Kelly Bryant threw for 205 yards and a touchdown and ran for another score to help No. 2 Clemson escape with a 28-26 victory over Kellen Mond and Texas A&M on Saturday night.
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.
“The moment was not too big for him … his composure in the game and his decision-making was excellent,” Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher said.
Clemson coach Dabo 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.
Mond finished with a career-high 430 yards passing and Rogers had 120 yards receiving and two TDs.
“Just one play short and those small details matter the most,” Mond 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.
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. 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.
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.
The Tigers should keep their spot in the poll despite the scare by the Aggies.
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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