South Carolina’s lackluster performance leaves every question unanswered for the upcoming season. From the opening kick off to the final whistle, the Gamecocks were outmatched, outcoached and outplayed by Texas A&M, falling to the Aggies 52-28 in Columbia.
Sophomore Kenny Hill made everyone in College Station forget about Johnny Manziel, and came out guns blazing against the Gamecocks. He threw for a school record 511 yards to go with three touchdowns and 44 of 60 passing. The Aggies also racked up 169 rushing yards and four touchdowns.
The Gamecock defense gave up a school record 680 yards to the Aggies, who never once looked rattled or out of sync. A&M comfortably ended the Gamecocks’ 18-game win streak in Williams-Brice Stadium, and handed head coach Steve Spurrier his first ever loss in a SEC season opener.
Before the season opened, Lorenzo Ward talked to the media about how strong he believed the defense would be. He said it would be one of the best defenses he’s ever had in Columbia. That defense was exposed early and often, as A&M cruised through their opening drive for a quick score.
Spurrier was not happy when the game ended, saying “that team was so much better than us, it wasn’t funny.”
The experimental 3-4 defense the Gamecocks tried out may be the last time we see it this year. Young cornerbacks were harassed all night, specifically Al Harris Jr. and Chris Lammons. They were both beat several times for big plays, and the receivers they covered were Hill’s prime targets in the red zone. The defensive line was also very weak. Texas A&M is believed to have one of the strongest O-lines in the nation, and they showed it last night. Hill was able to sit in the pocket and find his targets with ease, defying all expectations we may have had about the unproven sophomore.
The South Carolina offense appeared flat all night. Throughout the first half, senior Dylan Thompson was short arming throws, sailing on several and floating the others. He looked unable to step into the pocket and follow through with a throw. The running game was nonexistent. Running back Mike Davis – playing through a rib injury – did not look like the Mike Davis from last year that kept some buzzing his name as a Heisman sleeper all summer. He was unable to get through any tackles and break for the big run like fans got used to last year.
Although the offense was flat, there was a bright spot: the deep ball. The most production of the night came on bombs from Thompson to Damiere Byrd and Nick Jones. The downside is it looked like the only way the Gamecocks could have any productivity.
There aren’t a whole lot of positives to take away from a game like this. It was an all around stomping. Life after Connor Shaw did not go the way many fans hoped. Next week, the Gamecocks face a tough East Carolina team. That game will tell us a lot about who this team is. If they can bounce back and prove themselves as resilient, there can restore some hope this season. If they fold and allow ECU to march up and down the field like they did for Kevin Sumlin’s Aggies, it could be a long season for the Gamecocks.
*Section Photo credit to Jeff Blake – USA Today Sports; Featured Photo (above) credit to Associated Press