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Clemson Survives, Passes Test vs. Texas A&M

By Dave Holcomb
SouthernPigskin.com
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This week, for the third straight year, the Clemson Tigers faced an SEC West opponent in September. For the third consecutive season, the Tigers escaped with a one-possession victory.

This week, for the third straight year, the Clemson Tigers faced an SEC West opponent in September. For the third consecutive season, the Tigers escaped with a one-possession victory.

At times it felt as though Clemson was just holding for dear life onto its fourth-quarter lead, but behind senior quarterback Kelly Bryant, Clemson beat Texas A&M, 28-26 at College Station on Saturday night.

The victory wasn’t pretty. Clemson recorded only 52 yards in the fourth quarter, and Texas A&M won the yardage battle, 501-413, in the game. The Aggies scored the final 13 points, and if not for a poor performance from the kicking game (Texas A&M missed a 26-yard field goal and saw another attempt blocked in the first half), Texas A&M could have possessed a late lead.

But those are ‘would’ve, could’ve, should’ve’s” for a Clemson squad that has gone 22-4 in one-possession games since 2011. Dabo Swinney’s crew knows how to win close games, and this time, they did it by stopping a two-point conversion with under a minute to play.

Last season, Clemson beat four quality opponents on the road, including three ranked teams. Although Texas A&M is not ranked, this Aggies squad will likely improve as the players continue to grow under new coach Jimbo Fisher, who Swinney has now beaten four straight years. This is a road victory that could look very good in the eyes of the committee come playoff time.

Beating SEC competition is also something Clemson has become accustomed to, as the Tigers have now won eight of their last 10 against the best conference in the country. This one wasn’t as pretty as others, but it’s business as usual for this program.

That was also the case for Bryant, who has been scrutinized during his entire tenure at Clemson and yet keeps winning. He owns a 14-1 record as a starter at Clemson with the only loss coming at the hands of Alabama.

Swinney rotated his quarterbacks during the first half, and Bryant watched freshman phenom Trevor Lawrence connect with Tee Higgins for a 64-yard touchdown on his first throw. Lawrence earned quite a bit of snaps following that pass.

But that didn’t bother Bryant - just like all the talk about Lawrence potentially replacing Bryant as the starting signal caller after the spring game and training camp didn’t either. The senior led Clemson on two-touchdown drives in the third quarter to give the Tigers a 15-point lead.

On this night, it was just enough to win. Bryant finished 12 of 17 for 205 yards and a touchdown. He also chipped in 54 rushing yards on 15 carries and another score.

At this point, Lawrence presents an awe factor. There’s no denying his quick release along with his deep-passing ability, and he is certainly the future of the Clemson program. But this is still Bryant’s team. He is the proven winner, and Bryant reminded everyone of that Saturday night.

Clemson did the same even if it was only by two points.