Johnny Football? Try Kenny Football.
The Texas A&M Aggies may be without Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel, but their offense appears to be just fine under the guidance of succeeding quarterback Kenny Hill.
During Thursday's college football season opener, Hill torched the No. 9 South Carolina defense through the air in a 52-28 victory.
Kenny Hill throws for a record 511 yards as the No. 21 Texas A&M Aggies blow out No. 9 South Carolina 52-28 pic.twitter.com/4FPOaZpagZ— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) August 29, 2014
Hill completed 27-of-35 passes for 299 yards and two scores in the first half. That would be a respectable full-game stat line against a top-10 SEC foe, much less 50 percent of a day's work.
But Hill wasn't finished there. Far from it.
The sophomore signal-caller kept the Aggies rolling on the road, finishing 44-of-60 passing for 511 yards and three scores. ESPN Stats & Info observed just how amazing Hill was in his electrifying first start:
Kenny Hill has set school single-game records for completions (44) and passing yards (511) #TAMUvsSC— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) August 29, 2014
Twitter had plenty to say throughout Hill's breakout performance against the Gamecocks, which supplied the 21st-ranked Aggies with a wave of optimism in the post-Manziel era.
For one, Manziel thought the nickname given to Hill by yours truly—and the trending Twittersphere—was fitting:
KENNY FOOTBALL!!! #GigEm— Johnny Manziel (@JManziel2) August 29, 2014
SEC Sports highlighted the elite company Hill already joined:
ESPN Radio's Ian Fitzsimmons opted for a Manziel reference in light of recent events:
Texas A&M is giving everybody who idiotically said it was "All about Johnny Manziel" the football finger.— Ian Fitzsimmons (@Ianfitzespn) August 28, 2014
Todd Fuhrman of Fox Sports 1 put Hill's numbers in excellent context:
The most passing yards South Carolina gave up in a game last year was 358 to UCF...they've surrendered 299 in the first half to Texas A&M— Todd Fuhrman (@ToddFuhrman) August 28, 2014
Bleacher Report's Matt Miller opted for a different Hill nickname than the one in this story's lede:
"King of the Hill" is my chosen Kenny Hill nickname.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) August 28, 2014
ESPN's College GameDay captured a fitting quote from commentator Brent Musburger:
The answer to Johnny Football is Kenny Hill, thank you very much." - Brent Musburger— College GameDay (@CollegeGameDay) August 28, 2014
Check out this number from ESPN Stats & Info:
31 points is most points allowed by S. Carolina in 1st half since 9/12/09 vs Georgia (31). #TAMUvsSC— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) August 28, 2014
NFL.com's Bryan Fischer observed how Texas A&M's relentless energy was too much to handle even in the friendly confines of Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia:
Fast playmakers in space. Pretty good strategy so far for the Texas A&M offense. SC defense looks gassed.— Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer) August 28, 2014
Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman alluded to the Gamecocks' stellar home record:
Kenny Hill is dealin' ... like he's playing on #TAMU practice field not vs a team that's won 18 in a row at home: 27-35 for 299 yds— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) August 28, 2014
Jason King of Bleacher Report added an interesting anecdote:
Just thinking back to a few years ago, when everyone said Texas A&M was in for a "rude awakening" in the SEC. Um, yeah.— Jason King (@JasonKingBR) August 28, 2014
CBSSports.com's Dennis Dodd—along with others who become privy to this knowledge, to be sure—was perplexed as to how Hill's counterpart, Dylan Thompson, technically fared better in the opening half:
I fear for the future of our children. At halftime Dylan Thompson has a higher passer rating than Kenny Hill.— Dennis Dodd (@dennisdoddcbs) August 28, 2014
Thompson had a fine, explosive game himself (20-of-40, 366 yards, four touchdowns and one interception), but it paled in comparison to the heights Hill reached. As for the comparisons between Hill and Manziel, how about this one from SportsCenter:
Kenny Hill has thrown for more yards in his 1st college start than Johnny Manziel did in ANY game at Texas A&M. pic.twitter.com/oJXt0gSDeT— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) August 29, 2014
Former Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy knows what it takes to succeed in the SEC, and he praised Texas A&M's entire offensive unit:
Man, I am so impressed with the athleticism of this Texas A&M offense. Not just skill positions, but the Oline. #statementmade— Greg McElroy (@GVMcElroy) August 29, 2014
As TAMU Gameday put forth, all contributors on the Aggies side did indeed warrant credit—even with Hill as the clear tone-setter:
The Aggies actually wound up with 680 total yards after that tweet.
South Carolina lost No. 1 overall NFL draft pick Jadeveon Clowney this last year, though it likely wouldn't have fared much better even with him.
How do you feel about Kenny Hill's performance?
Save for one three-and-out on the last first-quarter possession and one play just before the halftime intermission, the Aggies scored every time they possessed the ball in the first half, putting the game out of reach early. With a rather weak defense supporting him and the Gamecocks producing plenty of big plays of their own, there was no lack of composure from Hill, who looked like a veteran despite the immense pressure he was under to replace Manziel.
Perhaps another Texas A&M QB will be striking the Heisman pose soon enough if this electric debut by Hill is any sign of what's to come. However, the hype will only increase, along with the expectations. It remains to be seen if Hill can handle that, particularly after Manziel, a larger-than-college-life personality.
Since the Aggies held on to win this one in such dominant fashion, they ought to receive quite a boost in the rankings. A similar springboard effect should hold true for the surprising Hill's Heisman stock.