COLUMBIA, S.C. – 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. 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.
MINNESOTA 42, EASTERN ILLINOIS 20: In Minneapolis, Mitch Leidner ran for two scores and threw a touchdown pass to Donovahn Jones, leading the Golden Gophers in their season opener.
No. 18 OLE MISS 35, BOISE STATE 13: In Atlanta, Bo Wallace threw four touchdowns passes in a sloppy season opener for No. 18 Mississippi. Shaking off Wallace’s three first-half interceptions, the Rebels (1-0) got the victory before a sparse crowd in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game.
AKRON 41, HOWARD 0: In Akron, Ohio, Kyle Pohl threw a career-best four touchdown passes to lead Akron in the opening game for both teams.
CENTRAL MICHIGAN 20, CHATTANOOGA 16: In Mount Pleasant, Michigan, Thomas Rawls ran for one touchdown, Cooper Rush passed for another and Central Michigan scored on its first two second-half drives.