If this was the toughest game on Clemson’s 2019 schedule, watch out ACC.
The No. 1 Tigers handled No. 12 Texas A&M 24-10 on Saturday afternoon at home to move to 2-0 and further solidify themselves as a College Football Playoff favorite.
Sure, A&M didn’t play well. And it felt like half the roster went down with an injury at some point during the game. But Clemson never was threatened after A&M took a 3-0 lead in the second quarter following a scoreless first half.
The Tigers scored nine plays after that Aggie field goal when Justyn Ross somehow got behind the entire A&M defense on third down for a 30-yard score. A&M fumbled on its next drive and a Clemson field goal made it 10-3.
The hammer came next. A&M went three-and-out and Clemson, aided by an acrobatic catch by Tee Higgins inside the 5, scored on a Trevor Lawrence keeper with 33 seconds left to take a two-touchdown lead into halftime.
The game’s biggest drama came at the end when A&M scored its only touchdown with fewer than 10 seconds left to make it a 14-point game. The Tigers were favored by over 17 points.
Kellen Mond didn’t have a good game
Mond emerged as one of the better QBs in the SEC over the 2018 season and had a fantastic game against the Tigers when Clemson was in College Station last season.
His game Saturday was about the opposite of fantastic. Mond was simply off. And, to compound it, he came up limping after a few hits by Clemson’s defense too.
Running back Jashaun Corbin had to leave the game with a leg injury in the third quarter after he was taken down awkwardly while running toward the sideline. He finished the game with just 13 carries for 34 yards.
In addition to Mond and Corbin, star defensive lineman Justin Madubuike was also banged up. And so were other A&M players. Health was not on the Aggies’ side.
Mond finished the game 24-of-42 passing for 236 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He also had the fumble that set up Clemson’s only field goal.
Clemson wasn’t exceptionally sharp either
Here’s the thing: Clemson didn’t play its best game by any means. Dabo Swinney realized that at halftime when he told ESPN in the moments after Lawrence’s TD that the Tigers had missed some plays in the first half.
The running game wasn’t nearly as explosive as we’ve come to expect. Travis Etienne had just 16 carries for 53 yards and the Tigers averaged fewer than four yards a carry.
Lawrence also threw his third interception of the year, meaning one more matches his total from all of 2018. He wasn’t going to sustain such a low interception rate in 2019 but it’s still surprising to see Lawrence averaging 1.5 picks a game even if it’s just two games into the season.
But A&M is also the highest-ranked team on Clemson’s schedule and No. 21 Syracuse, which hosts the Tigers next week, was beaten soundly at Maryland earlier Saturday afternoon. If the Tigers can beat the Aggies without playing a great game, then the rest of the ACC may be in more trouble than we imagined.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.