No. 9 South Carolina Loses Home Win Streak
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina missed Jadeveon Clowney far more than Texas A&M missed Johnny Manziel.
The ninth-ranked Gamecocks’ defense, anchored by the 6-foot-5 Clowney the past three years, was overwhelmed by Manziel’s replacement, sophomore Kenny Hill.
Hill finished with a school-record 511 yards passing — topping Manziel’s mark of 464 set last year against Alabama — and three touchdowns in No. 21 Texas A&M’s 52-28 victory Thursday night.
“I think our players are better than what they showed, but I don’t know,” Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier said.
Spurrier had won 21 consecutive opening games, dating to his final season at Duke in 1989, before falling in front of a sellout crowd at Williams-Brice Stadium.
No one had ever thrown for as many yards against the Gamecocks, and the Aggies’ 680 yards of offense were also the most allowed in program history. Hill and Texas A&M snapped South Carolina’s 18-game home win streak and showed just how difficult it’s going to be to replace Clowney, the No. 1 overall NFL draft pick.
The Gamecocks were the preseason pick to win the Southeastern Conference’s Eastern Division.
“Everybody knew the hype coming into the season, so we’ve got to get back to the drawing board, get back to the Xs and Os and get back to work,” said receiver Nick Jones, who had five catches for 113 yards and two touchdowns.
Hill helped Texas A&M (1-0, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) to a 31-14 halftime lead. The Gamecocks (0-1, 0-1) gave up seven TDs on A&M’s first 11 possessions.
“I think we all had a chip on our shoulders,” Texas A&M defensive lineman Julien Obioha said.
Tra Carson ran for three touchdowns and receiver Malcome Kennedy had 14 catches for 137 yards.
Manziel held five of the Aggies’ six best single-game passing marks, topped by his 464 yards in a loss to Alabama last season. Hill moved past them all with his flawless showing on the road.
“That team was so much better than us, it wasn’t funny,” said Spurrier, trying for his 200th victory as an SEC coach. “They out-coached us, out-played us, they were better prepared and they knew what they were doing.”
Hill’s 44 completions were also a single-game school record, moving past Jerrod Johnson’s mark against Oklahoma State in 2010.
Hill and the Aggies essentially put this one away in the first half, scoring on five of six possessions. Hill, who played just four games last year in mop-up duty, looked at ease against the Gamecocks and their young defense.
Hill completed passes to 12 receivers, most of them running free in a rebuilt secondary.
South Carolina, coming off three straight 11-2 seasons, had hoped to kick off a run to the conference title in a Thursday night showcase game on the startup SEC Network.
Manziel, taken 22nd overall by Cleveland, was among three Texas A&M players picked in the first round last May. And the Aggies showed they could still operate without last year’s standouts.
“We were ready to prove everyone wrong,” Hill said. “We were ready to show we could play without Johnny.”
Malcome Kennedy had 10 catches for 85 yards in the first two quarters, allowing Aggie fans to rest easy about star Mike Evans moving on to Tampa Bay.
The offensive line provided plenty of time for Hill despite Jake Matthews heading to the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons.
The Aggies got going on their first possession, and Carson finished a 67-yard drive with 1-yard TD.
South Carolina stayed close on two long scoring throws of 69 and 46 yards by new starting quarterback Dylan Thompson, the second to Damiere Byrd that helped the Gamecocks close to 17-14.
But Hill and the Aggies were relentless, pressing forward through South Carolina’s Clowney-less defense.
Hill, the son of ex-major league pitcher Ken Hill, led TD drives of 75 and 80 yards in the final nine minutes before the half.
The 393 yards of A&M offense at the half were more than South Carolina’s defense had allowed in nine of 13 games a year ago.
Thompson passed for 366 yards and four touchdowns. Mike Davis, the Gamecocks’ 1,000-yard rusher, had 15 yards in the first half before re-injuring his ribs and sitting out the rest of the way.
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