No. 2 Clemson, Watson survive 19-13 scare against Auburn

But if Saturday night's Auburn effort against Clemson was a movie, critics would call it promising but uneven, entertaining yet head-scratching.

Clemson scored the next 10 points. He had no catches in the first period before shining the last three quarters. Once I got past that, it was like that every game; it was football again.

"I am very proud of our defense", Malzahn said. They are going to keep us in games and buy our offense some time to develop some rhythm.

"Tonight proved we're a really good defense", Holsey said without taking a breath.

"Hats off to the defense", said Auburn coach Gus Malzahn after the game. Clemson held the ball for 17:55 in the first half to 12:05 for Auburn.

Auburn had a chance, but couldn't pull it down.

Head coach Dabo Swinney's Tigers (1-0, 0-0 ACC) survived a late scare from unranked Auburn - which almost pulled off a major upset thanks to a series of questionable Clemson coaching calls late in the nationally-televised contest.

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Make friends: Get to SB Nation's team blog chats for this game at Shakin' the Southland for Clemson fans and College and Magnolia for Auburn fans. They would get the ball back, but Sean White's Hail Mary attempt was batted down and an upset win was not to be.

"He obviously made some huge plays, but there is more than just stats at that position", Swinney said.

"We just didn't want to take a shot at the field goal right there", Swinney said. I can feel it. Clemson went into the half up 10-3 and somehow Auburn fans were left wondering how that could ever be the case as maddening as the offense played.

- Malzahn said he left practice just 20 minutes ago and the team has completed the main preparation. "I enjoy it. It has been a tough challenge the last seven years, but I also believe that's one of the things that has allowed us to build the culture of our program". We've been able to reload.

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton smiles as he watches Auburn and Clemson players warm up for an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016, in Auburn, Ala.

Deshaun Watson passed for 248 yards and a touchdown in what was a relatively quiet day for much of the Clemson offense.

The Clemson junior quarterback entered 2016 on Saturday night at Auburn as the odds-on favorite to capture college football's top award.

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Now for the good news: The Auburn Tigers took a heavyweight to the 15th round and almost threw a knockout punch.

Those former follies helped contribute to a conservative approach late in Saturday's 19-13 win that nearly cost his team in the frantic waning minutes. The Tigers' first game in which they'll have to whittle the travel roster is September 22 at Georgia Tech.

Gallman gained 123 yards on 30 carries, but not staying in-bounds in that late-game situation was frustrating to the coaches. Finally, Watson hit former walk-on receiver Hunter Renfrow in the back of the end zone on third and goal from the 16 with 9:59 left in the fourth quarter.

Stat of the game: 13. Tray Matthews had nine, and Carlton Davis and Rudy Ford had six each.

Kevin Steele can coach: He was sacked at Clemson after his defense's embarrassing performance in the Orange Bowl against West Virginia but his unit kept Auburn in the game, holding one of the most explosive offenses in the country to 19 points. The close score does make it a question mark, though.

AUB: FG Carlson 53, 13:03. The quarterback is a front runner for the Heisman, after throwing for over 4,000 yards and rushing for an additional 1,000 yards.

AUB: Johnson 9 run (Carlson kick), 03:27.

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