By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. -- Josh Holsey's surgically-repaired knees held up, and so did Auburn's defense for the most part Saturday night.
Holsey, who has had two major knee surgeries, intercepted a pass and the defense slowed down Clemson enough for a dramatic finish Saturday night in Jordan-Hare Stadium. Clemson hung on for a 19-13 win, surviving two throws into the end zone on the game's final two plays.
Holsey's takeaway? His interception, of course, and also the feeling Auburn's defense made a positive statement against one of the top offenses in the country.
On a personal level, Holsey said that "after everything I've been through, it feels really good just running around. It feels really good to be out with the team. It just shows that hard work pays off."
Bigger picture, "we're a really good defense in all three stages: The D-line, the linebackers and the secondary. Going forward, people are going to notice our defense is back to playing Auburn defense. We're going to be one of the best in the country. I can feel it. Our defense kind of knows that. We're just going to keep working and get better.
"We've just got to move forward. It's just like on the football field: It's always the next play. You've got to move on to the next game. We can't keep pouting and doubting ourselves about this game because that's a really good team on the other side with a really good coaching staff. We played a really good game. We just fell a little short. We've just got to work on those little things to be better than we were this week."
Auburn limited Clemson to 166 yards in the second half, and 399 in the game. That was below what Clemson did to opponents last year when it averaged a school-record 514.5 yards a game. Auburn did it by containing Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson on the ground. He ran for 21 yards after rushing for more than 90 yards seven times last season. Watson, instead, passed for 248 yards.
Holsey said the plan "was just to try to contain him, just to keep him in the pocket and try to make him beat him with his arm."
Did it work? Mostly.
"We held them under 20 points," Holsey said.
Holsey said his secondary got a big assist from the defensive line.
"They're the best front four in America, hands down. At least I feel like that," Holsey said. "They work hard. Coach (Rodney) Garner has those guys working to be the best. It shows in the game. They get to the quarterback."
Holsey's teammates in the secondary were busy, too. The top four tacklers were cornerbacks or safeties or some combination thereof. Nick Ruffin led the way with 10 tackles. Tray Matthews had nine, and Carlton Davis and Rudy Ford had six each.
Other stories from the game:
Auburn defense shines
Chandler Cox endores his quarterbacks
Will Hastings steps up
The game story
Josh Holsey, in his own words...
— Auburn Gold Mine (@AUGoldMine) September 4, 2016
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine