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Key Takeaways from Clemson’s Dominant Win Over Texas A&M

NCAA Football: Texas A&M at Clemson Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Clemson took on the #12 Texas A&M Aggies and really left no doubt. They won 24-10, but led 24-3 before a garbage time touchdown against reserve defensive players. When asked, Coach Swinney said there was “no doubt about it” that having some reliable film to study made quite the difference. That, along with home field advantage and a swing of luck (Clemson got the bounces this time after weird fluky plays broke their way a year ago), help explain why Clemson was more dominant this time. Most expected the Aggies to close the gap in year two under Coach Fisher, but it wasn’t the case.

Several players really stood out for the Tigers. First among them was Derion “DK” Kendrick. After the game, Coach Swinney remarked:

“Whoever is in opposite eight (AJ Terrell), that’s where the ball is going.” Dabo Swinney

It seemed they challenged DK on every passing play. Aside from the first play, when WR Quartney Davis found a little room, but dropped it, DK had his receiver under wraps.

The secondary at large was great. Nolan Turner looked good and forced a fumble, Tanner Muse got his second INT in two games, and they hardly even threw at AJ Terrell. K’Von Wallace even got a sack. No A&M WR reached 70 yards. Camron Buckley, who was tweeting the day before the game, only had one catch.

Tyler Davis and the defensive front exceeded expectations. They allowed just two yards per carry. It appears that much of the defensive drop off we expected isn’t going to happen.

On offense, things started slowly. The offensive line broke down a couple times and gave up two sacks. Lawrence was running for his life way too much and Etienne didn’t have much running room. Things improved throughout the game though and former-DL Gage Cervenka looked particularly good at RG. Watch him pull and then open a running lane for Lawrence.

Etienne had 4 receptions for 52 yards. We had heard he would become more involved in the passing game this year and we saw some of that in this game. Lyn-J Dixon may have been the offensive player of the game though. He ran it 11 times for for 79 yards.

After some mild concern about Trevor Lawrence looking sloppy in week one, he was back to form in week two. He had several jaw dropping throws into double coverage that split the defenders and hit tiny windows to get to the Clemson WRs. This one to Tee Higgins was fun:

Higgins and Ross were both good, as you’d expect. Ngata also came up with a 25-yard reception. Powell and Overton combined for just one catch for two yards. It feels like we may have over-hyped them this offseason with the whole “they’re finally getting their big opportunity” narrative. It’s very possible neither finish in the top five on the team in receptions or yards. I can’t believe Amari Rodgers is already back. I assume he’ll ease back into action and eventually take over as the “opener” in the slot and get the most snaps at the position. It was great to see him back.

It was a dominant win and one we learn a lot more from than the blowout against Georgia Tech. Here’s your TLDR summary:

  • Clemson’s defense is better than we thought.
  • The secondary is every bit as good as we thought. Derion Kendrick is awesome at cornerback.
  • The defensive line is better than we thought. This is in part thanks to the contributions of true freshman Tyler Davis.
  • Trevor Lawrence is fine.
  • Amari Rodgers is back!
  • RB depth is less of a concern now that Lyn-J Dixon looks so good (maybe Feaster transferred because he was the third best back? Is that a hot take?)