South Carolina has played more than 1,100 football games since 1892. Statistically, the Gamecocks’ worst defensive performance came last year against Texas A&M, USC’s opponent on Saturday.
USC hasn’t forgotten what happened a year ago, when the Aggies embarrassed USC on national television to open the college football season. Linebacker T.J. Holloman said the Gamecocks were reminded this week of how bad they played defensively last year against the Aggies.
“We talked about that Monday. We put up the stats (on the board) from last year,” he said. “This year we just want to come out here with a clean slate and run to the ball.”
Texas A&M went up and down the field like it was passing against air, amassing 680 total yards and 511 passing yards -- the most the USC defense has allowed in a game.
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“The players went into the football game not being, I won't say prepared, but they didn't understand what exactly was fixing to come out there and hit them. And when it happened, it really slapped us in the face and slapped us really quick,” USC interim coach Shawn Elliott said. “It was hard to overcome. It was like taking that one shot that you couldn't overcome if you're in a fight or in a boxing match. We took that one shot and our guys had that shell-shocked look on their face and it went downhill from there.”
South Carolina played three true freshmen on defense last year -- linebacker Bryson Allen-Williams and cornerbacks Chris Lammons and Al Harris Jr.
Lammons said the Gamecocks are much more prepared this time.
“That was kind of a shock. Going into my first game my freshman year I wasn’t expecting it to go like that, but hey it happened and we’ve got them again,” he said. “The only thing I can remember is me getting beat for a touchdown. That won’t happen this game.”
Texas A&M had four receivers record at least five catches against the Gamecocks last year. Three of them are back, and the Aggies also added five-star receiver Christian Kirk, who leads Texas A&M in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns.
“That’s their guy. They like to get him the ball in the backfield, out wide and at punt returner,” Holloman said of Kirk. “They like the ball in his hands so it’s our job to shut him down.”
One noticeable difference on Texas A&M’s offense is at quarterback. Despite getting off to a record-breaking start last season against USC, Kenny Hill transferred to TCU after losing his starting job.
Hill broke Johnny Manziel’s record for passing yards in a game against the Gamecocks but struggled as the season progressed.
“None of us expected them to come out there and do that. We made their quarterback look like All-SEC and All-American,” Holloman said. “This year we’re just focusing on getting to the ball. Last year we looked tired; we were exhausted. This year we’re just trying to get 11 hats to the ball full speed.”
South Carolina is expected to see either Kyle Allen or Kyler Murray at quarterback on Saturday. Allen, a sophomore, has thrown for 232 yards per game and has 14 touchdowns with six picks. He has struggled the past two weeks as A&M dropped back-to-back games.
Murray, a freshman, was a five-star quarterback at Allen High School in Texas where he never lost a game as a starter. He is 17-for-31 passing for 167 yards with a touchdown and two picks.
Piling up the yards
USC coaches put up the stats from last season’s 52-28 loss to Texas A&M as a reminder. A look at the Aggies’ offensive numbers:
39: First downs
511: Passing yards
44-60: Completions-Attempts by QB Kenny Hill
680: Total offensive yards
99: Total offensive plays (USC ran 62)
12-17: Third down conversions
2-2: Fourth down conversions