It was a brutal opening night for the favored Gamecocks, particularly the defense which allowed a staggering 677 yards en route to a 52-28 loss. That yardage count: the worst in school history.
Texas A&M scored on its first two drives. The first came from a short Tra Carson touchdown run first, followed by a field goal. South Carolina's defense looked lost at times, rarely getting pressure on Kenny Hill and allowing him to escape the pocket when they did. Pass coverage was virtually non-existent. This would become a theme.
South Carolina's first play of any consequence on either side of the ball came on their second drive in the form of a 69 yard touchdown bomb to Nick Jones. A defensive stop followed, thanks in part to a Gerald Dixon sack, and it seemed the momentum had shifted. But Carolina would stall at midfield, and A&M followed with another dominant drive that culminated with a Ricky Seals-Jones touchdown, making it 17-7. Carolina would respond with a Damiere Byrd touchdown pass, but A&M took over for the rest of the half, scoring on both of its drives, extending the lead to 31-17. Carolina threatened twice, but some offensive hiccups—including a dropped touchdown pass and a bad intentional grounding penalty—kept South Carolina off the scoreboard.
The first half numbers for A&M were gaudy: nearly 400 yards of offense, most of them coming of the arm of Kenny Hill.
The second half began no better for South Carolina, who went three and out and followed by another Aggie touchdown drive. But the Cocks responded with an 80 yard drive of their own, capped off by a Pharoh Cooper touchdown grab. But a failed onside kick would give A&M a short field, and they'd capitalize with an eight play, 42 yard touchdown drive that made the score 45-21. Carolina would respond with another touchdown drive—Nick Jones' second TD catch was a lovely one-foot-in effort. Then, lo and behold, a three and out! South Carolina's hopes still alive, they worked the ball downfield until a somewhat mystifying playcall on 3rd and 1 resulted in a Dylan Thompson throwing a deep ball that was intercepted with little effort. A touchdown would have pulled Carolina within 10. Instead, Aggie ball.
The Gamecocks would pay, as Kenny Hill lead A&M down the field a seventh time, pushing the score to 52-28. Carolina would mount a drive in response but eventually stall out on fourth in A&M territory. A&M would bleed out the clock, and that was that.
Of note: Mike Davis missed the second half with a bruised rib. The home win streak and Spurrier's opening day win streak are kaput.
We'll have plenty more coverage of and reactions to the game throughout the weekend. For now, stay positive and here's hoping we get that defense on the same page before the Pirates come to down.