Sept. 3, 2005
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CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) – Clemson’s Jad Dean lined up for a field goal with a few ticks left on the clock that would decide the game – just as he predicted to his friends earlier in the week.
“I told them we’d be down by two and I would get a chance to do this,” he said.
Dean made the 42-yard kick, his school-record sixth field goal of the game, with 2 seconds left and Clemson beat No. 17 Texas A&M 25-24 on Saturday night.
The Aggies looked as though they would grab an opening night win after versatile star Reggie McNeal led a fourth-quarter touchdown drive that ended with his 31-yard pass to Chad Schroeder for a 24-22 lead.
But the Tigers (1-0), playing the final quarter without starting quarterback Charlie Whitehurst, took over with 3:40 left and drove to Texas A&M’s 25 on eight straight carries by freshman James Davis.
After a time out by the Aggies, Dean struck the game-winner straight through the uprights.
Dean finished 6-of-6 on the night with field goals of 21, 21, 25, 18 and 44 yards.
Clemson coach Tommy Bowden wasn’t too confident about his kickers chances on the final field goal.
“I just figured the battle on the odds had run out” for Clemson, Bowden said.
And when Bowden saw the low snap on the game-winner, he thought, “It wasn’t meant to be.” But holder Cole Chason gave Dean a terrific spot.
Texas A&M coach Dennis Franchione stood on the sidelines praying the odds were in his favor. “All I was doing was hoping he was going to miss,” he said.
The kicks broke the Clemson mark of five set three times by former all-Atlantic Coast Conference kicker Nelson Welch in 1991 against North Carolina State, 1992 against Maryland and 1994 against North Carolina.
It also overshadowed another strong effort by McNeal, who had gained 307 yards of offense against Clemson during Texas A&M’s 27-6 victory at College Station a year ago.
This time, McNeal finished with 100 yards rushing and threw for 110.
The loss doesn’t damage the Aggies, McNeal said. After all, they lost to Utah to open the season then rallied to win seven of their next nine games.
“We can do that again,” McNeal said. “We can do better than that because we’ve got more experience.”
Clemson’s Davis gained 101 yards to lead the Tigers. He went to running backs coach Burton Burns, asking to get in the game. “You got to do it now,” Burns told him, “If you say you want you’ve got to do it.”
Bowden said, “I had my eyes closed,” during Davis’ carries.
The Tigers played without Whitehurst down the stretch after he was apparently knocked on the helmet as he slid during a 3-yard gain. Whitehurst left the field on his own and threw some warmup passes behind the Tigers bench. However, a team spokesman said the fifth-year senior was kept out because he was woozy from the hit.
Whitehurst said he felt OK after the game and Bowden thought he wouldn’t have a problem playing at Maryland next week.
Backup Will Proctor led the Tigers on the winning drive.
Early on, Clemson looked like it might have the same troubles with McNeal it had last season. He drove Texas A&M to Clemson’s 13 and Courtney Lewis followed with a nifty run into the end zone.
But a holding penalty called back the score and, two plays later, A&M settled for a field goal.
McNeal had the Aggies on the move again the next time they got the ball. However, DeQawn Mobley dropped an open pass from receiver Jason Carter inside the Tigers 5. McNeal threw two incomplete passes, including one on fourth-and-6, to end that series.
Instead, it was the Tigers who controlled things in the opening half with four drives of at least eight plays. Three of those resulted in field goals as Clemson took a 16-10 lead at the half.
Clemson also got a 47-yard punt return TD from Chansi Stuckey, who broke left after catching the ball and leaped over punter Justin Brantly into the end zone.
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