Here’s a couple of quick thoughts on South Carolina’s 52-28 loss to Texas A&M:
What it means: Where do we start? The Gamecocks’ lofty expectations as the preseason Eastern Division favorites were way overblown and the 18-game home winning streak is over in convincing fashion. South Carolina has noticeable issues at all three levels of its defense and a reshuffling at several positions could be in order.
What I liked: South Carolina’s receivers not named Shaq Roland found openings in space and made plays against Texas A&M’s secondary despite a size disadvantage. Damiere Byrd, Nick Jones and Pharoh Cooper combined for 217 yards receiving and four touchdowns. Jones opened South Carolina’s scoring with a 69-yard touchdown reception and later added a nifty grab in the corner of the end zone late in the third quarter.
What I didn’t like: Lorenzo Ward’s game plan defensively. South Carolina surrendered a school-record 677 yards, embarrassing for a stingy unit that gave up just 196.2 yards per game last season. The Gamecocks were caught out of position often on the boundary and were beaten down the seam by a faster, more efficient offense. In the first half especially, there appeared to be several breakdowns in communication before the snap. South Carolina’s pass rush was nearly non-existent and as a result, Texas A&M quarterback Kenny Hill dissected the Gamecocks at the back end.
Key Play: Tra Carson’s 2-yard touchdown burst with 1:16 left in the second quarter gave the Aggies a 31-14 lead and dropped the Gamecocks to the canvas. Trailing 45-28 near the end of the third quarter, Dylan Thompson’s interception on third-and-1 sealed it.
What’s next: South Carolina hosts East Carolina next week, a pass-heavy offense led by highly-decorated senior quarterback Shane Carden. It won’t get any easier for an inexperienced secondary.