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Auburn keeps on escaping

Photo by Daniel Kay

Photo by Daniel Kay

AUBURN, Ala. -- The Auburn Tigers won by three points on a strange overtime sequence.

So what else is new?

For the third time in four games, the 17th-ranked Tigers eked out a three-point win, this time 27-24 over Clemson in overtime Saturday night. It was the second time in that span that the opponent needed only to kick a modest field goal to stay alive and didn't cash in.

Auburn (3-0) escaped this one after Clemson's made 27-yard kick in OT was waved off because of an illegal snap. The second attempt went wide left. That came nine days after a defensive stand preserved a 17-14 win over Mississippi State in regulation.

Auburn topped Northwestern 38-35 in the Outback Bowl by stuffing a fake field goal attempt for the win in overtime to end last season.

"We just want to make it exciting, that's for sure," Auburn coach Gene Chizik said. "Like I told them in the locker room, we had two overtime games in the last four games as a football team. We've been very blessed to come out on top with both of them.

"I think that is part of them just staying in there and hanging in and fighting and clawing and scratching until they find a way to win it."

The manner of victory and a lackluster first half didn't impress poll voters much. Auburn slipped a spot in the rankings Sunday.

Things only get tougher with No. 12 South Carolina coming to town. Chances are, it'll be much harder to overcome three consecutive three-and-outs on offense to open the game, two interceptions, 90 yards in penalties and a 17-0 deficit.

Quarterback Cam Newton came up with big plays and made some big mistakes. He averaged nearly 30 yards on seven completions with a pair of touchdowns and ran for 68 yards, but was also intercepted and sacked twice.

Plus, right tackle A.J. Greene went down with a left ankle injury that Chizik said appears to be season-ending. Tailback Mario Fannin missed the Clemson game with a shoulder injury, and his status is uncertain for South Carolina.

Auburn leads the nation in pass efficiency mostly because it's averaging national-highs in yards per attempt (11.8) and touchdown percentage (13.73).

The Tigers don't seem to mind living dangerously.

"We talked about how you have to love when you are down," tailback Michael Dyer said. "That is what brings the man out of you. When you are up by 20 and you got all the yards you need, everyone is doing what they can. But when you are down, it really shows your character."

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney liked what he saw with his team's character, too, against its first legitimate opponent of the season. Clemson scored a touchdown early in the fourth quarter to tie it.

"It is not easy to come into this place," Swinney said. "We physically imposed our will in the fourth quarter to get that last touchdown. We made some great runs and great blocks, with their backs up against the wall. When the adversity came, they stood up and did not wilt and that is a good sign to me."

Quarterback Kyle Parker just missed potential winning touchdown passes in both the fourth quarter and overtime.

He was playing through sore ribs, back and shoulder, Swinney said.

"Talk about a gutsy performance, Kyle Parker really came through," he said. Clemson has a week off before hosting No. 19 Miami to give him time to heal.

Parker, who passed for 227 yards and two touchdowns, doesn't want Clemson to let this loss hang over the season.

"It is one of those ones where you leave and you really know you should have won," he said. "I think we did everything to earn it and everything to win. That's the game though. We didn't win and there's nothing we can do about it, and if we keep thinking about that one it's going to be a long year."