The Daily Gamecock

Orth collapses late, Gamecocks lose to Aggies

<p>The Gamecocks had a total of 445 yards for a season high against Texas A&amp;M.</p>
The Gamecocks had a total of 445 yards for a season high against Texas A&M.

Facing one of the nation’s worst rushing defenses in Texas A&M, South Carolina was presented with an opportunity for a big day on the ground. Instead, the Gamecocks fell to the Texas A&M Aggies 35-28.

Interim head coach Shawn Elliott's emphasis on the ground game catapulted the team to victory last game against Vanderbilt, and this new strategy appeared to be having the same effect on Saturday.

All four of the Gamecocks touchdowns came on the ground, including a first quarter touchdown run from backup quarterback Lorenzo Nunez. It was Nunez’s sole appearance against Texas A&M, but that may change next week as Orth had another subpar outing starting his third straight game. 

Orth completed 15 passes for 192 yards on 24 attempts, but was intercepted twice down the stretch to prevent any sort of Gamecock comeback. The walk-on found no success scoring through the air, but he did contribute with a 66-yard rush in the second quarter. On that same drive, Orth rushed for his first touchdown on the ground since week three.

Texas A&M limited star receiver Pharoh Cooper from the contest, as he caught four passes for a mere 22 yards. Cooper’s synergy with Orth was simply nonexistent.

The one positive takeaway from the game, however, was running back Brandon Wilds’ newfound success. The senior topped a career game against Vanderbilt by rushing for 128 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries. South Carolina’s offense has suffered the consequences of a mediocre rushing game all season, so Wilds’ breakout performances are huge for the dichotomy of this team. He alleviates the pressure from the quarterback’s shoulders, a necessity for quarterbacks with little to no prior experience.

The Texas A&M Aggies, on the other hand, gave the starting nod to true freshman quarterback Kyler Murray Saturday after losing their previous two games. The five-star recruit from Allen, Texas won the starting job after head coach Kevin Sumlin opened up the position in practice last week.

Murray’s 5-foot-11, 188 pound frame doesn’t fit the typical build of a high profile quarterback, but his skill level far outweighed any size deficiency. South Carolina’s defense had no answer for Murray all afternoon, specifically in the first half. The quarterback entered the locker room with nearly 400 total yards, 156 coming via the rushing game and 223 through the air.

The Gamecocks seemingly struggle against dual-threat quarterbacks, and that was certainly evident on Saturday. South Carolina’s insistence on playing zone defense is what ultimately doomed the team, as Texas A&M ripped them in every facet of the game. The Aggie offense accumulated 544 net yardage and rushed for three touchdowns from three different carriers.

Like Wilds, senior running back Tra Carson had a breakout performance for the Aggies, eclipsing the 100-yard mark for the first time in three games.

Despite a poor outing from the defense as a whole, linebacker Skai Moore put on a standout performance by recording 13 tackles. The Gamecocks failed to force a single turnover or pressure the quarterback, sacking Murray just once.

South Carolina has one week to work out the kinks before taking on the Tennessee Volunteers in Knoxville on Saturday.