No. 9 South Carolina, No. 16 Clemson lose openers
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) Maybe it's not too early for some Palmetto panic after No. 9 South Carolina and No. 16 Clemson both were blown out on opening weekend.
It's the first time in 15 years the Palmetto State's teams each started 0-1. More than the defeats might be how awful the Gamecocks and Tigers looked in the losses minus the stars they counted on the past few seasons.
No. 21 Texas A&M and first-time quarterback starter Kenny Hill put up 680 yards of offense, the most allowed in Gamecocks' history in a 52-28 victory last Thursday night.
Then Saturday, Clemson and its fast-paced, high-flying attack was held scoreless in the second half - the first time that's happened in coordinator Chad Morris' four seasons - in No. 12 Georgia's 45-21 win.
The Gamecocks, after three straight 11-2 seasons, entered the opener as the trendy pick to win the Southeastern Conference's Eastern Division.
Instead, Hill exposed flaws in a defense that lost NFL No. 1 draft pick Jadeveon Clowney and four others who were the backbone of last season's group.
The loss ended an 18-game home win streak at South Carolina, which had spruced up its stadium including an 85-foot tall banner of Steve Spurrier looming over spectators.
''I think we all were surprised pretty much when it all didn't go according to plan,'' Spurrier said Sunday.
Part of the plan was a stout running game, led by 1,000-yard rusher Mike Davis.
But Davis, who had a rib injury during fall camp, was hurt again against the Aggies and did not play in the second half.
Davis finished with 15 yards on six carries. Spurrier doubted whether Davis could play this week when the Gamecocks try and rebound against East Carolina.
Most distressing for Spurrier had to be the play of his defense, which figured to absorb the losses of last year's standouts without much problem. A&M's production was staggering. Hill passed for a school record 511 yards in his first start replacing Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel.
''We weren't even average,'' Spurrier said. ''We were pretty sorry.''
Clemson came into Saturday hoping to survive another close game with regional rival Georgia.
And that's the way it looked for a half, tied at 21 with quarterbacks Cole Stoudt and DeShaun Watson answering back each time the Bulldogs scored.
In the second half, though, Georgia's defense clamped down on a Tigers attack that had averaged more than 40 points and 500 yards in each of the past two years. Clemson managed just 15 yards of offense the final 30 minutes.
''That's our job as coaches to keep them executing at a high level,'' Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said of his offense Sunday. ''We didn't do a good job of that.''
Clemson defense, led by All-American end Vic Beasley, was supposed to hold the line while the Tigers uncovered new offensive playmakers to replace record-setters in receiver Sammy Watkins and quarterback Tajh Boyd.
But Georgia star Todd Gurley broke through a tired-looking group to finish with four touchdowns to pull away from the Tigers.
''It's a risk you take when you schedule games like these,'' Swinney said Sunday.
Several fans from both sides on sports-talk radio and chat rooms were calling for drastic measures - for South Carolina, it was firing several defensive assistants; Clemson backers called for Stoudt to sit and Watson to play full time - but neither Spurrier nor Swinney were planning major changes.
Each believe in their players and hope they'll find their stride in home games this week, South Carolina vs. East Carolina and Clemson vs. South Carolina State of the Football Championship Subdivision.
''We got a long way to go, 11 more opportunities,'' Swinney said. ''We've got to make the most of them.''