Senior wide receiver Nick Jones had a career-high 113 yards receiving and two touchdowns in Thursday night’s game against no. 21 Texas A&M, just one of the many records broken during the contest. The Aggies rallied to take 52-28 win over the Gamecocks.
“It was obvious the odds-makers don’t know what they’re talking about. That team was so much better than us it wasn’t funny,”said head coach Steve Spurrier. “They out-coached us, out-played us, they were better prepared and they knew what they were doing.”
On a third-and-five opening drive Kenny Hill stepped up in the pocket to create time and found an open Ricky Seals-Jones over the middle where graced his way down to the 1-yard line for an over 20-yard gain. Tra Carson rushed in for a 1-yard touchdown, and kicker Josh Lambo cleared the extra point to bring the Aggies to a 7-0 advantage early in the game with 11:27 on the clock. A 33-yard field goal from Lambo would put a 10-point lead on the board with 5:02 left in the first.
Hill’s debut as starting quarterback noted some key to their success early on in the game.
“Starting up front with the O-line,” noted Hill. “The O-line came out and blocked tremendously, gave me plenty of time to sit back there throw.”
South Carolina responded on its next drive.
Thompson on his own 31-yard line bolted a pass down the field to Jones who made the grab at the Aggie 30-yard line and made his way into the end zone for a 69-yard touchdown, bringing South Carolina to a 10-7 deficit with three minutes left in the quarter.
Although Jones had an impressive record-breaking night, the senior noted it wasn’t enough.
“Even what I did, it wasn’t enough. It wasn’t enough for the team. I didn’t do enough,” said the senior.
Into the second, Hill moved the ball down the field to connect with Seals-Jones for 3-yards into the end zone, bringing Texas A&M to another 10-point advantage, 17-7.
On South Carolina’s next drive, Thompson answered back with a pass to senior wide receiver Damiere Byrd for 46 yards to bring the Gamecocks up 17-14, with 9:47 left in the half.
With just a little over seven minutes remaining in the half, Hill and the Aggies took eight plays and ran with it. Hill connected with Edward Pope for 14-yards to bring it into the end zone and clear out a 24-14 lead over Carolina. The Aggies weren’t finished yet.
An 11 play, 80-yard drive gave Carson his second touchdown of the half creating a 31-14 lead over South Carolina. Kicker Elliott Frye was unable to connect on a 54-yard field goal attempt just before going into halftime, sealing the 17-point lead.
South Carolina couldn’t seem to get the ball down the field, as Thompson had three incomplete passes on the first drive of the third quarter. A Texas A&M Hill-and-Josh Reynolds-duo would quickly seize the moment bringing in another touchdown at only 11:08 on the clock to make it 38-14.
Hill wasn’t aware he had broken every single-game passing record A&M had until after the game.
“That’s awesome. It’s a dream come true,” noted Hill.
Total, Hill passed for 511 yards and three touchdowns on 44-of-60 passing, breaking Johnny Football’s 464-yard school record against Alabama in 2013.
The Gamecocks were able to ignite the field with touchdown and 7:33 remaining on the clock. Thompson connect with Pharoh Cooper for 5-yards to bring the score 38-21.
Cooper also notched his career high on Thursday night, with three receptions for 58 yards and one touchdown.
The very next drive, the Hill-Carson pair struck again and brought another score for the Aggies. South Carolina notched the third quarter closing score of 45-28 with a pass from Dylan Thompson to Nick Jones for 10-yards.
Thompson’s four touchdown passes set a new career high and matched Connor Shaw’s four during the Mississippi State game a year ago. Also, his 366 yards is the most since Shaw’s 356 against Tennessee in 2012.
Adding to his record, the two 40-plus yard touchdown passes that Thompson completed to both Byrd and Jones was the first time a South Carolina quarterback has accomplished that since Blake Mitchell in the 2006 Liberty Bowl.
Holding the Aggies to their second punt of the quarter, the Gamecocks had a chance to turn around their luck, but Thompson’s pass was intercepted by Armani Watts at the Texas A&M 17-yard line. A&M’s Trey Williams grew the deficit for Carolina in the fourth with a two-yard touchdown run and 12:09 remaining in the game, closing in on the final 52-28 score for the night.
South Carolina’s loss resulted in a record-break night for both schools. Ending it’s 18-game home winning streak, it also stood as the first loss in a season opener under Steve Spurrier in 10 seasons.
“Give them credit; they’re a much better team than we are. We’ll regroup, come back and try to fight again against East Carolina in nine days. We’ll see if we can look like we know what we’re doing as coaches. We’ll try to put our players in position. I think our players are better than what they showed, but I don’t know. We have no pass rush, coverage was so-so and they (Texas A&M) knew what they were doing,” said Spurrier.
The Aggies 52-points was the most scored in a true-road season opener in the school’s history. Texas A&M hadn’t taken a win in a road season-opener against a “Big Five” schools since 1994 against LSU.
South Carolina will take on East Carolina next Saturday at Williams-Brice for a 7 p.m. ET kick-off.