Upset prediction falls flat as Tigers beat Texas A&M behind stout defense
|Saturday, September 7, 2019, 7:15 PM- -|
CLEMSON –Joe Namath called his shot 50 years ago when the Jets upset in the Colts in the Super Bowl, and players in the ensuing half-century have tried to mimic Broadway Joe’s swagger. Texas A&M’s Jared Hocker tried, promising No. 12 Texas A&M would upset No. 1 Clemson this week, but his called shot fell as flat as the Texas landscape.
Clemson’s defense made sure of that.
Trevor Lawrence threw for 268 yards and Clemson’s young defense stymied Texas A&M all day as the Tigers defeated the Aggies 24-10 in front of a sold-out Death Valley crowd on a sultry Saturday afternoon. Clemson improves to 2-0 on the season, while Texas A&M falls to 1-1.
On a day when Clemson’s running game had to fight for every yard, Lawrence was 24-for-35 for those 268 yards and a touchdown. Clemson's defense held A&M to just 289 total yards, much of that on a final scoring drive that didn't matter.
Clemson posted its 20th consecutive regular-season non-conference win. Clemson's last nonconference loss in the regular season came in the 2014 season opener. No member of Clemson's current roster has lost a non-conference game in regular-season play.
Clemson won its 17th consecutive game, dating to the start of the 2018 season, tying the all-time longest winning streak, matching a 17-game streak across the final three games of the 2014 season and the first 14 games in 2015.
The Tigers also won a sixth-straight home game against SEC competition (def. Georgia in 2014, South Carolina in 2014 and 2016, Auburn in 2017, and South Carolina again in 2018). The current five-game home winning streak against SEC foes is already the longest in school history. Clemson is also 9-1 against SEC competition since 2016.
Clemson also won its 20th consecutive regular-season non-conference game.
Neither team scored on their first two drives – B.T. Potter missed a 47-yard field goal on Clemson’s first possession – but the Aggies put together a 16-play scoring drive that ended with a short field goal and a 3-0 Aggie lead early in the second quarter.
The Tigers responded in a big way. A 27-yard completion from Lawrence to Etienne put Clemson in A&M territory. On 3rd-and-11 from the A&M 30, Lawrence was flushed from the pocket and rolled the left sideline. The A&M defenders converged on Lawrence and he flipped the ball to a wide open Justyn Ross in the end zone for a touchdown and a 7-3 Clemson lead.
A&M quarterback Kellen Mond fumbled on the Aggies’ next possession and Clemson took over at the Aggie 44-yard line. Ten plays later, Potter hit a 29-yard field goal and Clemson led 10-3 with 3:57 to play in the half.
The Clemson defense forced a three-and-out on A&M’s ensuing possession and the Tigers took over at their own 11-yard line with just over three minutes left in the half. The resulting drive was a thing of beauty. Lyn-J Dixon ripped off an 18-yard run early in the drive, and Lawrence hit Tee Higgins for a 29-yard pass to the Aggie two. Two plays later, Lawrence pulled the ball on the read option and scored easily from one yard out to give Clemson a 17-3 lead at the half.
Both teams stumbled coming out of the half, but the Tigers put together a scoring drive midway through the quarter. A couple of big penalties and a 14-yard pass to Etienne set up the score. Dixon finished the drive on a counter play, scoring from four yards out to put Clemson ahead 24-3 with 5:50 to play in the third quarter. The drive covered 83 yards in just eight plays and took a little over two minutes.
Texas A&M put together its best drive since early in the second quarter as the fourth quarter started and made it to the Clemson 11-yard line. On third down, Mond felt pressure from the up the middle and his pass to the goal line was intercepted by Tanner Muse, ending the threat and likely any chance the Aggies had of an upset.
The Aggies added a late touchdown – with six seconds remaining – to account for the final score.
Clemson travels to Syracuse next week. Kickoff is at 7:30 pm and will be broadcast on ABC.