A&M’s Elko can be hard to handle
One of the reasons Texas A&M head football coach Jimbo Fisher hired Notre Dame’s Mike Elko as defensive coordinator was because of Elko’s time at Wake Forest (2014-16). Fisher said he was a “pain in the butt” to prepare to play against.
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney echoed those sentiments about his games against Wake Forest. Clemson easily won all three meetings, but Elko’s defenses forced seven turnovers. Elko’s first two teams at Wake Forest each finished 3-9, winning just one ACC game.
“I was really, really happy when he left and went to Notre Dame,” Swinney said, “because he was one of the best we saw year in and year out. He does a great job schematically.”
Title-winning coaches to meet
Saturday’s game between A&M and Clemson will be the first time at Kyle Field since 1946 that the opposing coaches have won national championships. TCU’s Dutch Meyer won national titles in 1935 and ’38 while A&M’s Homer Norton won a national title in ’39. A&M won the 1946 game 14-0. Under Norton, A&M also beat TCU 21-7 in ’40, while TCU won 7-2 in ’42 and 13-7 in ’44.
A&M played 15 true freshmen and six redshirt freshmen in last week’s 59-7 victory over Northwestern State.
The list of true freshmen includes wide receiver Cade Williams from A&M Consolidated along with running backs Jashaun Corbin, Vernon Jackson, Deneric Prince and Charles Strong Jr.; defensive linemen Bobby Brown, Jeremiah Martin and Max Wright; defensive backs Jordan Moore, Leon O’Neal Jr. and Jalen Preston; linebacker Brian Johnson; wide receivers Reese Mason and Caleb Chapman; and offensive lineman Colten Blanton.
A&M’s redshirt freshmen to play included quarterback Connor Blumrick; offensive lineman Grayson Reed; defensive linemen Camron Horry, Tyree Johnson and Josh Rogers; and wide receiver Andrew Boykin.
Ties to Stallings, Crimson Tide
Swinney was a walk-on wide receiver at Alabama, earning a scholarship and lettering from 1990-92 under head coach Gene Stallings, who played for and coached at A&M. Swinney caught seven passes for 81 yards in his Crimson Tide career and played on the 1992 national championship team.
Clemson sophomore tight end J.C. Chalk is the grandson of Stallings. The 6-foot-3, 260-pounder from Argyle had two catches for 19 yards last season.
Clemson QB hero
A&M sophomore quarterback Kellen Mond, who took a recruiting visit to Clemson, said he patterns himself after the Houston Texans’ DeShaun Watson, an All-American at Clemson who coincidentally went 2-1 against Fisher’s Florida State teams. Watson threw for 266 yards on 19-of-28 passing with no touchdowns and no interceptions in a 23-17 overtime loss against FSU in 2014. He had 30 yards rushing and a touchdown. The following year he threw for 297 yards and rushed for 107 in a 23-13 victory over FSU, accounting for one score. In his last game against FSU he threw for 378 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions in a 37-34 victory, adding 52 yards rushing.
Typically, the team that runs the ball best and avoids turnovers wins big games, but that wasn’t the case in the eight games between Clemson and FSU in the Swinney vs. Fisher era.
The team with the most rushing yards won only half the games. Fisher’s Seminoles were outrushed 152-97 in a 16-13 victory in 2010, 123-121 in a 51-14 victory in 2013 and 101-13 in a 23-17 OT victory in 2014. Swinney’s Tigers were outrushed 163-133 in a 37-34 victory in 2016.
The team with the least turnovers won only twice, while four times the team with the most turnovers won. The teams each had two turnovers twice — in 2010 and ’17.