No. 16 Texas A&M looks to get back on track against Lamar

Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond drops back to pass during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Clemson Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019, in Clemson, S.C.

In looking ahead, 16th-ranked Texas A&M had to look behind, and it wasn’t pretty, especially for the offense and quarterback Kellen Mond.

The top-ranked Clemson Tigers showed the Aggies they have plenty to work on before opening Southeastern Conference play against eighth-ranked Auburn next week. Clemson used A&M mistakes to build a lead and easily hold on for a 24-10 victory in Clemson, South Carolina.

A&M (1-1) will try to iron out some rough spots against the Lamar Cardinals (2-0) at 6 p.m. Saturday at Kyle Field. The Aggies are a prohibitive favorite against undermanned Lamar, a Football Championship Subdivision team from the Southland Conference. Saturday’s meeting between the schools will be their second with the other a 73-3 romp by A&M five years ago. Much of the same is expected, but A&M’s focus is not on Lamar — it’s eliminating the mistakes it made that helped Clemson score 24 straight points in turning a competitive game into a one-sided affair.

The offense struggled the most with Mond throwing an interception and losing a fumble. Early in the game he missed receivers, who didn’t help by dropping seven passes. Add in two sacks, four false start penalties and a delay of game penalty along with a running game that sputtered and A&M scored its fewest points in head coach Jimbo Fisher’s 15 games at the helm. The Aggies rushed for only 53 yards, the fewest under Fisher as they averaged just 2 yards a carry.

“Everybody took turns,” Fisher said of the offense’s troubles. “[We] weren’t in sync, and that can happen very easily.”

A&M produced a 16-play, 48-yard drive for a 3-0 lead, but other than that, the Aggies averaged only three and half plays and 8.9 yards on their other eight possessions until ending the game with 26 plays for 160 yards on their last two possessions.

Mond had 236 yards on 24-of-42 passing with a 3-yard touchdown pass to freshman tight end Jalen Wydermyer. But he completed only 11 of 23 for 115 yards through three quarters.

“He continued to grind, and he had the drives in the second half,” said Fisher, who calls the plays. “We had a big drop the first drive. He took us on two drives of 16 plays or more. He came in and played well. Did he play his best? No. Did he play hard? Yes.”

Lost opportunity

The two turnovers last Saturday give Mond 23 for his career.

“Coach always says just go back to your fundamentals, and that’s something he was saying on the sidelines,” said Mond, adding that he should have thrown to the other side of the field on his interception. “So it’s just key things like that. I’ve got to do a better job on focusing.”

Mond’s fumble came on first down after he’d completed two passes to wipe out a delay of game penalty. Clemson turned the fumble into a field goal for a 10-3 lead, part of three straight scoring drives that gave the Tigers a 17-3 halftime lead.

“Looking at the film, we had our opportunities,” Mond said. “We look back and know we had pretty much almost every play open. It was just something where one person messing up ... it can affect the whole play.”

Mond said he and his offensive teammates expected the Aggie defense to keep them in the game, and it did. Clemson scored its fewest points since losing to Alabama in the 2017 College Football Playoffs. The Aggies also denied the Tigers a record-tying 12th straight victory by at least 20 points, a run that would have tied Alabama which did it last year.

But while A&M’s defense arguably played well enough to win, the leader of A&M’s offense said the game felt unlike any other for him.

“Just kind of the way that I started, I knew it wasn’t good enough,” Mond said. “You know, obviously, you don’t get things back. That’s one of the things — I need to get off to a better start.”

Fisher fully supports Mond, who is 15-8 as a starter with nine turnover-free games, the last being the 74-72 seven-overtime victory over LSU in which he accounted for 330 yards and seven touchdowns, leading the Aggies to their first victory over the Tigers since joining the SEC. He threw for 430 yards and three touchdowns in last year’s 28-26 loss to second-ranked Clemson. And as a freshman, he rallied A&M to victories over Arkansas, South Carolina and Florida.

“He’s shown he can do that,” Fisher said. “We played a very good football team, and we had opportunities. We’ll just continue to get better.”

Record chase

Mond has a chance to become the school’s winningest quarterback.

He is tied with Mike Mosley for 11th place in all-time wins by an Aggie quarterback at 15. Mosley went 15-13 from 1977-80.

Mond is only 10 victories behind Kevin Murray (25-6-1, 1983-86) and David Walker (25-9, 1973-74, ’76-77), who are tied for second behind Corey Pullig, who went 33-6-1 from 1992-95.

Mond, who made the SEC coaches’ preseason third team, completed 19 of 27 passes in a 41-7 season-opening victory over Texas State, but did throw a red-zone interception and repeated that on third-and-5 against Clemson on the first possession of the second half.

Mond said at times he’s too hard on himself, but he tries not to dwell on the past.

“You find out what you can learn, and then you’ve got to move on,” he said.

Mond said the Aggies should hit the reset button Saturday night before getting ready for Auburn.

“You know, I always feel super confident,” said Mond, adding that Fisher expresses confidence in everybody in practice and in game planning. “So I don’t think the confidence will ever go away.”

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