Rapid Reaction: No drama this time. No. 1 Clemson shuts down Texas A&M
It was supposed to be an opportunity for Texas A&M to show just how far the team had come since last year’s heartbreaking 2-point loss to the defending national champions. But it turned out to be a one-sided display in the difference between a national power and a program still learning what it takes to get there.
No. 1 Clemson brushed off No. 12 Texas A&M with surprising ease 24-10 Saturday, reinforcing its grip atop college football. The Aggies scored a TD on their final play as Clemson just missed its 12th consecutive victory by at least 20 points.
The Tigers put the game out of reach late in the 3rd quarter after conducting their 3rd 80-plus yard scoring drive to extend a two-touchdown halftime margin into a 24-3 advantage.
Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence was cool, calm and collected even under pressure from an Aggies’ pass rush that would have been effective against most college signal-callers. But Lawrence is anything but your Average Joe under center. Using his arm to turn difficult throws into successful yardage, Lawrence also used his feet to avoid the rush and find open receivers.
But when Clemson RB Lyn-J Dixon scored on a 4-yard run with 5:50 remaining in the 3rd quarter, the Tigers enjoyed a 3-TD lead that carried over into the final period.
Kellen Mond looked his best on the Aggies’ first drive of the 4th quarter, marching the Aggies 69 yards in 9 plays to the Tigers’ 11-yard line. But then came the Tigers’ pressure and with Tigers ready to pounce, Mond lobbed up an interception.
Missed opportunities summed his day and the Aggies’.
Mond said during SEC Media Days that he was the best QB in the SEC. He didn’t back up that talk Saturday. He was off early and finished 24-for-42, but his only TD came on the final play of the game.
The Aggies hung in there for a quarter. In fact, they led 3-0 before Lawrence’s leadership took over.
After a 1st quarter that amounted to a 15-minute feeling out period, not unlike the first few rounds of a heavyweight title fight, the Aggies struck first. Kicker Seth Small drilled a 32-yard field goal in the first minute of the second quarter to give Texas A&M a 3-0 lead. It completed a 16-play, 48-yard drive that included a 4th-and-1 conversion at the Tigers’ 43-yard line.
But Clemson answered in a way a national power is expected to, going 82 yards in 9 plays. Lawrence punctuated the drive making something out of nothing, extending a play with his legs and finding Justyn Ross in the end zone for a 30-yard scoring strike.
The Tigers took a 7-3 lead and clearly displayed the difference between the two teams. One completed a touchdown drive using its best weapons, while the other could not do the same and were forced to settle for 3 points.
Mond fumbled away the Aggies’ next possession and Clemson cashed in with a 30-yard field goal and a 10-3 lead. The Tigers extended that margin to 17-3 just before halftime with Lawrence marching the Tigers 89 yards in 9 plays and then capping the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run.
Mistakes caused each team to come up empty on their respective initial drives. Mond missed a wide open Camron Buckley that could have resulted in a big gain and possible touchdown. In fact, the Aggies’ QB missed his first four pass attempts before completing short 8 and 6-yarders to Jhamon Ausbon.
But Clemson did not convert either on its opening possession, missing a 47-yard field goal attempt. It was one of the very few times in which the Tigers were not successful.