College Station, TX (SportsNetwork.com) - After registering a huge season- opening win last week, the ninth-ranked Texas A&M Aggies will attempt to keep their momentum rolling in their home opener against the Lamar Cardinals at Kyle Field on Saturday night.
Lamar, which was just 5-7 overall in 2013 (2-5 in the Southland Conference), opened the new campaign on a high note last weekend with a 42-27 home win over Grambling State.
Texas A&M carried plenty of uncertainty into the 2014 season, especially considering the departure of former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Johnny Manziel in the offseason, but it made an emphatic statement on a primetime stage last Thursday night. In hostile territory at No. 9 South Carolina, the Aggies came away with a dominating 52-28 victory to get off to a 1-0 start in the SEC.
"There was a confidence about this team you could see coming into this year, and quite frankly a little chip on (our) shoulder," Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin said. "Basically no one gave us a chance to be close in (the South Carolina) game. What we did kind of showed that we're not a one-trick pony. We're not going anywhere any time soon."
These two Texas programs have never before played one another.
Lamar's offense got off to a strong start last weekend, as the unit racked up 525 yards.
Most of the damage came through the air. Caleb Berry was busy under center and finished with 389 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions, completing 27- of-45 attempts.
Mark Roberts hauled in just three passes from Berry but they resulted in 139 yards and two touchdowns. Reggie Begelton was the most trusted pass-catcher with 12 receptions for 119 yards and a score.
The rushing game was largely an afterthought (3.3 ypc), but Kad Harrington (65 yards, TD) and Carl Harris (55 yards) were both solid.
Defensively, the Cardinals held Grambling State to under 300 total yards and forced five turnovers.
Ronnie Jones led the way with 12 tackles, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Xavier Bethany (11 tackles, 2.5 TFL, FF, INT, sack) and Anthony Beard (eight tackles, 2.0 TFL, FF, 1.5 sacks) were also excellent defensive performers.
The Aggies' prolific offense did not skip a beat in the absence of Manziel. Against one of the nation's best defenses in the opener, the offense amassed an astounding 680 yards and were led by a record-setting performance from their newly-appointed starting quarterback.
Kenny Hill made it apparent why he earned the starting gig this offseason, accomplishing things in his debut that even Johnny Football had never done. Hill set school records for completions (44), attempts (60) and passing yards (511) while tossing three touchdowns and zero picks in the rout.
"I was more excited than nervous," Hill said of his first-career start. "I was ready to go. I've been ready for this my whole life. Everybody was doubting us, and I was ready to just show people wrong."
Several receivers benefitted from Hill's high-volume passing night, but none more so than Malcome Kennedy, who registered career highs in catches (14) and yards (137). Josh Reynolds (six receptions, 76 yards, TD), Ricky Seals-Jones (five receptions, 67 yards, TD), Speedy Noil (five receptions, 55 yards) and Edward Pope (four reception, 75 receptions, TD) did their part in showing that Texas A&M may have one of the nation's deepest receiving corps.
Tra Carson had just seven rushes for 30 yards but answered the call on the goal line with three short touchdown runs. Trey Williams (78 yards, TD) and Brandon Williams (57 yards) were also impressive in the ground game.
While A&M's defense was one of the worst in the SEC last season, the unit was more than good enough in the opener. Although it allowed 433 yards, much of the Gamecocks' production came after the game was well in hand.
Howard Matthews led the way with eight tackles. A.J. Hillard, Donnie Baggs and Myles Garrett each recorded a sack, and Armani Watts picked off a pass and broke up two other passes.