ATLANTA - In the end, there were too many missed chances, too many big plays, too much Clemson.
Tre Mason rushed for 106 yards against Clemson/Robin Conn
Auburn' football team never spit the bit Saturday night in the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game at the Georgia Dome, but it was Clemson that was the strongest at the end for the second straight season.
Cody Parkey gave Auburn a 19-16 lead with his fourth field goal, a 36-yarder with 12:50 left. But the defense couldn't make big stops, the offense couldn't get it going again and Clemson scored 10 unanswered and celebrated a 26-19 victory.
It was a disappointment for Auburn players excited by two new coordinators and determined to make amends for last season's 38-24 loss at Clemson. It didn't happen.
Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd, sacked four times in the first half, kept drive after drive alive with his legs.
"That's where Tajh Boyd changed the game," Chizik said. "We had him in our grasp several times, but he made fantastic plays to get those first owns and kep the chains moving. He's an exceptional football player."
Boyd gained 88 yards rushing but lost 30 on sacks. He completed 24-of-34 passes for 208 yards and a touchdown. And Auburn never found an answer for running back Dante Ellington, who ran 26 times for 231 yards. As the game wore on, Auburn's defense had trouble dealing with the frantic pace and gave up 528 yards, 320 on the ground.
Sophomore quarterback Kiehl Frazier, making his first Auburn start, had some shining moments - a 54-yard touchdown pass to Emory Blake, a 38-yarder to Philip Lutzenkirchen. He completed 11-of-27 passes for 194 yards, overthrowing at least two that would have been big plays.
Auburn coach Gene Chizik said he was proud of his team and confident in where it is going.
"We played a very good football team and had a chance to win at the end," Chizik said. "I'm as disappointed as anyone that we lost the game, but our guys fought to the end."
So they did, but when all was said and done, they were 0-1. And they face another difficult challenge in their SEC opener at Mississippi State next weekend.
Auburn went into the red zone five times, but settled for field goals four times. And that turned out to be the difference in the game.
"Defensively, we couldn't get off the field," Chizik said. "They had a very quick offense and explosive tempo. At critical times in the game, they made plays defensively and we didn't. Overall, our guys fighting to the end is exactly what we expected them to do. We will learn a lot."