Christian Wilkins gave Texas A&M credit for the 501 yards it put up on the Clemson defense this past Saturday night in College Station, Texas.
“They were able to make some plays, some competitive plays. That’s personally what I felt like,” the preseason All-American said.
In the second half, the Aggies, thanks to quarterback Kellen Mond, made a lot of competitive plays. Mond completed 17 of 23 passes for 333 yards and three touchdowns in the second half. Wide receiver Kendrick Rogers caught six of those passes for 107 yards and scored two touchdowns.
It was if the Tigers, who held on for a two-point win, had no answer for the Texas A&M offense.
“It was clear that we have to get better and we have to improve as a defense for sure,” Wilkins said Monday from the Poe Indoor Practice Facility in Clemson. “We are not used to things like that happening.
“But, they were able to make plays. We just really need to improve going forward.”
Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables says the biggest improvement needs to come in the secondary where players have to have better eye discipline and use better technique. Mond diced up the Tigers for 430 yards, the first time in 64 games a quarterback threw for more than 400 yards against a Clemson defense.
The last guy to do it was former Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, who threw for 444 yards in a 51-14 win over the Tigers in 2013. Winston went on to win the Heisman Trophy that season, while leading the Seminoles to a national championship.
Though Mond might not be Jameis Winston, he did elude Clemson’s ferocious defensive line, especially in the second half when the Aggies ditched the running game and started throwing the football on almost every down.
“He is different, but he definitely earned some of my respect after the game,” Wilkins said. “He made a lot of plays with his feet and he threw the ball a lot better than I would have thought. He did his thing. He is just a competitor. From the start of the game, to the end of the game, he did not get rattled. He competed all the way through. So, I definitely have some respect for him.
“He definitely competed. It was fun going up against him. He was quite the player.”
Wilkins admits there was a level of frustration when he watched the tape of Saturday’s game and saw again all the things Mond was doing to keep his Aggies in the game, while giving them a chance to tie the game at the end.
“We could have put the game away,” the defensive tackle said. “We could have been better here or we could have been better there, but the ultimate goal is to get the win. I am happier that we got the win than if we really would have shut them down, but lost in a low scoring affair. I rather take the win over anything.
“I definitely feel like we could have been better as a defense, but I’m just happy we got the win.”
Clemson’s defense will try to get better this coming Saturday when it hosts Georgia Southern at Death Valley. The game is scheduled to kick off at 3:30 p.m. and will be televised by ESPN2.