Fans of the Texas A&M Aggies woke up this morning thrilled with what they saw from their team on Thursday night. On the road against the No. 9 South Carolina Gamecocks, A&M saw the birth of a star as Kenny Hill took the reins of the offense and shredded the South Carolina defense to the tune of 511 yards and three touchdowns en route to a 52-28 victory. But while Hill’s performance was incredible, it overshadowed an underlying issue that the Aggies will have to address if they hope to truly become SEC title contenders. Namely, the poor play of their secondary.
Coming into the game, South Carolina quarterback Dylan Thompson had an 8.4 career yards per attempt average and had accounted for a touchdown every 15.6 pass attempts. Against A&M on Thursday, Thompson turned in a career day, throwing for 366 yards and four touchdowns, blowing past his career averages with a 9.2 yards per attempt and a touchdown one every 10 pass attempts. While Thompson has shown a fine ability to lead this offense in spot-starts in the past, seeing him throw bombs down the field like he did against A&M was beyond anything he’s done in his career.
He was helped out in a major way by an Aggie secondary that continues to struggle defending the pass, and the deep ball in particular. In 2013, Texas A&M finished second-to-last in the SEC in passing plays allowed of 20 yards or more, allowing 52 of them during the season while allowing an SEC-worst seven passing plays of 50 yards or more. Too often, the A&M secondary would break down and allow opposing receivers to beat them deep, resulting in huge plays for the opposing team and sticking A&M with the No. 12 pass defense in the SEC last season.
Thursday night wasn’t much different for the Aggies as they gave up seven passing plays of over 20 yards to six different receivers, including a 69-yard touchdown reception for Nick Jones and a 46-yard touchdown on Damiere Byrd‘s only catch of the night. While Thompson and South Carolina weren’t able to capitalize on every opportunity (completing just 50 percent of their passes on the night), it’s a glaring weakness that will show up on film and get taken advantage of by other teams on the A&M schedule this season.
So while the offense is in very good hands in College Station, the defense still has a lot of work left to do if the Aggies hope to make a run at the SEC title this fall. With serious challenges still waiting for them down the line in teams that will gameplan for the Aggies’ weaknesses, a porous secondary will sink Texas A&M in the SEC West standings, no matter how prolific Kenny Hill may be.