What went right: Texas A&M got the ball to its playmakers, with Kellen Mond leading the way. He was dazzling, not making a turnover against a unit that prides itself in forcing quarterbacks into mistakes. Wide receivers Kendrick Rogers (7 catches-120 yards, 2 TDs) and Camron Buckley (4-93) no longer are unknowns.
What went wrong: The fumble by Nick Starkel when Mond was out for a play with cramps was a killer. It essentially was a two-score swing.
Bottom line: A&M had 501 yards, including 285 in the second half when Clemson on its heels.
What went right: Clemson converted only 4 of 13 third downs with A&M forcing five three-and-outs. But the biggest plus was keeping the Tigers out of the end zone at the end of the first half.
What went wrong: Clemson had 168 of its yards on three catches because of its taller, athletic receivers working over A&M’s corners.
Bottom line: A&M couldn’t rattle Clemson senior quarterback Kelly Bryant, who, along with not making a turnover, rushed for 54 yards on 15 carries, killing A&M with his legs.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C+
What went right: Punter Braden Mann had punts of 69 and 73 yards, and Roshauud Paul added punt returns of 11 and 14 yards as they helped A&M to great field position.
What went wrong: Kicker Daniel LaCamera missed a 26-yard field goal after hitting 13 straight last year inside the 40, and his 50-yard attempt was blocked.
Bottom line: LaCamera hit a pair of 40-yard field goals, but you can’t miss from 26 and have another blocked and expect to beat the nation’s second-ranked team.
What went right: A&M’s screen game and ability to get receivers open in the middle had Clemson befuddled, helping A&M average 7 yards per play.
What went wrong: A&M had to use 3-4 timeouts because of personnel or time-clock issues. A&M hurried to the line on third-and-1 in the second quarter only to lose a yard.
Bottom line: A&M three times trailed by two scores, seemingly showing more fight — and toughness — each time to cut into the deficits.
What went right: The pluses far outweighed the minuses. A&M, despite a couple costly hiccups, was a two-point conversion away from sending the game into overtime, where it probably wins.
What went wrong: Maybe if Jimbo Fisher had it to do over he wouldn’t have called a pass with Starkel in the game. Then again, if Starkel had thrown a touchdown, Fisher would look like a genius, which he was for much of the night and every night since he hit town.
Bottom line: A&M shook off the fumble out of the end zone to come right back and score to be in position to take the game in overtime. A&M passed its first test under Fisher in flying colors. It just didn’t move to the head of the class, but it’s a heck of a lot closer to the front than last year at this time.