COLUMBIA - Dylan Thompson had been waiting on this night for three years. It hardly lived up to what he'd envisioned.
The South Carolina senior appeared for the first time Thursday as the Gamecocks' unquestioned No. 1 quarterback, succeeding Connor Shaw - who went 27-5 as a starter and became a legend in the process. Thompson had a solid night with 366 yards passing and four touchdowns, but it wasn't enough to slow Texas A&M in a 52-28 defeat.
"It doesn't matter how I thought I played," Thompson said. "The scoreboard tells the story."
The Boiling Springs native kept the Gamecocks in it early with a pair of big pass plays, a 69-yard scoring strike to Nick Jones and a 46-yard touchdown pass to Damiere Byrd. And he tried to rally South Carolina again late, throwing a 5-yard TD to Pharoh Cooper and a 10-yard dart to Jones. But an interception late in the third quarter stymied the Gamecocks' comeback attempt.
Even so, Thompson spread out his completions among 10 different receivers, and his offensive line gave him time to throw early in the game. But a home loss by a starting quarterback has been a rare thing at South Carolina, where Shaw won 17 straight to fuel a run of 18 consecutive victories that ended Thursday night.
"I thought our game plan was good," Thompson said. "I have to do a better job of managing the offense."
Mike Davis' Heisman campaign got off to a slow start, running six times for 15 yards before departing with a rib bruise. He did not play in the second half. Brandon Wilds started at tailback over Davis, and led USC with 45 yards rushing. Davis had missed some time with the same rib inury in preseason camp.
Davis "had been injured and Brandon had been there every day," USC coach Steve Spurrier said. " ... (Davis) got banged in the ribs and took himself out, said he couldn't play second half. Sort of reinjured the rib area."
Sophomore strong safety Chris Moody, senior cornerback Brison Williams and junior defensive tackle Philip Dukes were each shaken up in the first half.
There are some very happy couch and bed owners in Texas, and one store owner who hopefully bought insurance.
Ashley Furniture HomeStore in College Station offered a promotion two weeks ago, promising to cut refund checks to each customer during a 12-day period from Aug. 16-27 on one condition.
If the Aggies beat the Gamecocks by double digits.
"You can buy just a sofa or a whole new living room," Chris Clark, director of marketing for the Wilks Group owning the store, told the College Station Eagle. "We are definitely hoping that it happens and we get to give it all back to the customers."
Texas A&M linebacker A.J. Hilliard was significantly injured, being carted off with a bulky cast applied over his right leg.
Texas A&M center Mike Matthews is the son of Pro Football Hall of Fame guard Bruce Matthews, the grandson of Charleston native Clay Matthews and great-grandson of former Citadel boxing coach Matty Matthews.
Clay Matthews, a Mount Pleasant resident, played football at Georgia Tech and for the San Francisco 49ers.
Texas A&M had 393 yards in the first half, more than South Carolina allowed in four quarters of any home game in 2013 (385 yards in a win over Mississippi State).
Johnny Manziel is no longer playing for Texas A&M, but hardly forgotten.
Wide receiver Ricky Seals-Jones rubbed his thumb and fingers together, copying the Manziel money sign, after snagging a 22-yard pass from Kenny Hill in the first quarter. Seals-Jones thought it was a touchdown catch but an official review put the ball at the 1. Texas A&M scored on the next play on a Tra Carson run.
Retired U.S. Marine and current South Carolina student Kyle Carpenter was the celebrity starter, leading the opening cheer.
Carpenter, 24, was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroics during battle in Afghanistan in 2010, when he saved the lives of other Marines by throwing himself on a grenade. He has undergone dozens of surgeries, spending three years in Walter Reed Hospital.
(Aaron Brenner and Gene Sapakoff contributed to this report)