- By Suzanne Halliburton American-Statesman Staff
Trayveon Williams was raving about everyone else but himself.
The Texas A&M running back loved the way his offensive line performed in the season-opening win over Northwestern State.
“Throughout the whole summer I’ve been saying the offensive line has been doing a great job, ” Williams bragged earlier this week. “They had a good summer, good camp. And it showed. They had a great push off the ball.”
The tight ends made a big difference, specifically Jace Sternberger, he said. Williams marveled at how Sternberger wiped out two defenders with one block near the end of his long touchdown run on A&M’s opening series.
“Jace came in and saved the day,” Williams said, also noting that receiver Jhamon Ausbon made the final, clearing block.
It all made for an overwhelming stat night for Williams, the junior and team captain. He rushed for a career-best 240 of A&M’s 503 running yards. It was his third career game of at least 200 yards. Only one other Aggie has enjoyed as many (Darren Lewis had five).
A&M totaled 758 yards, the most by any team nationally on opening weekend. No other school ran for as many yards. And Williams posted the top performance of any running back in the country.
The yards came so effortlessly. But count on that coming to an abrupt end Saturday night when the Aggies host No. 2 Clemson. The Tigers’ front four, which could have three top-20 NFL draft picks among them, doesn’t yield ground. Bet on the unblockable, immovable object rather than the unstoppable force.
“You’re not going to be given anything,” A&M coach Jimbo Fisher said. “You’re going to have to earn everything you get.”
Clemson’s defense allowed 117 yards, only 2.2 per run, last Saturday in a 48-7 home win against Furman.
The Aggies have had reason to preen about their excellent running game in previous Septembers, only to see it fizzle in November. In the season opener against UCLA a year ago, A&M rushed for 382 yards as a team, with Williams wowing for 203. In hindsight, the game mostly revealed that the Bruins had a porous rush defense. A&M couldn’t even crack 100 yards as a team in five of its final seven regular-season games.
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney concedes the Tigers might be at a competitive disadvantage playing the Aggies. Clemson is well-versed in Fisher’s offensive style because the Tigers would see Fisher annually when he was at Florida State. Yet they’re unsure how formidable the Aggies’ offense could be. Did the stats flow because Northwestern State is a subpar FCS team?
“I know (Northwestern State) didn’t match up with them well, but it’s hard to rush for 500 yards,” Swinney told reporters earlier this week. “I don’t care who you play.”
Swinney knows A&M quarterback Kellen Mond since Clemson tried to woo him during recruiting. But the Tigers will have to guess what A&M may do. Chances are they will try to crowd the running lanes and force Mond into uncomfortable passing downs.
So Williams takes it is as a dare, a throw-down kind of challenge.
“So defensively, their strong suit is stopping the run,” Williams said “So definitely, they’ll stack the box and make sure to establish that.
“You’ve got to find hunger in that, especially the (offensive line) up front. It’s a great opportunity for the line; it’s a great opportunity for everybody. We need to go out there and just perform and show what we can do.
“Not making it any bigger or any smaller than what it is. They’re a good front seven, (but) we play SEC linemen all the time. So we just got to keep it the main thing, go out there and perform.”