"I’ve never been in that situation before where a team was trying to ice me,” the Clemson kicker said. “I just kept to myself and tried to think nothing. I didn’t want to get too technical.”
Whatever he did, it worked to perfection as Dean split the uprights on his field goal attempt to send the Tigers to the 25-24 upset victory over No. 17 Texas A&M Saturday night at Memorial Stadium despite a bad snap from Nic Riddle.
“When I first hit it, I had a pretty good feeling about it,” Dean said. “As soon as I looked up and saw it right down the middle, I knew it was good. … Cole did an unbelievable job. If Cole bobbles that in any way, I have to stutter and it throws everything off.”
It was a record boot in a couple of different ways.
The kick was his sixth field goal of the game, which set a school record, breaking the old mark of five done three times by Nelson Welch in 1991 against N.C. State, 1992 versus Maryland and in 1994 against North Carolina.
Going all the way back to his middle and high school days in Greenwood, it was the first time he had kicked a field goal to win a game.
Without the services of Dean, Clemson (1-0) would have been in trouble. The Tigers failed to score a single offensive touchdown. Clemson’s lone touchdown came on a 47-yard punt return by Chansi Stuckey in the second quarter.
Three times the Tigers got inside Texas A&M’s 10-yard-line, and all three times they settled for field goals.
“As far as getting that close and not scoring touchdowns, obviously I am disappointed about that,” said new offensive coordinator Rob Spence. “I think we had good play calls. I think we were in a good position to score touchdowns, we just didn’t.”
But when Clemson took over for its final possession with 3:40 remaining from its own 42, the last thing Spence was thinking about was scoring a touchdown.
“I felt really, really good about getting into field goal position at that point,” Spence said. “I felt like that’s what we could do and should do in that situation. I’m glad it worked out the way it did. Thank God.”
To set up that final kick, Spence, Clemson coach Tommy Bowden and running backs coach Burton Burns came to the conclusion to put freshman running back James Davis on the field.
Davis proceeded to get the ball on eight consecutive carries and totaled 33 yards. It was quite a coming out party for the freshman, who led all rushers with 19 carries and 101 yards.
“I was very confident he could go out there and do what he was recruited to do,” Spence said. “I felt really good about that.”
Other than not scoring any touchdowns on offense, the other thing the Tigers probably don’t feel good about is the way the defense played.
The Aggies (0-1) compiled 248 yards rushing on just 33 carries. There were also a couple of blown assignments in the secondary, but Clemson managed to dodge a couple of touchdowns as instead Texas A&M shot itself in the foot.
The Aggies had to settle for a field goal in their first drive of the game after a holding call negated a touchdown run by Courtney Lewis, who finished with 17 rushes for 82 yards and two touchdowns.
Later in the first quarter, Texas A&M tried a little trickery and it looked as though it was going to work to perfection. From the Clemson 34, the Aggies ran an option halfback pass, but Jason Carter’s throw to DeQaun Mobley, who had gotten 20 yards behind the defense and was all alone at the end zone, was short and fell incomplete.
Two very questionable coaching moves by the Aggies’ Dennis Franchione came in the final quarter, which may have cost his team the game.
After Texas A&M scored a touchdown to take a 23-22 lead with 9:22 to play, he opted to kick the extra point rather than go for two to try and make it and give his team a three-point lead.
“With nine minutes left in the game, I felt like more would happen,” he said. “We talked a lot about it.”
The other questionable decision came on Clemson’s game-winning drive when it had moved into field goal range with about 90 seconds left. Franchione opted not to use any of his timeouts to stop the clock and give his offense a chance to win. Rather, he let it run all the way down.
“We deliberated that, too,” he said. “We thought a lot about it. If you take timeouts, you’re going to give them time to think about their plays.”
Only problem to that theory is that Spence already knew what he was going to do.
And even though Clemson had to settle for six field goals with no offensive touchdowns, while giving up a ton of rushing yards, it still had a pretty good game.
“Clemson didn’t make any mistakes, they didn’t make many penalties and their kicker was flawless,” said Aggies coach Dennis Franchione. “I told my players that it was going to be a one-play game, and we didn’t make the one or two plays we needed.”