For Chip Lindsey, an opportunity to travel to Death Valley to challenge the defending national champions is why you play for Auburn.
“I think, for us, it’s exciting,” Lindsey said at a press conference Wednesday evening. “You come to Auburn to play games like this.”
The noise and atmosphere of Memorial Stadium, with the recent addition of a national championship, presents obstacles for an offense that thrives on communication.
“You just try to simulate it as best you can in practice,” he said. “Hopefully your system is built where it will weather any kind of storm, whether it’s at home or on the road.”
Lindsey’s offense combined for 535 total yards against Georgia Southern, 185 coming from quarterback Jarrett Stidham’s passing attack. Stidham, though a highly regarded recruit out of high school and as a transfer out of Baylor University, had difficulty finding his stride in the home-opening victory.
When asked about Stidham’s lone interception, Lindsey defended his quarterback by saying he thought he played solid and continued to improve. Stidham’s interception, he said, was “just a bad decision.”
“Obviously, in the RPO world, sometimes you don’t know whether you’re going to run it or throw it until the ball gets snapped,” he said. “We just need to get the ball out quicker.”
Additionally, Kamryn Pettway will return Saturday for his first start. Pettway, who was out for last season’s meeting with Clemson, will be paired with Kam Martin, who Lindsey said played well against Georgia Southern with a 136-yard outing.
“I think Kam kinda got thrown in there unexpectedly and probably got more carries than he thought he might,” Lindsey said. “I thought he did well in pass protection as well. I think he’s a guy that definitely is one of the several backs we have that I think we’ll have to have as the season plays out.”
Wide receiver Nate Craig-Myers will also be expected to be more involved in the offense after failing to be targeted last Saturday. Despite his statistical absence, Craig-Myers provided the defining block for Kerryon Johnson’s 60-yard touchdown run. Lindsey noted that Craig-Myers also made the effort to be the second person in the end zone to celebrate the score.
“I’m excited about him,” Lindsey said. “Sometimes the ball comes your way, sometimes it doesn’t. But when he gets an opportunity, I think he’ll make a lot of plays.”
Clemson’s defense, which both head coach Gus Malzahn and Lindsey praise as one of the best in the country, allowed only 120 yards in a home-opening win against Kent State. Oddly enough, the Golden Flashes rushed 44 times for 119 yards – their quarterbacks only managed one successful pass play on five attempts for a single yard.
“They’re a very talented defense for sure,” Lindsey said. “I think our guys are looking forward to that challenge. Definitely a talented front, we’re going to have to be ready to play. I think we’ll respond the right way and try to make some plays, but at the same time we have to play well as a unit.”
Saturday’s matchup versus No. 3 Clemson has been defined by both coaches as a “measuring stick” for the evolution of Auburn’s football team. Lindsey believes that after a lukewarm home-opening performance, Auburn is headed to better places.
“As you move forward," Lindsey said. "I think your team continues to evolve and I think we’re headed in the right direction.”