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Auburn defense shows 'relentless effort' against defending champs
Auburn defensive lineman Derrick Brown chases down Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant. Brown finished led the defense with two tackles for loss.
Sept. 9, 2017

By Greg Ostendorf

CLEMSON, S.C. -- The Auburn defense picked up right where it left off a week ago. The Tigers dominated the first quarter Saturday night, holding No. 3 Clemson to a mere six yards, and though the team finished on the losing end, 14-6, the defense is quickly proving why it's one of the best units in college football.

"I'm very proud of how our defense played," safety Tray Matthews said. "We played with a lot of effort. We played with a lot of guys going to the ball every single play. And for the most part, we were all on top of things. Everyone knew their assignments and what not."

On Clemson's opening drive, Auburn defensive linemen Nick Coe and Jeff Holland combined to sack quarterback Kelly Bryant and force a punt. The defense followed that up with a strip and fumble recovery by cornerback Jeremiah Dinson on the next drive to set up a second straight field goal, and the visiting Tigers jumped out to a 6-0 lead.

From a defensive standpoint, it was that way all night. Deshaun Davis made a critical stop on third-and-2. Holland and Dontavius Russell put Bryant on his back on back-to-back plays. Even after giving up touchdown drives at the end of the first half and at the beginning of the second half, Auburn responded with a key turnover in the third quarter when Marlon Davidson flew off the edge, tackled the running back and forced a fumble. Matthews recovered the loose football.

Every time it felt like Clemson was about to pull away in the second half, the Auburn defense made a play to keep their side in the game.

"We came out to play," linebacker Tre' Williams said. "They had 14 unanswered points, but we played well for the most part. We put the fire out when they thought they had the momentum, and that's what we're supposed to do

"It was just relentless effort, just not giving up. No matter how the game's going, no matter what's happening, the defense has to stay with a positive mindset. That just lets the offense know that we always have their back."

The good news for Auburn is that everything is still on the table, and if the first two games were any indication, this defense is good enough to keep the Tigers close with just about anybody they play.

The players also believe Saturday's loss will only help them moving forward.

I think we grew as a defense," cornerback Carton Davis said. "We fought through this whole game. We battled. We really found out what we were made of, through all the adversity, and we just continued to fight. We can only get better from here on out."

Greg Ostendorf is a Staff Writer for Follow him on Twitter:

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