Clemson's Justyn Ross (8) catches a pass for a touchdown while defended by Texas A&M's Keldrick Carper during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019, in Clemson, S.C. (AP Photo/Richard Shiro)
• What went right: When No. 1 Clemson pulled back the dogs in the fourth quarter, Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond and his receivers were able to find some chemistry, which led to a touchdown and a cover of the point spread (Tigers by 17). Of Mond’s total 236 yards passing, 121 came in the fourth quarter.
• What went wrong: Because of what Clemson was offering on defense, A&M believed that the air attack would be the best route to success, head coach Jimbo Fisher said. But Mond struggled early, missing his first four pass attempts. When he did seem to settle in, A&M’s receivers were plagued with drops in key moments. The end result: Mond completed just 48 percent of his passes through three quarters.
• Bottom line: This offense isn’t going to do much against most Southeastern Conference defenses if Mond and his receivers can’t get on the same page.
• What went right: A&M’s run defense stood up to the challenge. The Aggies allowed just 121 yards on the ground, a feat teams only accomplished three times against the Tigers last season (one was at Kyle Field). Clemson’s leading tailback Travis Etienne managed just 53 yards, his lowest total since the Tigers’ bout with Florida State last season.
• What went wrong: A slow start in the secondary followed by a plague of injuries. Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawerence came out picking on cornerback Myles Jones, who took a bit of time to find his groove. Then a constant line of injured Aggie defenders began making their way to the bench, including four defensive linemen and cornerback Elijah Blades. While most of those players returned to action, the overall defense looked like a reduced version of its typical self.
• Bottom line: Holding the No. 1 team in the country, which planted 44 points on Alabama to win the national title last season, to just 24 points should have been enough to give the Aggies a chance.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A-
• What went right: Ray Guy winner Braden Mann busted out his big-boy boot once again and pelted one of his six punts 60 yards and pinned Clemson inside its 20-yard line twice. Seth Small made the only kicks he attempted — one field goal and one extra point.
• What went wrong: Mann had one blemish, a 29-yard shank early in the first quarter. Clemson didn’t let A&M return a single punt or kickoff.
• Bottom line: A&M also didn’t let Clemson take advantage of its return game. Mann continues to give the Aggies good field position.
• What went right: Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott said he was trying to play a chess game with A&M defensive coordinator Mike Elko after the Aggies’ close call last season. For the most part, Elko had answers for Elliott’s misdirection questions. A&M managed the difficult task of finding continuity despite a stream of players exiting with injuries.
• What went wrong: When Clemson decided to plant a spy on defense to hone in on running back Jashaun Corbin and quarterback Kellen Mond, A&M abandoned the running game. In the first half, the Aggies rushed 17 times for 41 yards. After halftime, A&M ran it 10 times for 12 yards.
• Bottom line: Fisher’s offense fell into Clemson’s trap then couldn’t pull out of it via the passing attack.
• What went right: A&M’s defense gave it a chance, and the Aggies covered the spread against the No. 1 team in the nation, even if it happened while the Tigers were already preparing popcorn for the LSU-Texas kickoff.
• What went wrong: The Aggie offense was stagnant, the connection between Mond and his receivers low. Also, the Aggies were hit with a myriad of injuries of which Fisher did not know the extent. The biggest potential blow is losing Corbin.
• Bottom line: If the Aggies don’t find a way to regain the offensive flow they demonstrated against Texas State, it could be rough sledding in two weeks when a confident, 10th-ranked Auburn team rolls into Kyle Field.