It appeared Isaiah Simmons had Kellen Mond right where he wanted him.
The Clemson linebacker blitzed off the edge where he charged at the Texas A&M quarterback untouched. However, Mond circled back and was able to elude Simmons as he rolled to his left.
Just as Simmons dove to make what would have been a 10-yard sack, Mond threw up a prayer, as his knee was going down, towards the Clemson end zone, similar to Kenny Stabler’s “Sea of Hands” play in the Oakland Raiders vs. Miami Dolphins 1974 NFL Playoff Game.
Some how with two Tiger defenders charging to the ball that Mond threw up for grabs, A&M’s Quartney Davis came down with it for a 14-yard touchdown pass.
It was a perfectly defended play. What else could the Tigers do?
That’s the assignment Simmons and the Clemson defense will have again this Saturday when the No. 1 Tigers host 12th-ranked Texas A&M at Death Valley.
Simmons, Clemson’s All-American candidate, will be the key cog in Clemson’s defense to try and contain the elusive Mond.
Last year, Simmons led the Tigers with 2 broken up passes to go along with 9 tackles. All in all, it looked like a good game from the Clemson linebacker, who was just making his second start of his career.
As good as Simmons played last year against the Aggies, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney says the junior is night and day better than he was then.
“Last year, he was a first-year starter. He was a redshirt sophomore and kind of learning what to do,” the Clemson coach said. “He just knows so much more. Our whole secondary is different than where we were this time last year.”
Last year, Clemson (1-0) was coming off a game in which it played FCS power Furman. The Paladins ran the triple option and did not prepare the Tigers too well for what they saw from Mond a week later in College Station, Texas.
“Then we go out there and we played really good for about three and a half quarters and then we just did not execute well in the fourth quarter,” Swinney said.
Though Mond made some competitive plays like he did on the touchdown pass to Davis, there were more plays in which the secondary, playing with three new starters at the time, busted and left receivers, running backs and tight ends running wide open.
Mond threw for 206 yards and 2 touchdowns alone in the fourth quarter.
“Again, it is one thing for them to make competitive plays, but we had some guys running wide open. We busted somethings,” Swinney said.
The Tigers know they can’t do that on Saturday if they want to beat the Aggies. Simmons, who led the Tigers with 97 tackles a year ago, will be the key player to try and contain Mond and the A&M offense.
“He is just a totally different guy,” Swinney said about Simmons. “He is much more knowledgeable, confident, consistent down in and down out player.”
The Tigers are going to need Simmons’ consistency on Saturday.
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