Last fall when Clemson traveled to College Station to face Texas A&M, the Aggies’ kicker, Daniel LaCamera, missed a 26-yard field goal on the game’s opening drive, then he had a 50-yarder blocked later in the half.
Texas A&M ultimately fell 28-26 in what was arguably the toughest test of the season for the undefeated, national champion Tigers, leaving the two unsuccessful field goals as major “what-ifs” for the Aggies.
Would there be deja vu on Saturday after Clemson kicker B.T. Potter missed a 47-yard field goal on the Tigers’ first offensive possession?
After a scoreless first quarter that was followed by No. 12 Texas A&M getting on the board first with a 32-yard field goal from Seth Small, No. 1 Clemson scored 24 unanswered points, keeping the Aggies out of the end zone until there were six seconds left in the game, when Kellen Mond connected with Jalen Wydermyer on 4th & Goal, cutting the score t0 24-10 to cover the 16-point spread.
While Mond and Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence’s final stat lines were similar, stats can be misleading.
- Trevor Lawrence: 24-of-35 passing for 268 yards, one touchdown, one interception
- Kellen Mond: 24-of-42 passing for 236 yards, one touchdown, one interception
Lawrence and his receivers made the explosive, game-changing plays that Mond and his receiving corps couldn’t match, plays like Clemson’s first touchdown, when Lawrence scrambled to his left, then threw across his body on the run, lofting a 30-yard touchdown pass to Justyn Ross.
With a flick of his wrist, Lawrence made the football look like it was a Nerf Vortex football.
Just before halftime, Lawrence kept a read option on 2nd & Goal at Texas A&M’s 1-yard line as the Aggie defenders swarmed running back Travis Etienne.
It was another example of Lawrence’s improved running ability and the lethal nature of the Tigers’ offense since defenses now have to respect the Heisman Trophy contending quarterback’s legs and the improved pass-catching of fellow Heisman contender Travis Etienne, who caught a career-high four passes for 52 yards on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Mond was just 5-for-14 in the first half, completing consecutive pass attempts just twice before halftime – completions of eight, six, 10 and seven yards, respectively.
Most of the Aggies’ production through the air came with them trailing by two or three scores, which isn’t surprising given the time and score.
Fifty-seven of Mond’s 236 passing yards (roughly 24 percent) came on Texas A&M’s final drive, when the game was all but over.
Four Clemson receivers – Ross, Tee Higgins, Etienne and Joe Ngata – had a longer reception in the game than Texas A&M’s longest completion of the night, a 20-yard connection from Mond to Camron Buckley.
Higgins’ longest reception of the game came just before halftime, setting up Lawrence’s touchdown run, and like many of Higgins’ catches, he made it look way too easy.
The Aggies’ longest run of the night was 11 yards and they averaged just two yards per carry, totaling 53 yards on 27 attempts.
Mond, who ran for 474 yards last season, was held to one rushing yard on five attempts. He was seen clearly limping after several plays early in the second half.
Even after Mond got in a groove, completing 9-of-10 attempts during a stretch that spanned Texas A&M’s final drive of the third quarter and its first possession in the fourth quarter, his next throw was picked off by Clemson’s Tanner Muse on 3rd & 5 after he was hit as he threw the ball.
The scary part for the ACC and the rest of the country is that the offensive numbers for Clemson’s Heisman Trophy contenders Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne (16 carries for 53 yards) were far from eye-popping, the Tigers had a special teams miscue in their missed field goal and they still beat a top-15 team with ease.
There’s only one more ranked team on Clemson’s schedule, No. 21 Syracuse, which lost 63-20 (!) at Maryland on Saturday. The Orange have given the Tigers fits in the last two seasons, including a 27-24 win in 2017, but Syracuse benefited from injuries to Clemson’s starting quarterback in both games.
Clemson will travel to the Carrier Dome next week and after that, the Tigers’ only remaining road games are at North Carolina, Louisville, NC State and South Carolina.
It’s too soon to Sharpie, or even pencil, Clemson down for a 12-0 regular season, ACC Championship and a fifth-straight College Football Playoff appearance. But with a marquee non-conference win in its back pocket, as talented of an offense as exists in the country and a defense that has remained stout despite massive turnover in its front seven, Clemson appears to be on a collision course with another postseason run, barring an unthinkable loss.