Rapid Reaction: Texas A&M routs South Carolina behind smothering defense
The Texas A&M defensive line set the tone early, and Ainias Smith provided all the spark the Aggies needed in their latest rout of South Carolina. It was a lopsided affair from the outset, and the Aggies rolled 44-14.
Texas A&M extended its overall winning streak to 3 games and improved to 8-0 all-time against the Gamecocks. The series has not only been lopsided in the win-loss record, but also on the scoreboard. The previous 2 meetings, the Aggies outscored South Carolina 78-9. South Carolina avoided their first shut out since the 2018 Belk Bowl against Virginia, and what would have been the largest shut out in their SEC history. It was South Carolina’s first touchdown against the Aggies since 2018.
By the time the backups came in for both teams, the Aggies had run up the box score to an especially lopsided degree. The Aggies midway through the fourth quarter averaged more than 6 yards per play, compared to the Gamecocks at 2 yards.
The Aggies scored on 7 of their first 8 possessions, and didn’t punt until nearly 5 minutes into the fourth quarter. They also went 5-for-5 in the red zone, and picked up 3 Gamecock turnovers.
After Zeb Noland was harassed most of the night, the Gamecocks turned to Jason Brown early in the fourth quarter. By that point, the Aggies had 3 sacks, and several more pressures and hits on the quarterback.
The rout came before halftime, but at the break, the Aggies were in control and then some. South Carolina had negative 10 rushing yards, just 21 passing yards and were 0-for-6 on third down. Somehow, things got worse in the third quarter as the Gamecocks entered the fourth quarter with negative-15 yards rushing.
Jalen Wydermeyer busted open the game for a 21-point lead with a tight end screen pass that went 28 yards for a touchdown, as the Gamecocks were out of position, and late closing the angles to tackle. Thanks to that big first half, Wydermeyer passed Martellus Bennett (1,246) for most yards receiving by a tight end in school history.
Ainias Smith got the party started for Texas A&M with a 95-yard punt return for a touchdown less than 3 minutes into the game, and then the floodgates opened against the Gamecocks.
— Texas A&M Football (@AggieFootball) October 23, 2021
For South Carolina, the offensive line struggled for much of the game, as Noland was sandwiched and pressured from nearly every angle, even with only a 3-man rush. The Aggies led 14-0 after the first quarter and it continued a troubling trend for the Gamecocks. South Carolina has been outscored 56-6 in the first quarter of road SEC games this year.
Without Jaylen Brooks in the lineup, South Carolina’s looked sluggish to start the game, as Josh Vann resembled Shi Smith at times from last season.
Late in the first quarter, a break appeared to go South Carolina’s way when an Aggie fumble was reviewed after Isaiah Spiller appeared to fumble, but the call stood. Two plays later, Texas A&M scored again to cap a 10-play, 90-yard drive with Wydermeyer’s first score of the game, a 25-yard touchdown catch.
On the bright side for South Carolina, Jaylan Foster made his fifth interception early in the game, which leads the country. That helped the South Carolina stat that came into Saturday tied for fifth in the nation with 10 interceptions this season.