CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson safety K’Von Wallace had seven tackles, two forced fumbles and a pass breakup during last year’s 28-26 victory at Texas A&M.
But Wallace and the Clemson defense also had plenty of mistakes.
The Tigers nearly blew a 28-13 fourth-quarter lead, allowing Aggie quarterback Kellen Mond to pass for 206 yards and two touchdowns in the fourth quarter alone before getting a two-point conversion stop with 46 seconds remaining to hang on for the win.
Mond threw for 333 yards and three TDs in the second half, leaving the Tigers thrilled to escape College Station with a win but also disappointed in their overall performance. Clemson has been looking forward to another opportunity to face Mond and the A&M offense.
“That’s a personal thing,” Wallace said. “For me personally, I feel like I left a lot out there. To redeem myself this game is me personally how I feel. I feel like I didn’t do my best.”
Clemson returns three starters from last year’s secondary in Wallace, fellow safety Tanner Muse and cornerback A.J. Terrell.
All three players had their share of struggles against Mond and the Aggies in 2018.
“I’m going to go out there and lay it on the line for my brothers,” Wallace said. “Even though it’s a personal game for me, it’s a personal game for a lot of players on this team.”
This year’s A&M offense is similar to the one Clemson struggled with a year ago. Mond is back after passing for 3,107 yards and 24 touchdowns in 2018, as are his top four receivers in Quartney Davis, Camron Buckley, Jhamon Ausbon and Kendrick Rogers.
The Aggies did lose their top overall receiver from last season in tight end Jace Sternberger, but most of the other playmakers have returned.
“They’ve got terrific receivers. They’re experienced. They’re big, long, fast, so it’s a great challenge, some tough matchups,” Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables said.
The Aggies also lost running back Trayveon Williams, but Venables does not believe A&M is hurting for talent at the position.
“They’re deep at running back,” Venables said. “They’ve got [Jashaun] Corbin, a strong, explosive player, catches the ball well, protects well, good instincts for what they do. They’ve got great players across the board, up front and at skill.”
But it all starts with Mond.
The junior set a career-high in passing yards last season against the Tigers, and no matter how personal the game is, Clemson will have a tough challenge this weekend.
“He’s got a great feel for their offense going into [Jimbo Fisher’s] second year,” Venables said. “His ability to execute is at a really, really high level without making mistakes. He’s a great runner, a very dangerous runner and can extend plays. The receivers do a great job at helping him extend plays. It’s a really, really good system that is going to have balance in it. He just does a great job. Boy, he can throw. He’s got a huge arm. He can throw from one hash to another on a dime and has great touch, an excellent player. We won’t see anybody that’s better than him all year.”