Clemson’s biggest test a year ago during the regular season was going into College Station and holding off a furious second half rally from Texas A&M. Facing perhaps their biggest test on paper of the 2019 regular season, the No. 1 ranked Tigers needed neither a close call nor a late stand at the goal line in order to dispatch the No. 12 Aggies 24-10 and extend their FBS-best win streak to 17 in a row.
Heisman Trophy favorite Trevor Lawrence continued to dazzle in the Clemson passing game, leaning on his outstanding group of receivers to help throw for 268 yards (one pick) and a touchdown pass to a wide open Justyn Ross (94 total yards to go with the score). Tee Higgins chipped in with 70 yards receiving while the big news to emerge from the game came in the form of Amari Rodgers, who caught two passes for six yards less than six months after he tore his ACL.
Tailback Travis Etienne was bottled up by his standards, rushing for just 53 on the ground but finding other ways of contributing with four catches for 52 yards. It was a slow start overall for the Tigers offense, which was blanked in the first quarter but ran off 24 unanswered after that to turn an interesting game into a comfortable victory over a top 15 program.
The offensive output from the Aggies was not exactly what Jimbo Fisher had in mind for his return to Death Valley in a slightly different shade of dark red. Quarterback Kellen Mond was far from the guy we saw in last year’s meeting, throwing for 236 yards, a touchdown and an interception while also fumbling once and generally throwing a bit high on his passes all afternoon. The rushing game didn’t do him much favor with just 53 yards total but after a few early drives looked promising, the SEC visitors simply couldn’t get over the hump and make things close enough to truly threaten the defending champions.
The A&M defense did seem pretty solid overall on their side of the ball against one of the best offenses in the country but a handful of injuries, some cramps and a few missed tackles and assignments were enough to open the door for the home team. The good news is the Aggies return home and won’t leave the state of Texas until late October — having a pair of stiff tests upcoming with top 10 programs Auburn and Alabama coming to Kyle Field down the road.
As for Clemson, they passed the test in what could be their only game during the regular season against a ranked opponent given Syracuse’s earlier blowout loss to Maryland. To say Dabo Swinney’s team carries the ACC banner at this point is an understatement but the affable head coach is no doubt happy to celebrate the ‘W’ and another impressive defensive effort. This still isn’t a team that is hitting on all cylinders early in their 2019 campaign but that might not matter after getting past A&M on Saturday.