COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Some wondered if Kyler Murray was ready for this.
He stockpiled highlights as a Texas high school football dynamo and never lost a game as a starter at the prep level, but SEC football is another matter. Murray, a generously-listed 5-foot-11, 185-pound true freshman Texas A&M quarterback, showed he was ready and then some.
Led by Murray, the A&M offense got back on track well enough to end a two-game skid and beat South Carolina 35-28 on Saturday at Kyle Field. Here's a look at how it all went down:
What the win means for Texas A&M: The Aggies (6-2, 3-2 SEC) get a needed win after consecutive losses to Alabama and Ole Miss and more importantly, the offense was effective again. In their two losses, they scored one offensive touchdown in 33 possessions. On Saturday they found the end zone four times on offense and looked like the high-powered, up-tempo unit that they've been known to be nationally. They finished with 544 offensive yards and also took care of the football (no turnovers). The way the schedule sets up (vs. Auburn, vs. Western Carolina, at Vanderbilt the next three weeks), the Aggies have a chance to build some late-season momentum ahead of their regular-season finale at LSU.
What the loss means for South Carolina: It's Shawn Elliot's first loss as interim head coach and the Gamecocks (3-5, 1-5) played well, going toe-to-toe with the Aggies for the most part, but two second-half turnovers were devastating. One turned into seven A&M points, the other ended their final chance to tie the game. The Gamecocks are last in the SEC East and at this point are simply playing for bowl eligibility. To obtain it, they have to win three out of their final four games, not an easy task with Tennessee, Florida and Clemson left on the slate.
Player of the game: Murray. The No. 1 dual-threat quarterback recruit in the ESPN 300 had an effective, mostly mistake-free outing, completing 20 of 28 passes for 223 yards and a touchdown, and rushing for 156 yards and a score on 20 carries. He ran the Aggies offense well, kept the tempo up when A&M got first downs, made accurate throws in the middle of the field and kept South Carolina's defense on its toes with his running ability.
The game turned when: Donovan Wilson intercepted South Carolina quarterback Perry Orth and returned it for a 60-yard touchdown with 4:08 remaining in the third quarter. The teams were mostly neck-and-neck, not separated by more than seven points until that point. Orth tried to find Pharoh Cooper, but Wilson pinpointed Orth's intentions, stepped in front of the pass and took it to the house for a 14-point lead. South Carolina responded with a score on the next drive but never tied the game again.
Unsung heroes: Wilson and Tra Carson. Wilson's pick-six was huge and on South Carolina's final offensive possession, he picked off Orth again to seal the victory with 42 seconds remaining. The sophomore safety has been a big-time playmaker for the Aggies all season and made two huge plays again on Saturday. Carson, A&M's starting running back, finished with 122 yards and a score, averaged 5.8 yards per carry and helped the Aggies consistently move the chains.
Stats of the game: The teams rushed for a combined 574 yards on Saturday. South Carolina compiled 253, just a yard short of their season high (254, which came in a season-opening win over North Carolina). The Aggies finished with 321 yards, well above their season high of 270 (vs. Ball State). Brandon Wilds (128 rushing yards) and Orth (64) led the way for the Gamecocks; Murray and Carson led the Aggies on the ground.