Escape Doom: Tigers hold on in wild finish, escape Texas A&M with 28-26 victory
Kelly Bryant did enough to propel Clemson to the win (Photo by Jerome Miron, USAT)

Escape Doom: Tigers hold on in wild finish, escape Texas A&M with 28-26 victory

by - Senior Writer -

COLLEGE STATION, TX – Kelly Bryant made plays when he had to and Clemson’s defense received the break of the night.

Bryant led No. 2 Clemson on two-second half scoring drives and the Clemson defense forced a touchback with Texas A&M driving late and hung on to beat the Aggies 28-26 at Kyle Field Saturday night. The defense also held A&M’s two-point conversion attempt with 46 seconds remaining that would have tied the score.

Official Attendance announced at Kyle Field 104,794, the sixth-largest crowd in the stadium's history and the largest crowd to ever watch a Clemson football game.

Bryant was 12-of-17 through the air for 205 yards and a touchdown and added 53 yards on 14 carries. Amari Rodgers had five receptions for 73 yards, while Travis Etienne had eight carries for 44 yards. Freshman Trevor Lawrence had his chance to shine but finished 5-of-9 for 93 yards and a score.

Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond had the game of his life, throwing for over 400 yards on the Clemson defense finishing 23-of-40 for 430 yards and three touchdowns.

The Aggies took the opening kickoff and put together an 11-play, 66-yard drive that ended inside the Clemson 10. However, A&M kicker Daniel LaCamera missed a chip shot field goal and the Aggies came away with no points.

A short punt led to another A&M drive that reached Clemson territory, and this time LaCamera hit a 40-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead with 4:28 remaining in the first quarter.

Facing a third-and-long deep in its own territory on the ensuing possession, Clemson needed a big play and got it from Amari Rodgers. Bryant rifled a pass through the raindrops that Rodgers took 64 yards to the Aggie 16. Three plays later Bryant dumped a pass in the flat to Travis Etienne, who bulled his way to the Aggie one. Bryant carried into the end zone on the next play, giving Clemson a 7-3 lead at the 1:23 mark of the first quarter. The drive covered 75 yards on seven plays.

Clemson’s defense settled in and forced another A&M punt and the Clemson coaches allowed Lawrence to get his first snaps of the game. It took just one of those snaps to score. Lawrence threw a ball up on the left sideline that Tee Higgins went up and over the defensive back to make the catch. Higgins came down on the sideline, beat a few defenders to the middle of the field and raced 64 yards for the score. Early in the second quarter, Clemson held a 14-3 lead.

Clemson threatened late in the first half and faced a 4th-and-goal at the Aggie on. The Tigers brought in their jumbo package, but the snap was mishandled and A&M took over.

The Aggies forced a Clemson three-and-out to start the second half and put points on the board after the punt. LaCamera hit a 40-yard field goal and Clemson led 14-6 with 10:37 to play in the third quarter.

A&M forced yet another three-and-out and once again moved into Clemson territory after a 23-yard run by Mond. Mond went down with cramps however, and he was replaced Nick Starkel. On Starkel’s first play, he was sacked by Clelin Ferrell, who also stripped the ball out of Starkel’s hands. It was recovered by Justin Foster at the Clemson 30.

Bryant came back in for the first time in the second half and immediately hit Higgins on a 50-yard pass to the Aggie 20. Three plays later Bryant hit Diondre Overton from eight yards out for a touchdown, and Clemson led 21-6 with 4:59 to play in the third quarter.

It didn’t take the Aggies long to respond. Mond hit Camron Buckley on a 69-yard pass play to the Clemson nine, and Mond then hit Kendrick for a touchdown on the next play and it was 21-13 with 4:22 to go in the third quarter.

Bryant and the Clemson offense responded in a big way. Bryant led the Tigers on an eight-play, 75-yard drive that included a 40-yard pass to Hunter Renfrow on the first play from scrimmage. The drive ended with a one-yard scamper by Travis Etienne into the right corner of the end zone, and Clemson led 28-13 with just over a minute left in the third quarter.

The Aggies didn’t flinch, putting together a 75-yard drive that ended with a 14-yard pass from Mond to Quartney Davis. Clemson led 28-20 with 14:07 to play in the game.

Clemson’s secondary began to leak, and A&M put together yet another nice drive with just over four minutes remaining. Facing a third-and-8 at the Clemson 25, Mond hit Davis in the middle of the field and Davis scampered towards the end zone. He reached the one-yard line and tried to reach the ball across the plane of the goal line, but fumbled through the end zone for a touchback. Clemson took over at its own 20 with 2:13 to play.

Texas A&M forced a Clemson three-and-out – the predictable three runs by Bryant – but Will Spiers shanked a 22-yard punt and the Aggies took over at the Clemson 49 with 1:12 to play. A few plays later, defensive back K’Von Wallace tipped a Mond pass at the goal line that was gathered in for an Aggie score, and it was 28-26 46 with seconds to play, forcing A&M to go for the two-point conversion.

However, Mond’s pass into the end zone was intercepted by Wallace, and A&M was forced to try for the onside kick. Renfrow gobbled up the onside kick, and Clemson walked away from Kyle Field with the win.

Clemson hosts Georgia Southern next Saturday.

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