Clemson did not need a Texas A&M player guaranteeing an upset on Saturday for the Aggies’ to have its undivided attention. The top-ranked Tigers know what they are getting when they host No. 12 Texas A&M Saturday (3:30 p.m.) at Death Valley.
A&M extended its SEC-best win streak to five games with a lopsided, 41-7, season opening victory over Texas State last Thursday. It marked the sixth straight game the Aggies racked up 400-plus yards of total offense, and the 11th time since Jimbo Fisher took over as head coach last year.
“This is a huge challenge. I am very impressed with Texas A&M,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. “I know we only have one game this season, but we’re really impressed with them. We had a chance to study them this summer and look at their season from a totality standpoint from last year. They got better and better and better. I know they have some new people, just like we do, but they have some key ingredients back, starting with that quarterback.”
The quarterback is junior Kellen Mond. Last year, Mond threw for 430 yards and 3 touchdowns against the Tigers at Kyle Field. All three touchdowns came in the second half as he completed 16 of 23 passes for 333 yards in the last 30 minutes of the game, drawing the Aggies within two points with 46 seconds to play.
Clemson, of course, hung on for a 28-26 victory.
“He is a really good football player … a big-time player,” Swinney said. “He is bigger, faster, stronger and more confident than he was this time last year. That is the biggest thing I see in watching him. He has made some big-time throws on the move, that’s where he really just kills you because he has the ability to sit in the pocket and make all the throws.”
Mond is one of two returning FBS quarterbacks to have 3,000-plus passing and 400-plus rushing yards in 2018. Texas’ Sam Ehlinger is the other one.
“He can make the deep-out throw from the opposite hash. He is accurate and then all of sudden he gets to scrambling and gets outside the pocket and if you do not do a great job with your contain or rush lanes, the next thing you know he has put the ball downfield on the move,” Swinney said. “We saw that up close. This guy threw the ball all over us last year in the fourth quarter. The last four minutes of the third quarter and then the fourth quarter we could not stop him.
“We busted and he made some great throws and we had opportunities and we got hands on balls and did not finish. It was a long night.”
Mond was one of just four returning signal-callers to pass for 1,000-plus yards and 10-plus touchdowns against Associated Press Top 25 teams in 2018. His career highs for passing yards (430 vs. Clemson) and passing touchdowns (6 vs. LSU) came against AP Top 25 teams.
“He is probably one of the best quarterbacks in the SEC with a great group of receivers and running backs around him,” Clemson safety Nolan Turner said. “Eyes are everything, especially when you are playing defense. He is a great player that made a lot of great plays. A lot tip balls here or there, or one of their guys making a competitive play.
“They’ve got a lot of those guys back this year too. We’ve got to go in there and play with the right mindset and make some more of those plays this year.”
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