COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Second-ranked Clemson defeated Texas A&M, 28-26, on Saturday night at Kyle Field in College Station, Texas. The Tigers improved to 2-0 on the season, while the Aggies fell to 1-1.
Here’s a look back at how Clemson earned the victory:
Kelly Bryant ran for a 1-yard score, and Trevor Lawrence threw a 64-yard touchdown pass to Tee Higgins, as the Tigers took a 14-3 lead into halftime.
The second half was a wild, back-and-forth battle. Daniel LaCamera knocked through a 40-yard field goal to cut A&M’s deficit to eight points early in the third quarter, and then three possessions later, Bryant zipped a 8-yard touchdown pass to Diondre Overton for a 21-6 Clemson advantage. After A&M responded with a 9-yard touchdown pass from Kellen Mond to Kendrick Rogers, Clemson answered back with a 1-yard touchdown run by Travis Etienne that gave the Tigers a 28-13 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
A&M cut its deficit back to eight points again on a 14-yard pass from Mond to Quartney Davis early in the fourth quarter. Later, with under a minute remaining in the game, Mond threw another touchdown pass to Rogers to make the score 28-26. However, A&M’s two-point conversion attempt was no good, and Clemson escaped College Station with a marquee early season victory.
What went right?
Bryant, Lawrence, Higgins and the Tigers’ offense, which tallied 413 total yards including 298 yards through the air.
After missing on a number of throws in the first half, Bryant really stepped up his game after the break, leading Clemson on back-to-back scoring drives in the third quarter. Bryant kickstarted the two drives with a 50-yard pass to Higgins and a 40-yard pass to Hunter Renfrow, respectively, and capped off the first of those drives with an 8-yard touchdown pass to Overton.
Bryant finished the game 12-of-17 passing for 205 yards and a touchdown, as well as had 54 rushing yards and another touchdown on the ground. Lawrence played six drives and fared well for the most part, completing 5-of-9 passes for 93 yards, including a 64-yard touchdown to Higgins on his first pass attempt. Higgins had a game-high 123 receiving yards and a touchdown on three catches.
Defensively, Clelin Ferrell stood out with two sacks, three tackles for loss and a forced fumble.
What went wrong?
Clemson’s defense struggled to slow Mond and A&M’s offense, especially in the second half, during which the Aggies accumulated 23 points, 359 yards and 17 first downs.
Mond made all kinds of plays in the contest and gashed the Tigers’ defense through the air, passing for 430 yards and three touchdowns.
Also, Clemson missed a big opportunity to take command of the game at the end of the first half after it moved the ball 60 yards to the Aggies’ 1-yard line following a blocked field goal by defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence. On fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line, Bryant fumbled the snap and Texas A&M took over on downs at its own 4.
Texas A&M had all of the momentum midway through the third quarter, when the tide turned in a hurry. The Aggies were down by just eight points, in Tiger territory with a chance to tie the game, when Ferrell sacked Mond and forced a fumble that was recovered by Justin Foster.
On the ensuing play, Higgins hauled in a 50-yard pass from Bryant, and three plays later, Bryant hooked up with Overton for an 8-yard touchdown that gave Clemson a 21-6 lead with less than five minutes remaining in the third quarter.
While that was a big sequence of events, one of the biggest game-changing moments came late in the fourth quarter with Clemson clinging to a 28-20 lead. The Aggies moves the ball inside Clemson’s 25-yard line and looked poised to score a touchdown and have a chance to tie the game. However, on the last play of a five-play, 85-yard drive, Davis caught a pass from Mond for 23 yards but fumbled the ball out of the back of the end zone before crossing the goal line. K’Von Wallace caused the fumble, and the result of the play was a touchback.
Texas A&M still managed to score a touchdown on its next possesion via a 24-yard pass from Mond to Rogers that made the score 28-26. But the Aggies’ two-point conversion attempt failed when a pass from Mond was intercepted by K’Von Wallace in the end zone. Clemson then recovered an onside kick attempt by A&M and hung on for the victory in what was a thriller.