NEW ORLEANS – Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher joined ESPN’s College Football Live ahead of tonight’s national championship game to discuss the matchup between Clemson and LSU at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
One year after the Tigers’ top-ranked scoring defense allowed 501 yards at Texas A&M, Clemson held Texas A&M to 289 total yards this season on Saturday, Sept. 7. It included holding quarterback Kellen Mond to 236 passing yards (97 through three quarters) after Mond accounted for 430 yards in the teams’ meeting in 2018.
Once again, Brent Venables’ unit is ranked No. 1 nationally in scoring defense, allowing 11.5 points per game, though Fisher has noticed a difference between that defense and this one.
“On defense, they’ve become the number one defense, but there’s not as much pressure from the front that they had a year ago,” Fisher said. “They could line up with four guys a year ago and say we’re going to play coverage and we’re going to bite the ball come out in about 2.1, 2.2 (seconds) — if not, somebody’s going to be eating it. They create more of their pressure now I think with blitzes, but I mean at the end you saw their players getting better and better and better. They were just young guys. It had nothing to do with not being great players.”
Offensively against A&M this season, Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence completed 24-of-35 passes for 268 yards and one touchdown while also rushing for a score as the Tigers totaled 389 yards of offense.
Justyn Ross recorded seven receptions for 94 yards in the contest, including a 30-yard touchdown, while Tee Higgins hauled in four catches for 70 yards.
Meanwhile, Travis Etienne rushed for 53 yards on 16 carries against A&M and also had four catches for 52 yards.
“I think offensively, their two outside guys are unique,” Fisher said of Ross and Higgins. “Double coverage, you throw the ball up and they make plays. He (Lawrence) has arm talent to get it there, understanding, and then Etienne is phenomenal. He has great speed, great hands.”
Fisher has been impressed by the running ability Lawrence has shown throughout the season, which served Clemson well in the Fiesta Bowl when he rushed for 107 yards on 16 attempts and broke off a 67-yard touchdown in the second quarter that gave the Tigers a lot of momentum.
“The dynamic with them, which they started doing more with him which they did with the old quarterback (Kelly Bryant) is the designed quarterback runs,” Fisher said. “I keep going back to that. That’s what they’re allowing their offensive line, it makes them better. They’re getting up a guy with that run, and then they play-action off of it. So, that’s the thing I think they’re doing more with Trevor this year than they did a year ago. They had the quarterback draw that went for 70, their quarterback counters and then they run that play-action, which was what the running back caught for the go-ahead touchdown. He was like the lead blocker and then he flipped the guy, they dumped it. I mean the quarterback run game equals that thing up, and they’re doing a lot more of it with (Trevor).”
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