Clemson Escapes with 28-26 Win over Texas A&M to Avoid Upset
COLLEGE STATION, TX - SEPTEMBER 08:  Adam Choice #26 of the Clemson Tigers is stopped by Donovan Wilson #6 of the Texas A&M Aggies in the second quarter at Kyle Field on September 8, 2018 in College Station, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Bob Levey/Getty Images

The second-ranked Clemson Tigers survived a tough road test against the Texas A&M Aggies in College Station on Saturday night and will head home with their perfect record intact following a 28-26 victory. 


Clemson Nabs Early-Season Resume-Booster With Tough Road Win

Some contenders may look to avoid playing a tough road game in their nonconference slate, opting for a safer opponent to pad their resume.

But there aren’t many tougher environments in college football than Kyle Field, home of the 12th Man—Texas A&M’s crowd. And yet, the Tigers quieted the fans early before holding on in a raucous stadium.

After cruising to a 48-7 victory over Furman in its season opener last week, Clemson jumped out to a 21-6 lead Saturday. While the Aggies are coming off a 7-6 season, replacing Kevin Sumlin with championship-winning head coach Jimbo Fisher has injected life into the team—and there was some serious energy building after a slow start against Clemson.

The Aggies fought all the way back, scoring a touchdown with 46 seconds left to cut the deficit to two:

However, an interception (and a penalty) on the ensuing two-point conversion put the game’s outcome onto an onside kick, which the Tigers recovered.

Every team hopes to win each contest in blowout fashion, but getting tested—in a hostile environment—can also be beneficial. Clemson coach Dabo Swinney knows his players won’t melt under pressure when the time comes—a key attribute for title contenders. 

An early-season loss would not be a knockout blow for the Tigers (see: Ohio State, 2014), but it would have put pressure on them to run the table. Instead, they leave Texas A&M with a victory that could loom large when the committee compares resumes, as ESPN’s Heather Dinich points out: 

Clemson has proved itself in recent years, but the team can’t rely on its past success to earn a spot in the playoffs. Now, the Tigers have a quality win on their resume.


Jimbo Fisher Wastes No Time Making Texas A&M Formidable Foe

Fisher had a chance to record his first signature win at Texas A&M just two weeks into his tenure. While he didn’t get it, his team did prove it can compete with the best.

It was just a few years back that Texas A&M was the talk of the football world when Johnny Manziel was dazzling all over the field on his way to winning the Heisman Trophy. When he left after the 2013 season, however, the Aggies posted three consecutive 8-5 efforts followed by a 7-6 campaign. That ultimately forced Sumlin out of town.

Now, Fisher brings a lofty resume to a program in need of a boost. Thus far, it looks like he is bringing the Aggies back to relevancy.

Early in this game, Clemson appeared to be on its way to a comfortable victory, as it held a 15-point lead late in the third quarter. Facing a top-ranked team, the Aggies had two choices: give up or fight back.

They chose the latter.

Sophomore quarterback Kellen Mond showed tremendous poise while leading his team back, throwing for 430 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions:

As they were driving for the potential game-tying score late in the fourth, the Aggies had to deal with a controversial turnover:

Even with that tough break, there was still no quit in Fisher’s team.

The defense stood strong, forced a punt, and the offense put the team in position to tie the game. Ultimately, though, they dug themselves too big of a hole.

No team wants to ever lose. But given the Aggies were facing a highly ranked opponent that has played in two of the last three championship games, they showed they are not backing down from anyone.


What’s Next

Clemson (2-0) returns home to face Georgia Southern before opening ACC play on Sept. 22 against Georgia Tech. Meanwhile, Texas A&M (1-1) will have a chance to get back in the win column when it hosts the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks next week.

The Aggies and Tigers are set to meet again in 2019, this time at Clemson Memorial Stadium.

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