AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — The first kick gave No. 16 Auburn hope and the second supplied relief because the Tigers could keep on playing. Then the third led to euphoria because the home team didn’t have to.
Wes Byrum kicked a 39-yard field goal in overtime and Clemson’s Chandler Catanzaro missed a do-over kick to tie as Auburn won 27-24 on Saturday night.
The game appeared headed to another OT when Catanzaro made a 27-yarder after a defensive stand kept Clemson shy of a winning touchdown. After a 5-yard illegal procedure penalty on the kick because center Dalton Freeman double-clutched the ball, the redshirt freshman’s second attempt hooked wide left, touching off a big celebration for the home Tigers.
“I was trying to warm up again,” Byrum said, “but I knew when the crowd went crazy he missed it.”
Auburn (3-0) had rallied from a 17-0 deficit late in the first half and scored three touchdowns in the third quarter, but didn’t have to do much to settle it in the end.
Clemson (2-1) has lost 14 consecutive meetings in the vintage but long dormant Southern rivalry. The loss came abruptly
“It’s not good to see points off the board, but that’s football,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “There’s a lot of pain and hurt in that locker room.”
He added, “I would not trade kicker Chandler Catanzaro for anyone.”
An open Jaron Brown couldn’t pull in Kyle Parker’s third-down pass in the end zone on third down to force the overtime field goal try.
“I think it was a bad pass,” said Parker, who was playing through a rib injury. “I think I could have made it a lot easier on him. I think he did a great job of getting open, and I take 100 percent of the blame on that one.”
It was the first regular-season meeting since 1971 and the second straight to have extra football, including the 2007 Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.
Clemson, which had opened with predictably lopsided wins over North Texas and Presbyterian, stepped up for the Southeastern Conference opponent with a fast start in front of the biggest crowd the program had played in front of (87,451).
The rivalry renewal turned into a roller-coaster ride, where the teams took their turns in the driver’s seat. It was the first time Auburn had rallied to win after trailing by at least 17 points since coming back to beat Syracuse 37-34 in triple overtime on Sept. 28, 2002.
“They kept their faith the whole game,” Auburn coach Gene Chizik said of his players. “It was one of those games where we just kept fighting. You’re always trying to figure out who your football team is and you never know until you get into a situation where you’re in uncharted territory, which is where we were tonight.”
Cam Newton completed seven passes for 203 yards and a pair of touchdowns, including a 78-yarder to Terrell Zachery after a pump fake in the third quarter to give Auburn its first lead at 24-17. Newton also ran for 68 yards but was intercepted twice.
“We had intentions to beat them deep and the pump fake stunned them and all I had to do was make a good pass,” Newton said.
Darvin Adams caught five passes for 118 yards and a TD. McCalebb gained 81 yards on 10 carries.
Parker was 21-of-35 passing for 227 yards and a pair of touchdowns to Jamie Harper. Andre Ellington gained 140 yards on 22 carries in a game that was a statistical standoff.
Auburn had 424 yards, Clemson 414.
Parker downplayed his injury, and dismissed any notion of staying out of the game.
“I knew I was going back in,” he said. “I told them that they would have to take me out on a stretcher before I would come out of the game because it was one of those games. Obviously, I didn’t feel good and I don’t know if it affected my play, but I probably could have done some things more and it probably could have been a little more painful.”
Auburn scored 24 straight points after getting dominated for 29 minutes. Gus Malzahn’s offense racked up 258 yards in the third quarter after getting mostly held in check for the first two.
“Cam started talking at halftime and said we’ve got another half to play,” Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley said. “And nobody had long faces.”
Auburn finally cashed in midway through the third quarter after a promising opening drive ended with Xavier Brewer’s interception at the 1, but it didn’t came easy.
McCalebb took an end around 12 yards for a touchdown, skirting the sideline then cutting back. Auburn tied it with Adams’ 8-yard touchdown pass on a third-down play five minutes later. Replay officials overturned the on-field call, ruling that he had possession when his foot came down on the line.
“When we need a big play, Darvin always seems to come down with those balls,” Chizik said.
Clemson answered right back with Ellington’s 2-yard TD run to tie it up early in the fourth.
JOHN ZENOR / The Associated Press