Texas A&M showcases new quarterback in opening win
Kenny Hill upstaged former Aggie and current Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel for at least one game Thursday night as Texas A&M rolled past host South Carolina.
Columbia, S.C. — Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin knows his Aggies have more to accomplish. Still, he couldn't help but take pride in the team's dominating show at Southeastern Conference power South Carolina.
"We're not where we want to be, but I'll put it this way: We're not going anywhere anytime soon," Sumlin said after the 21st-ranked Aggies beat No. 9 South Carolina 52-21 Thursday night.
Few expected Texas A&M to click so fast or so well against the Gamecocks, practically unbeatable at home the past three seasons. But the Aggies and sophomore quarterback Kenny Hill showed they would keep moving forward in their third SEC season.
Hill, a sophomore as quiet and unassuming as his predecessor Johnny Manziel was brash and glitzy, threw for a school record 511 yards passing — the most ever allowed by the Gamecocks in program history.
Texas A&M's 680 yards of total offense was also the most ever allowed by South Carolina, the preseason pick to win SEC Eastern Division. The Aggies' performance was a big ice bucket of water thrown on the Gamecocks' defense, one of the country's best in leading them to three straight 11-2 seasons.
Texas A&M scored seven touchdowns in their first 11 possessions as Hill connected with 12 receivers.
Hill was 44 of 60 with three touchdowns. Tailback Tra Carson scored three times and receiver Malcome Kennedy had 14 catches for 137 yards.
"I thought the kids went out there and had some fun," A&M offensive coordinator Jake Spavital said. "And they're a fun group of kids to watch."
Steve Spurrier didn't have much fun watching this one. The Gamecocks' 10th-year coach is more accustomed to handing out such beatings than receiving them.
"I think our players are better than what they showed, but I don't know," Spurrier said. "We have no pass rush, coverage was so-so and (the Aggies) knew what they were doing."
Here's some things to take away from Texas A&M's win:
RETHINK THE SEC RACES?: Maybe Texas A&M has something for Alabama, Auburn and LSU in the SEC West. Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin's teams had always been able to score, but quarterback Kenny Hill showed a steadiness and poise to let his receivers get open rather than Manziel running around from defenders seeking to make a play. When the Aggies wanted to slow things down, runners Trey Williams, Brandon Williams and Tra Carson were able to gain significant chunks on the ground.
In the East, the Gamecocks were the preseason pick over Georgia and Florida. But rebuilt defensive line and secondary showed it's not ready to take on complex SEC offenses.
WHERE'S CLOWNEY?: Both teams had hoped their young defensive ends would have an immediate impact on the field, but neither Texas A&M's Myles Garrett or South Carolina's Darius English got much going. While the 6-foot-5 Garrett — considered a five-star prospect in the last recruiting cycle — got a late sack, English was held to two tackles as the Gamecocks struggled to put any pressure on Hill.
NEW APPROACH UNDER CENTER: Texas A&M fans accusted to Johnny Football had better get used to Hill's far-less flashy style. Don't call him "Kenny Football," he said after the game because he's not crazy about that. He was nicknamed "King of the Hill" at Southlake High School and will let media members decide, he said, what to call him.
Manziel couldn't resist the chance to show out for the cameras, something that Hill says does not come naturally to him. If Hill keeps throwing for 500 yards a game, fans will call him anything he wants.
DAVIS' IMPACT: This is something South Carolina fans don't want to see happen again. Davis ran for 1,183 yards in 2013, the fourth best single-season rushing mark in school history. However, he managed just 125 of that over the final four games. In this one, Davis didn't start because of injuries during camp, then managed just 15 yards rushing before re-bruising his ribs and missing the second half. That may have been the coach's way of keeping him healthy since Texas A&M scored just after halftime to lead 38-14 and put things out of reach.
SEC NETWORK: The fledging network put on a full-court press at South Carolina and gave SEC fans and subscribers plenty of coverage from all angles on and off the field. While the Texas A&M-South Carolina game was a first-time showcase, it will be interesting to see if the network can bring the same wall-to-wall attention to more games this fall and beyond.