The 2014 college football season's first full day of action already gave us what may end up being one of the year's biggest shockers.
Not so much that Texas A&M was able to win Thursday night at South Carolina, but in just how dominant the Aggies were in doing so in cruising to a 52-28 victory.
It was the first loss South Carolina has suffered at Williams-Brice Stadium since October 2011, a span of 18 games.
The 52 points were also the most the Gamecocks have allowed at home in 11 years and the most given up in any game since they lost 56-17 to Auburn in the 2010 SEC championship game.
Texas A&M was one of the most enigmatic teams heading into this fall, with experts split on whether it would be able to continue to perform well without quarterback Johnny Manziel and with a young defense.
But Kenny Hill and his Aggies teammates made a major statement that will likely sway a lot of skeptics into their corner.
Final stats from the game can be found here.
Check out our first-half and final game grades for both A&M and South Carolina, along with analysis of both teams' different position units and their overall team performances.
|Position Unit||First-Half Grade||Final Grade|
Aug. 28 at South Carolina
Texas A&M Aggies Game Analysis
Pass Offense: Johnny Manziel who? Quarterback Kenny Hill made Aggies fans forget quickly about their previous quarterback, as the sophomore had one of the best debuts of a quarterback in the past 20 years.
Hill completed 44 of 60 passes for a school-record 511 yards and three touchdowns, connecting with 12 different receivers. After beating out true freshman Kyle Allen for the starting job, Hill needed only one game to become the early darling of the 2014 season.
Run Offense: When A&M went with the run, it nearly always worked. Whether it was Trey Williams (12 carries, 75 yards, one TD), Brandon Williams (11 carries, 57 yards) or Tra Carson (three TDs on seven rushes), the running back group methodically churned out 169 yards behind a dominant offensive line.
Pass Defense: There were some bombs given up in the first half, and the numbers overall won't look great, but improvement was definitely seen from a year ago.
True freshman safety Armani Watts had a breakout performance, making big plays all game that included a third-quarter interception when South Carolina was trying to make a late comeback.
Run Defense: A&M benefited from South Carolina's Mike Davis being limited, but its defensive line also looked solid for the first time playing together.
True freshman defensive end Myles Garrett was about as good as advertised, and all told Aggies allowed just 3.0 yards per carry.
Special Teams: Punter Drew Kaser showed why he will be a finalist for the Ray Guy Award, averaging 48 yards on his two kicks. Josh Lambo had 10 points thanks to seven extra points and a 33-yard field goal.
Coaching: Are people still doubting Kevin Sumlin's system? Even with Manziel and top receiver Mike Davis gone, the new players performed the same as their predecessors.
Sumlin and offensive coordinator Jake Spavital drew up a near-perfect game plan.
|Position Unit||First-Half Grade||Final Grade|
Aug. 28 vs. Texas A&M
South Carolina Gamecocks Game Analysis
Pass Offense: On many nights, Dylan Thompson's numbers (366 yards, four touchdowns) will have made him a candidate for player of the game. Instead, he was a distant second to A&M's Hill.
The senior quarterback's fourth career start included some big plays, but also a lot of overthrows. He finished 20-of-40 passing, and an underthrow of a deep ball in the third quarter was picked off to all but seal the loss.
Run Offense: Running back Mike Davis hardly played, only running six times for 15 yards, and substitute Brandon Wilds (45 yards on nine carries) didn't get enough touches to do much with South Carolina trailing from the outset.
Pass Defense: This was an area of concern coming into the season, and all of the fears were realized. The secondary was carved up for 511 yards and three scores, yielding 8.5 yards per passing attempt.
Run Defense: Carolina couldn't get any push on the Aggies' offensive line, which made it impossible for the front seven to do any damage to the run game. The loss of three defensive linemen from 2013 was very noticeable.
Special Teams: Elliott Fry missed a 54-yard field goal late in the first half, but that attempt was nine yards longer than any kick he made in 2013 as a freshman.
Punter Tyler Hull averaged 44 yards per kick, and the coverage team managed to contain Speedy Noil on returns.
Coaching: Steve Spurrier doesn't have much to do with South Carolina's defense, but even he might not have been able to call plays to slow down A&M the way his team's defenders played.
Spurrier tried to be tricky at times, like with an onside kick early in the second half, but nothing worked.
Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.