Texas A&M football: Grading the Aggies' Week 2 loss to Clemson
The Aggies put up a fight for about a quarter-and-a-half, and then a supremely confident Clemson team took over and posted a 24-3 victory on Saturday.
The quarterback battle between Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence and Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond proved to be the difference. While Lawrence remained cool in the pocket, using his legs to extend plays when needed, Mond was generally not sharp. And when he was, he got little help from his receivers.
Still, there were some positive takeaways. Here are five things I liked about the game, and three things I didn’t like.
The Aggies took chances early, throwing the ball downfield on the first series of the game. They had a potential big play in their first series that might have given the team some momentum, but Mond overthrew a wide-open Camron Buckley. It pretty much typified what would come.
Head coach Jimbo Fisher went for it on fourth and 1 from the Clemson 43 in a scoreless tie late in the first quarter. The Aggies converted and went on to kick a field goal for a 3-0 lead.
2. Run blocking
The Aggies held their own in the battle in the trenches offensively, at least early on, and that allowed them to control the football — a trait that has become apparent in the Jimbo Fisher era.
But as the deficit grew, the Aggies were forced more and more to abandon a balanced attack and go more to the passing game. And that played into the hands of the Clemson defense, as it was able to pressure Mond and throw him off his game.
3. Pass rush
The Aggies were able to make Lawrence uncomfortable in the pocket. And by “uncomfortable,” I mean forcing him to use his legs to extend plays. But the Aggies were able to get a push, recording two sacks, and force a poised-beyond-his-years QB to quickly turn to Plan B on many plays.
Unfortunately for the Aggies, Lawrence is a master at converting Plan B opportunities.
4. No quit in the team
Like the game last year at Kyle Field, the Aggies rallied late and looked their best when Clemson’s defense was in prevent mode. But alas, when challenged, Mond and the Aggies wilted under the pressure.
But they didn’t quit. The Aggies fought to the end. However, you can’t fall behind a national championship-quality team by three touchdowns and expect to come out on top.
5. Jhamon Ausbon
The Aggies receiver was targeted eight times and came up with seven receptions. He was the Aggies’ leading receiver with 69 yards. In a year when Texas A&M is searching for a go-to receiver, Ausbon could very well turn out to be that guy. Only time will tell, but Ausbon at least proved to be the Aggies’ best option on Saturday against the nation’s top-ranked team.
I didn’t like
1. Big-game jitters
It can certainly be understood considering the magnitude of the game. Mond experienced nerves, missing his first four passes and going 0-fer on his first two drives. He failed to look at the play clock, forcing the Aggies to burn a timeout on another drive. He then drew a delay of game penalty following the kickoff after Clemson’s first score early in the second quarter, and on that same possession he fumbled the ball away, leading to a Clemson field goal.
Even All-America punter Braden Mann shanked a 29-yard punt midway through the first quarter.
2. Pass defense
While aggressive in nature, Clemson receivers gave the Aggies secondary a lesson in coverage. Too often, Tigers receivers worked their way open to become easy targets for big gains at crucial times.
3. Just too many mistakes
Whether it was self-inflicted false starts, delay of game penalties or receivers not helping a struggling quarterback, Texas A&M simply made far too many mistakes to make a legitimate run at the nation’s No. 1 team.