(AP Photo/Sam Craft)

No. 2 Clemson outlasts Texas A&M 28-26

By KRISTIE RIEKEN , AP Sports Writer

September 09, 2018 - 9:51 am
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COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) — Time after time, No. 2 Clemson missed opportunities to close out Texas A&M.

In the end, the Tigers stepped up and made the one play they had to make to secure the thrilling win.

Kelly Bryant threw for 205 yards and a touchdown and ran for another score to help Clemson escape with the 28-26 victory.

Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond was spectacular in the second half , throwing for three touchdowns, with a 14-yard pass to Kendrick Rogers cutting the lead to 28-26 with 46 seconds left. But his big performance came up just short when the 2-point conversion attempt was intercepted in the end zone.

"At the end of the day, it came down to the two-point play, and we got the interception," coach Dabo Swinney said.

Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher was impressed with his sophomore quarterback's performance.

"The moment was not too big for him ... his composure in the game and his decision-making was excellent," he said.

Mond finished with a career-high 430 yards passing and Rogers had 120 yards receiving and two TDs. Swinney knew Mond was going to be difficult to handle, but didn't realize just how dangerous he could be.

"I was really impressed by their quarterback ... we didn't do a great job of containing him," Swinney said. "Even when we had the perfect call, we would be on the wrong shoulder, he would spin out, and next thing you know, he's throwing some dang touchdown pass in the end zone. He's a heck of a player."

Swinney said it was a shame anyone had to lose this one.

"I thought we had opportunities to really get control of the game in the first half and we didn't take advantage of it," Swinney said.

Many in the crowd of more than 104,000 chanted Fisher's name as he walked off the field after the loss. Fisher, who came to A&M from Florida State on a 10-year, $75 million contract, said he appreciated the passion of the fans, but wished it could have come after a win.

"It disappoints me that I couldn't make the call to help them win the game," he said.

Freshman Trevor Lawrence started the second half but failed to move the ball effectively and Bryant took over and led the Tigers on two touchdown drives in the last five minutes of the third quarter to extend the lead to 15 points. Swinney said he'd continue to play both quarterbacks next week, but that he was happy with Bryant's work late.

"There's no doubt that I thought Kelly there in the fourth quarter settled in," Swinney said. "He gave us the experience we needed in that moment to come out of here with a win."

Mond got the Aggies to 28-20 when he threw a 14-yard pass to Quartney Davis with about 14 minutes left.

The Aggies were driving with about two minutes left when Davis ran after making a catch and K'Von Wallace caused him to fumble the ball out of the back of the end zone for a touchback to give Clemson the ball.

"My main goal was to get it out of his hand because I knew it was a guarantee he would score if I (didn't)," Wallace said.

The call was reviewed but upheld and Fisher got in the face of one of the referees and yelled for a bit as Davis doubled over in disbelief and covered his face as he was consoled by teammates.

Clemson's vaunted defensive line, led by first-team All-America end, Clelin Ferrell and tackle Christian Wilkins and second-team All-America tackle Dexter Lawrence, helped the Tigers pile up 10 tackles for losses and four sacks.

Trevor Lawrence was 5 of 9 for 93 yards with a 64-yard touchdown pass to Diondre Overton that made it 14-3 early in the second quarter.

THE TAKEAWAY

Clemson: Trevor Lawrence has a lot of raw talent and impressive arm strength, but the 18-year-old might not be quite ready to lead this team. Though Bryant struggled to move the offense at times, he showed maturity and poise at key moments to come away with the win.

Texas A&M: This was a coming out part of sorts for Mond, who has played well sporadically but never controlled a game like he did on Saturday night.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Tigers should keep their spot in the poll despite the scare by the Aggies.

MOND'S BIG NIGHT

Mond surpassed his previous high in yards passing by more than 100 yards with his previous best coming when he had 301 yards against Louisiana-Lafayette last season. His 40 attempts and 23 completions were also the most in his career and his three touchdown passes tied the most in his career. His first TD pass on Saturday night came when he found Rogers on a 9-yard grab with about 4 1/2 minutes left in the third quarter.

His 430 yards passing were the most by an Aggie against a top-5 team since Johnny Manziel had 464 in a 49-42 loss to top-ranked Alabama in 2013.

UP NEXT

Clemson: The Tigers host Georgia Southern next Saturday before opening ACC play on Sept. 22 at Georgia Tech.

Texas A&M: The Aggies play their third straight home next Saturday when Louisiana-Monroe visits before they travel to Alabama to open SEC play on Sept. 22.

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