Columbia, S.C. — Kenny Hill looked more than ready to replace Johnny Manziel on the field. He is still getting used to the attention that goes along with the job.
Hill broke Manziel’s single-game passing record with 511 yards and No. 21 Texas A&M beat No. 9 South Carolina 52-28 on Thursday night, ending the Gamecocks’ 18-game home win streak.
Hill looked poised and confident in his first start, leading the Aggies (1-0, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) to the most total and passing yards against South Carolina. The sophomore completed 44 of 60 passes with three touchdowns.
The hardest part of his night came after the celebration on the field.
“I just wanted to get the first press conference over with,” said Hill, who hadn’t spoken with reporters before. “I get nervous up here.”
That’s a far cry from Manziel, a lightning-rod personality quick to speak his mind and gesture to crowds and opponents. Johnny Football rode his flashy style all the way to the Heisman Trophy in his freshman year, and one of the Aggies’ biggest worries was if they could find the same rhythm with a different leader.
Hill made it clear they could.
“We aren’t a one-trick pony,” Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin said.
But Hill would like a different nickname: “I don’t really like ‘Kenny Football.’”
Hill helped Texas A&M to a 31-14 halftime lead and finished up with the most passing yards allowed in Steve Spurrier’s 10 seasons with the Gamecocks (0-1, 0-1).
“I think we all had a chip on our shoulders,” Texas A&M defensive lineman Julien Obioha said.
The Gamecocks played their first game since the departure of star defensive end Jadeveon Clowney — and it showed. South Carolina gave up seven TDs on A&Ms first 11 possessions.
Tra Carson ran for three touchdowns and receiver Malcome Kennedy had 14 catches for 137 yards. The Aggies piled up 680 yards of offense, the most South Carolina’s given up since Arkansas went for 650 in 2007.
Manziel held five of the Aggies’ six best single-game passing marks, topped by his 464 yards in a loss to Alabama last season. Hill moved past them all with his flawless showing on the road.
“That team was so much better than us, it wasn’t funny,” said Spurrier, trying for his 200th victory as an SEC coach. “They out-coached us, out-played us, they were better prepared and they knew what they were doing.”
Hill’s 44 completions were also a single-game school record, moving past Jerrod Johnson’s mark against Oklahoma State in 2010.
Hill and the Aggies essentially put this one away in the first half, scoring on five of six possessions. Hill, who played just four games last year in mop-up duty, looked at ease against the Gamecocks and their young defense.
Hill completed passes to 12 receivers, most of them running free in a rebuilt secondary.
South Carolina, coming off three straight 11-2 seasons, had hoped to kick off a run to the conference title in a Thursday night showcase game on the startup SEC Network.
Manziel, taken 22nd overall by Cleveland, was among three Texas A&M players picked in the first round last May. And the Aggies showed they could still operate without last year’s standouts.
“We were ready to prove everyone wrong,” Hill said. “We were ready to show we could play without Johnny.”
No. 18 Mississippi 35, Boise State 13: In Atlanta, Bo Wallace threw four touchdowns passes in a sloppy season opener, and No. 18 Mississippi pulled away in the fourth quarter.
Shaking off Wallace’s three first-half interceptions, the Rebels (1-0) got the victory before a sparse crowd in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game. But it was hardly the sort of convincing performance they were hoping for entering the season with their highest ranking since 2009.
Ole Miss led only 7-6 entering the fourth quarter before finishing off Boise State (0-1) when Wallace threw for TDs on three consecutive throws, ruining the debut of new Broncos coach Bryan Harsin.
Cody Core hauled in a pair of TDs: a 30-yarder in the final minute of the first quarter, then a 76-yarder midway through the fourth after grabbing a short pass on a slant route and breaking free down the middle of the field.
(At) Minnesota 42, Eastern Illinois 20: Mitch Leidner ran for two scores and threw a touchdown pass to Donovahn Jones to lead Minnesota.
Leidner finished 9 for 17 with 144 yards, David Cobb carried 14 times for 78 yards and the defense delivered a punishing performance to overwhelm the Panthers, a perennial FCS power facing the Gophers for the first time.
Jalen Whitlow, a transfer from Kentucky, went 14 for 23 passing for 110 yards and rushed 19 times for 92 yards. He had an interception, though, and took two sacks on a mistake-marred night for the Panthers.
Eric Murray blocked a punt near the goal line for the Gophers that Logan Hutton grabbed for a three-touchdown lead.