday’s 14-6 loss at Clemson, Auburn’s players focused more on improving than assigning blame.
“We just have to execute better all around,” quarterback Jarrett Stidham said. “We’re going to regroup and we’re going to be a lot better.”
Clemson sacked Stidham 11 times, leading the sophomore to take up for his offensive line in postgame comments to reporters.
“I don’t think it was frustrating at all,” Stidham said. “They [Auburn’s offensive line] played their butts off just like everybody else. We just didn’t execute. There were a lot of things I could have done a lot better tonight. It starts with me because I’m the one person who has the ball in my hands every play.”
Stidham completed 13 of 24 passes for 79 yards.
“Jarrett’s a really good quarterback, but there were times we didn’t have anybody open,” Auburn coach Malzahn said. “That [the sacks] had something to do with him holding the football. He’s a good quarterback; he’s going to have a very good year.”
Auburn’s defense held the defending national champions to 284 yards, allowing touchdown runs by quarterback Kelly Bryant on Clemson’s last drive of the first half and opening drive of the third quarter.
“We played our hearts out. We can only get better from here. We just build,” said defensive back Carlton Davis, who led Auburn with 11 solo tackles and broke up two passes. “It’s not like we had a bad game. It was a tough fight. It was a brawl. There are a couple plays we should have made down the road that would have put us in better shape and given our offense more field position to work with.”
“We’re the Auburn Tigers,” said linebacker Tre’ Williams, Auburn’s second leading tackler with nine stops against Clemson. “No matter who played well or who didn’t.”
Tray Matthew, who recovered a fumble and made five tackles, looked ahead to the Southeastern Conference portion of Auburn’s schedule, which begins at Missouri on Sept. 23 after Saturday’s 3 p.m. Homecoming game against Mercer.
“We still have a lot in front of us,” Matthews said. “Still have SEC play, so I’m looking forward to that.”
“Just put it behind us,” Williams said. “We cannot let this loss defeat us for the next game. After this game, we’ll put it behind us and focus on Mercer.”
Based on what he has observed in practice, Williams says Auburn’s offense can be effective.
“For sure,” he said. “We have really great players on the offensive side of the ball, and I’ve seen that in camp. It doesn’t matter what kind of adversity they’re going through, they’re going to get through it.”
Auburn’s coaches began that process on Sunday, reviewing video from Saturday’s game and plotting adjustments.
“Any time you have a performance like this, we’re going to evaluate everything and get the best plan moving forward,” Malzahn said.
“We’re going to be a good offense before this is all said and done. I promise you that. We will get better, just like we did last year.”
Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @jeff_shearer