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.