CLEMSON—All week long the No. 1 Clemson Tigers (2-0, 1-0 ACC) had to listen to people rehash how close they came to losing to the No. 11 Texas A&M Aggies last season. They had to listen to how many prognosticators picked the Aggies to upset the Tigers Saturday at Death Valley. And they also had to listen to many people who predicted that Aggie quarterback Kellen Mond would out-duel Heisman candidate Trevor Lawrence.
But none of those things came to fruition. In fact, the Tigers made their statement in a big way, as they dismantled the Aggies by a final score of 24-10.
“I’m really proud of everyone who played in today’s win," Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. "There’s a lot for us to build on. Guys accepted the challenge. It was a heck of a win today. This gives us really great momentum. Great teams get better as the season progresses. We’ll have an opportunity to go on the road and improve our team in ACC Atlantic play next week. I’m excited to see how we respond.”
The Tiger defense held the Aggies to less than 300 yards of total offense, while they amassed 390 total yards (268 passing, 122 rushing) that put an exclamation mark on a dominant day.
“Offensively, we left a little bit out there, but I thought that we controlled the game. We held the ball effectively," Swinney said. "Our offensive line took over. I cannot say enough about those guys. Travis [Etienne] had a career-high in receiving yards, and Lyn-J [Dixon] was a spark for us. I’m really proud of them. That’s quite a 1-2 punch. [Tee] Higgins had another big day. [Justyn] Ross had a career high in catches. [Trevor] Lawrence played the quarterback position extremely well today. He was gutsy, tough and showed a lot of great heart and leadership.”
After a scoreless first quarter, the Aggies jumped on top of the Tigers.
The Aggies gashed the Tiger defense on the ground, as they moved the ball to the Tiger 15-yard line before the Tiger defense held the Aggies and forced a field goal by Seth Small that gave the Aggies a 3-0 lead.
That score marked the first time since in 18 quarters of play, dating back to the Duke game (2018) that the Tigers trailed in a game.
On their ensuing possession, the Tigers began a new streak. After the Tigers drove the ball down to the Aggie 30-yard line behind the arm of quarterback Trevor Lawrence (24-35 for 268 yards, one touchdowns and one interception), the Tigers capped off the 83-yard drive when Lawrence found Justyn Ross for a 30-yard touchdown.
The Tiger defense forced the first Aggie turnover of the day. Facing first-and-10 from their own 38, Aggie quarterback Kellen Mond (24-42 for 236 yards, one touchdown, one interception and one fumble) lost the ball after a big hit from Tiger safety Nolan Turner. The fumble was recovered by Jamie Skalski at the Aggies'.
The Tigers capitalized on the turnover, as B.T. Potter connected on a 30-yard field goal that extended the Tiger lead to 10-3.
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After the Aggies third punt of the first half, the Tigers added to their lead.
The Tigers began their drive on their own 6-yard line after a penalty negated a 36-yard completion from Lawrence to Ross.
But that setback did not stop the Tigers, as they needed only nine plays and a 1-yard touchdown run by Lawrence to cap off an 89-yard drive that extended the lead to 14-3 at the end of the first half.
After three combined punts to start the second half, the Tigers once again found the end zone. This time Lyn-J Dixon's 4-yard run capped off an eight-play, 83-yard drive that extended the lead to 24-3. The score also extended a run of 24 unanswered points for the Tigers since the 10:52 mark in the second quarter.
The Aggies finally found some rhythm in the fourth quarter. After a couple of big pass plays by Mond the Aggies found themselves on the Tiger 11-yard line. But the drive ended without the Aggies cutting into the Tiger lead, as safety Tanner Muse intercepted Mond's pass at the 1-yard line.
“We did a tremendous job of being well-positioned, and we made great plays on the ball. A.J. [Terrell] was tremendous," Swinney said. "Nolan [Turner] missed a tackle in the first half but came back from that and made some great plays on the ball. [Tanner] Muse got another interception. Structurally, we did some great things. We did a nice job, assignment-wise. We put pressure on the ball. Our guys up front were ready for the challenge. They’re having fun playing defense.”
The Aggies added a touchdown with 6 seconds to play in the game.
Clemson earned their second all-time home win against Texas A&M.
Clemson won its 17th consecutive game, dating to the start of the 2018 season. It would tie Clemson's 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 travel to Syracuse to take on the Orange next Saturday (7:30 p.m., ESPN) in their first road trip of the season.