Once upon a time, the Texas A&M Aggies had a quarterback named Johnny Manziel. He was really good–so good that he won the Heisman Trophy as a redshirt freshman. After the 2013 season, his redshirt sophomore season, he declared for the NFL Draft and was selected as the 22nd overall pick by the Cleveland Browns.
Remember him? It’s OK if you don’t, because Kenny Hill made everyone forget with his historic performance (44-60, 511 yards, three touchdowns) against the South Carolina Gamecocks in both teams’ season openers.The first drive didn’t go well, though (a microcosm of the entire game). The Gamecocks basically let the Aggies march down the field with little resistance on the opening drive, a drive that ended with an overturned touchdown catch by Ricky Seals-Jones (his knee was down before the goal line), then an actual touchdown from a yard out by Tra Carson to make it 7-0.
Up stepped Dylan Thompson in the Gamecocks’ opening drive, which would have gone three and out if not for a pass interference by Texas A&M (one of four of the night). It ended up being a moot point as Carolina couldn’t take advantage and was forced to punt. That set the stage for another scoring drive by the Aggies, which was made possible by more defensive woes. Case in point: on a 3rd and 7 at their own 48, Hill was allowed to scramble his way to a nine-yard gain and a first down at the Gamecocks’ 43. Two plays later, he hit Sabian Holmes with an 18-yard gain to the 22, but ultimately the Aggies would have to settle for a field goal.
On the second Carolina drive, the Gamecocks saw a sign of life.
10-7 Aggies. But after the two teams exchanged drives, Hill came alive once more, and more pass rush struggles, poor tackling and wide-open receivers left untouched by the secondary let A&M gain yards almost at will. Seals-Jones capped the drive with a touchdown, a drive in which Hill went 6-7 for 67 yards.
But the Gamecocks swung back, as Thompson led his team to the 46, setting up another home run play.
That made it 17-14, but once more, Hill was up to the task. This time, he went 5-6 for 69 yards, ending with a Edward Pope 14-yard grab to get it to 24-14. On their next drive, after Hill masterfully led the Aggies down the field once more, Tra Carson ran it in for the first of three times to stretch the lead to 31-14 with 1:16 left. The Gamecocks could have scored going into the break, but a 54-yarder by Elliott Fry sailed wide just before the half.
The air really started going out of the balloon in the 2nd half.
Carolina opened the 3rd quarter going three and out, but forced a 3rd and 13 upon the Aggies with a chance to get the ball back. But–a recurring theme all night–A&M picked it up, later leading to a Josh Reynolds TD catch to make it 38-14. Carolina answered to make it 38-21, but another efficient scoring drive by Hill stretched it to 45-21 with 5:06 left in the frame. A late-quarter TD pass by Thompson got it to 45-28 before Trey Williams ran it in from two yards with 12:09 left in the contest for the game’s final margin.