COLLEGE STATION, Texas — K’Von Wallace had the game won. All he needed to do was catch the football.
With second-ranked Clemson clinging to an eight-point lead in the final minute Saturday, and with Texas A&M driving for the potential game-tying score, Wallace had Aggies’ quarterback Kellen Mond right where he wanted him.
He baited Mond to think wide receiver Kendrick Rogers was open and when Mond responded the way he had hoped, Wallace jumped in front of the pass for what looked like a sure interception. Instead, the ball went through his arms and right to Rogers who made a diving catch for a 24-yard touchdown with 46 seconds to play.
“I almost had four. I almost had four interceptions,” Wallace said afterward. “You go back and watch the film. I almost had four interceptions. I dropped every single one of them.”
However, the fifth time was the charm.
On the two-point attempt to tie the game, Mond sprinted right as he tried to find an open receiver. He saw Rogers sitting alone near the sideline, so he took his chance. So did Wallace, who jumped in front of the football, but this time he hung onto it, securing Clemson’s dramatic 28-26 victory over Texas A&M.
“God gives all people that he loves challenges,” Wallace said. “I feel like I just have to go out and work harder to get better.”
Despite dropping the interceptions, it is hard to say Wallace can get any better on Saturday. The junior led the Tigers with six tackles. He also got credited for breaking up those four passes and causing a game-changing fumble on the Aggies’ previous possession.
Quanrtney Davis’ caught a Mond pass on the far side near the Clemson 15, made a couple defenders miss and ran towards the Clemson goal line. As he got close, the Texas A&M receiver stuck the ball out with one hand and dove for the end zone.
Wallace then did the only thing he could do.
“I was going to try and knock the ball out if he didn’t, but it made it better that he did that,” Wallace said. “When I saw he was going to do that my mentality was to get the ball out as fast as possible because I knew the end zone was right there. I was not trying to worry about tackling him at the one, I was just trying to get the ball out.”
And he did.
Wallace knocked the ball loose before Davis got to the end zone, causing it to go through the end zone for a touchback. Replay officials eventually upheld the call on the field and Clemson escaped Kyle Field with a big road victory.
“Those were two of the biggest plays in the game, obviously,” Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables said. “That was incredible will to knock the ball out and have it pop out of the back of the end zone.
“The pick was a big play and Austin (Bryant) had a big part in that too, anticipating the pocket moving and running a little pick-route. He did a great job.”