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Kellen Mond’s comeback effort falls short as No. 2 Clemson holds off Texas A&M

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A furious Texas A&M comeback effort led by Kellen Mond fell just short, as No. 2 Clemson raced to an early lead and held on for a 28-26 win in College Station.

The Aggies moved the ball consistently throughout the night but saw four drives of 30-plus yards end in some form of disaster. A&M opened the game by moving 66 yards before a missed Daniel LaCamera field goal, and also saw a 30-yard march end in a missed field goal.

Then, with the Aggies trailing 14-6 midway through the third quarter, Mond converted a 3rd-and-11 at the Clemson 44 by rushing 23 yards, setting up a 1st-and-10 at the 21. But Mond cramped up after the run, forcing backup Nick Starkel into the game. Clelin Ferrell immediately sacked Starkel, forcing a fumble that was recovered by Clemson’s Justin Foster.

Two plays later, Clemson (2-0) quarterback Kelly Bryant hit Tee Higgins for a 50-yard completing, setting up a touchdown to give Clemson a 21-6 lead.

After that, Mond came alive. He found Camron Buckley for a 69-yard completion, setting up a 9-yard scoring strike to Kendrick Rodgers to pull the Aggies (1-1) within 21-13 at the 4:22 mark of the third quarter.

Clemson answered that score, keyed by a 40-yard strike from Bryant to Hunter Renfrow, moving 75 yards in eight plays to set up Travis Etienne‘s 1-yard plunge, giving Clemson a 28-13 lead with a minute remaining in the third quarter.

But Mond immediately led the Aggies back, needing only a handful of snaps to travel 75 yards. Mond hit Quartney Davis for a 14-yard touchdown grab, the first catch of any kind of his career, to bring the Aggies within 28-20 with 14:07 still to play.

The teams traded punts through the next three possessions until A&M moved in position to potentially tie the game, but Davis fumbled the ball through the end zone on a play that was ruled a fumble on the field and was impossible to overturn upon review.

That fumble gave Clemson the ball at its own 20 with 2:09 remaining, but the Tigers could not achieve a game-clinching first down, and Will Spiers‘s 22-yard punt handed the Aggies the ball at the Clemson 49 with 1:12 still to play.

Mond needed only 26 seconds to score, hitting Rodgers for a 10-yard gain, accepting a pass interference penalty on Clemson and then finding Rodgers again, this time for a 24-yard score.

Needing a two-point conversion to push the game into overtime, Mond was intercepted in the end zone.

Hunter Renfrow recovered the onside kick to clinch the win for Clemson. The win moves Clemson to 23-4 in one-score games in its last 27 such games.

In a losing effort, Mond was the star of the night, hitting 23-of-40 passes for 430 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions while also leading the Aggies’ ground efforts with 10 carries for 33 yards. Trayveon Williams rushed 17 times for 31 yards.

Clemson also failed to run the ball consistently, mustering 115 yards on 32 carries. Bryant was the Tigers’ leading rusher with 54 yards on 15 carries. Instead, Clemson (2-0) was carried by a handful of big plays in the passing game.

Trailing 3-0 in the first quarter, Bryant hit Amari Rodgers for a 64-yard gain, turning a 3rd-and-15 into a 1st-and-10 at the A&M 16. Bryant scored on a 1-yard dash four plays later to give Clemson a lead it would not relinquish through the first half.

After forcing an A&M punt, Clemson put freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence in the game, and the freshman immediately made the absolute most of his opportunity, finding Higgins for a snatch-and-dash 64-yard score.

Bryant got the bulk of the duties for Clemson, playing the entire second half and completing 12-of-17 passes for 205 yards and a touchdown. Lawrence was 5-of-9 for 93 yards and a score. Etienne led all Clemson running backs with eight carries for 44 yards and a touchdown.

The win pushed Dabo Swinney to a four-game winning streak in his personal rivalry with Jimbo Fisher. Swinney now owns the ledger, 6-5. The Aggies and Tigers will complete their home-and-home in Clemson in Week 2 of next season.

Clemson confirms WR Deon Cain is leaving for NFL

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In news that falls under the category of “water is wet” or “sky is blue,” Clemson has lost another talented and productive piece of its passing game to the next level.

It’s long been expected that Deon Cain would be leaving the Tigers early and declaring for the April NFL draft.  Head coach Dabo Swinney first confirmed to ESPN.com‘s David Hale that the wide receiver will indeed enter the April draft.

Clemson officials subsequently confirmed that Cain is gone.

Cain led the Tigers this season in receiving yards (734) and receiving touchdowns (six).  His 58 receptions were second on the team to Hunter Renfrow‘s 60.

With fellow receiver Ray-Ray McCloud announcing his decision to leave over the weekend, Clemson will now have to replace 2017 production of 107 catches, 1,237 yards and seven touchdowns that will be lost to the NFL.

No. 3 Clemson looks like the new No. 1 in pummeling No. 24 South Carolina

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No. 1 Alabama lost on the road today. No. 2 Miami lost on the road on Friday. No. 3 Clemson went on the road… and did not come close to losing. The Tigers led throughout and dominated in-state rival No. 24 South Carolina, winning 34-10 in Columbia.

The win gives Clemson four straight victories in the season and two straight blowouts, following last season’s 56-7 beatdown in Death Valley. It was also Dabo Swinney‘s 100th win in his 129th game as Clemson’s head coach. More importantly, the win completes Clemson’s third straight regular season of at least 11 victories and sends the Tigers into next week’s ACC Championship opposite Miami in prime position to defend its national championship.

After downing a punt at the 1-yard line, Clemson’s Ryan Carter capitalized on a miscommunication by South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley as he grabbed an uncontested pass at the South Carolina 12 and waltzed into the end zone for the game’s first score.

That was the only score of the first quarter, but Clemson’s offense got in on the action in the second quarter with a 9-play, 80-yard drive that was keyed by two big Kelly Bryant passes and completed with a 1-yard Tavien Feaster run with 8:12 left in the first half.

Clemson put together a similar drive to close the half, moving 79 yards in 10 snaps, 40 of which came on a deep ball to Tee HigginsHunter Renfrow notched his second touchdown grab of the season, a 4-yarder, with 1:59 left in the half. Alex Spence‘s PAT was wide left.

The Tigers put their orange paws on South Carolina’s throat in the third quarter with a 61-yard touchdown strike from Bryant to Kelly, and then a 5-yard Travis Etienne run to push the lead to 34-0.

South Carolina (8-4) got on the board with a 40-yard Parker White field goal after a Bryant interception and then a 38-yard toss from Bentley to Bryan Edwards with 2:44 left in the game. Bentley concluded his second Cocks-Tigers game hitting 16-of-29 passes for just 126 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.

Bryant hit 23-of-34 passes for 272 yards with two touchdowns and a pick while rushing 10 times for 26 yards. Seven Tigers runners combined to carry 41 times for 167 yards and two touchdowns, more than doubling South Carolina’s 81 rushing yards.

Clemson in control at South Carolina

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No. 1 and No. 2 have already lost road games this week. It doesn’t appear No. 3 will be in the same danger.

Third-ranked Clemson leads No. 24 South Carolina 20-0 at the break in Columbia.

After downing a punt at the 1-yard line, Clemson’s Ryan Carter capitalized on a miscommunication by South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley as he grabbed an uncontested pass at the South Carolina 12 and waltzed into the end zone for the game’s first score.

That was the only score of the first quarter, but Clemson’s offense got in on the action in the second quarter with a 9-play, 80-yard drive that was keyed by two big Kelly Bryant passes and completed with a 1-yard Tavien Feaster run with 8:12 left in the first half.

Clemson put together a similar drive to close the half, moving 79 yards in 10 snaps, 40 of which came on a deep ball to Tee HigginsHunter Renfrow notched his second touchdown grab of the season, a 4-yarder, with 1:59 left in the half. Alex Spence‘s PAT was wide left after Dabo Swinney was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for arguing with officials.

Bentley closed the half hitting 8-of-15 passes for 42 yards with the interception. Tyson Williams led the club with six carries for 35 yards and two grabs for 13 yards.

Bryant connected on 14-of-21 throws for 159 yards and the Tigers rushed for 67 yards on 18 carries in the half.

Clemson will receive to open the second half.

No. 4 Clemson survives road scare at No. 20 NC State

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No. 4 Clemson was forced to defend its ACC and national championships from practically the first play of its visit to Raleigh until literally the last. But defend it they did, as the Tigers survived a visit to No. 20 NC State with a 38-31 win.

NC State opened the game on fire, intercepting Kelly Bryant (191 passing yards, 88 rushing yards, three total touchdowns) inside Clemson territory, which Ryan Finley turned into a 40-yard scoring connection to Kelvin Harmon. After the Tigers pulled even on a 77-yard punt return score by Ray Ray McCloud, NC State again claimed a touchdown lead on a 12-play, 65-yard drive that culminated in a 1-yard Jaylen Samuels run.

Clemson again pulled even with a long drive of its own as Bryant punctuated a 12-play, 71-yard march with a 10-yard keeper. Again, though, NC State responded, this time with a 75-yard march that ended on a 7-yard strike from Finley to Samuels with 9:29 left before halftime.

The Tigers could not hold serve on their next possession, instead ending a 68-yard drive with a 26-yard Alex Spence field goal. NC State blew a chance to take a touchdown lead before the break when Carson Wise missed 34-yard field goal. Clemson moved in position to take a halftime lead, moving to the NC State 22-yard line with under 10 seconds to go, but Bryant’s final two passes fell incomplete and NC State head coach Dave Doeren successfully froze Spence into missing a 39-yard field goal as time expired at the half.

That miss sent Clemson into a halftime in which it trailed 21-17 at halftime on the road against a ranked conference opponent, and that opponent would get the ball to open the second half.

Simply put, it was gut check time for Clemson’s ACC and national championship hopes, and Clemson responded with a check right into NC State’s gut.

The Tigers took the lead on a 12-yard strike from Bryant to Deon Cain, then closed the quarter (literally) on an 89-yard burst from Tavien Feaster, the club’s longest play from scrimmage to date this season. 

Any control Clemson had over the game evaporated on NC State’s next possession, as the Wolfpack sliced down the field with a 6-play, 65-yard drive. Finley fired his third touchdown pass of the day, a 15-yarder to Jakobi Meyers, to pull NC State within 31-28 with 12:23 to play. The Wolfpack had a chance to force a turnover on downs and get the ball back with the chance to take the lead on a touchdown in forcing a 4th-and-5 at the NC State 22 with 8:16 to play, but Bryant found CFP Championship hero Hunter Renfrow for a 16-yard connection. Bryant danced in from one yard out three plays later, handing Clemson a 38-28 advantage with 6:31 to play.

However, NC State once again answered with a gut check of its own. The Pack moved 81 yards to set up a 22-yard Kyle Bambard field goal with 1:51 to play, then used its three timeouts to force an immediate Clemson punt, handing NC State the ball at its own 20 with 80 seconds to force overtime.

Finley (31-of-50 for 338 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions, eight caries for 35 yards) moved NC State to the Clemson 28 and momentarily put the ball inside the Clemson 5-yard line, but an illegal shift penalty negated a long completion, and his final pass was intercepted.

The win all but clinches a third straight ACC Atlantic championship for Clemson (8-1, 6-1 ACC), needing only to beat Florida State to clinch the division. Should the Tigers lose, NC State (6-3, 4-1 ACC) still find itself in prime position to steal the division title.