Sept. 17, 2011
By PETE IACOBELLI, AP Sports Writer
CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) -- Auburn quarterback Barrett Trotter can't wait to shut up Tigers fans -- Clemson Tiger fans, that is.
No. 21 Auburn (2-0) heads to Death Valley on Saturday for a rematch of last year's overtime contest on the Plains with Clemson (2-0). It's Trotter's first road game as Auburn's starter, a challenge he can't wait to face.
"I kind of enjoy road games," Trotter said. "I love home games, obviously, but there's no better feeling knowing that your team went in there with however many guys ... and pretty much defeated however many thousands of people in there. That's a good feeling."
It's one the defending national champs have felt the past couple of seasons. They carry a 17-game win streak, the longest in the Football Bowl Subdivision, into the contest and have won seven of those away from home, including the Southeastern Conference title game in Atlanta and the BCS championship game in Glendale, Ariz.
Trotter and his Auburn teammates expect a crazy, loud atmosphere and an opponent eager for a bit of revenge for last year's defeat.
Auburn receiver Emory Blake says his team must stay calm and focused.
"They're a big, physical team, a real physical team," said Blake, who's caught a touchdown pass in five straight games. "And I've heard they have a great stadium and a great fan base, so we're going to have to come with it this week."
Auburn certainly came with it each game last year, including the 27-24 overtime win against Clemson. In that one, the ACC's Tigers jumped out to a 17-0 lead and looked ready to ruin a national title run before it really got going.
But Auburn and Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton rallied to the lead. A late Clemson score forced overtime and Auburn won it when Clemson kicker Chandler Catanzaro failed on a 32-yard field goal. Catanzaro had kicked a 26-yarder right before that, but a penalty wiped it out and set up the longer try.
While Auburn went on to a 14-0 season, Clemson could not find its footing, lost its next two and fell to 2-3. It barely got into a bowl at 6-6, then posted its first losing season in 12 years after a loss to South Florida in the Meineke Car Care Bowl.
Clemson players haven't forgotten what started the slide. "It's really in the back of everybody's mind, but for the most part, we're just trying to get better," center Dalton Freeman said.
After the season Clemson coach Dabo Swinney went looking for an quick-paced, highly effective attack offense like Auburn's. He wound up hiring coordinator Chad Morris, a friend and student of Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn. Already, Clemson has averaged 472 yards of offense under Morris' direction in its two victories.
Morris wants more. He said his group hasn't been as physical or tough as it needs to be to succeed. They spend too much time thinking about their assignments instead of reacting naturally.
That's delayed adding offensive wrinkles Morris knows would enhance the attack.
There shouldn't be any surprises this week since defenses for both Auburn and Clemson have worked against these offenses for some time. Malzahn and Morris, the respective coordinators, can fill in most of the defensive gaps.
Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd said Morris is trying to bring the same won't-lose mentality Auburn has to Clemson. "As you've seen last year, they were down 24 to Alabama at the half and came back and won the game," Boyd said. "Gus Malzahn does a great job keeping those guys encouraged and that's something Chad Morris does as well."
Clemson will be without starting left guard David Smith, who hurt his shoulder at practice Tuesday and underwent arthroscopic surgery. Mason Cloy, who has started 19 games for Clemson, will take Smith's place.
The game also features two of college football's most dynamic tailbacks in Auburn's Michael Dyer and Clemson's Andre Ellington. Dyer is third in the SEC with 207 yards and four touchdowns. Ellington, second in the Atlantic Coast Conference with 254 yards, had his career long run in last
Saturday's win over Wofford, a 74-yard touchdown burst.
Boyd said Clemson players have had an extra intensity this week as they prepare. They know their 2-0 start as much as it did last year if they can't keep it going. "There is no room for complacency at all," Boyd said. "There is no room to relax."
AP Sports Writer John Zenor in Auburn, Ala., contributed to this report.