College Station, TX (SportsNetwork.com) - The third episode of the Kenny Hill show will take place this Saturday night, as the gifted quarterback leads the seventh-ranked Texas A&M Aggies against intrastate rival Rice at Kyle Field.
Hill's play in the first two weeks has really eased the loss of Johnny Manziel in College Station. The sophomore quarterback burst on to the scene in week one when he threw for a school-record 511 yards and three scores in a 52-28 win over South Carolina. He then led the Aggies to a 73-3 rout of Lamar last weekend, which pushed them to No. 7 in the most recent AP Poll.
Rice has been off since it took the trip to South Bend to face Notre Dame in the season opener on Aug. 30. The Owls certainly needed time to go back to the drawing board as they were routed by the Fighting Irish in a 48-17 final.
These teams opened the season against each other a year ago, with the Aggies claiming a 52-31 triumph. The Aggies have won 50 of the 79 all-time meetings.
Hill has been an incredible force for the Aggies, and he has done so very early in his career. He played in only four games while backing up Manziel last year. That time on the sidelines clearly helped him as he has been sensational in his first two collegiate starts. He has already piled up 794 yards and seven touchdowns on an incredible 70.9 percent passing. Even more importantly, he has avoided the dreaded turnover.
"The more reps you get the more comfortable you're going to be in the offense," Hill said about his comfort level. "The more snaps I get, the more reps I get that's more time I get to be out there with the receivers and get a better connection with them."
Clearly Malcome Kennedy has been the receiver that Hill has formed the strongest connection with early on. Kennedy leads the team with 17 receptions for 170 yards. No other player has more than 10 catches. However, plenty of other targets have been productive when given the chance. Speedy Noil (nine receptions, 126 yards), Josh Reynolds (nine receptions, 109 yards, TD), Edward Pope (eight receptions, 131 yards, two TDs) and Ricky Seals-Jones (eight receptions, two TDs) give the Aggies a deep and talented receiving corps.
Trey Williams has handled the bulk of the rushing duties and has produced solid results. He has amassed 132 yards and two touchdowns on only 20 carries. The Aggies have been able to run the ball effectively close to the goal line as well with eight rushing touchdowns as a team.
With Hill at the helm, the Aggies have been an offensive juggernaut with 1,310 total yards combined in the first two games. The Aggies lead the SEC in total offense among teams that have played at least two games.
The yardage total the Aggies have picked up is nearly twice what they have allowed (676 yards). Of course, it really helped the defense's numbers when facing a team like Lamar, which managed only 243 yards in the 70-point loss. Still, Texas A&M has shown solid ability on third down (6-of-28) and in the red zone, with only three possessions ending there.
Myles Garrett (3.0 sacks) has been a force in the pass rush. He currently ranks second in the league in sacks.
Although there has been only one game to evaluate Rice, it is clear that Driphus Jackson is going to be the lynchpin for the group. The Owls' signal caller threw for 163 yards and rushed for a team-high 61 yards against Notre Dame, during a game where very little went right on offense.
In total, the Owls managed just 367 yards and 16 first downs.
Despite his solid play, Jackson has plenty to work on as he completed a middling 13-of-24 passes and had an interception to match his scoring strike.
"It wasn't a good day. I'm pretty disappointed in the way we played," Jackson said of the performance. "You have to put your receivers in a position to make plays, and some of those plays I gave them and some I didn't. If there was anything we took away from this, we can't compete like this with these guys on this level, we just have to make plays."
To be fair to Jackson, he did not get much help. Dennis Parks (three receptions, 37 yards), Darik Dillard (three receptions, 30 yards) and Zach Wright (two receptions, 39 yards, TD) were the top receivers, and Jowan Davis (33 yards) averaged only 2.4 yards per carry.
Obviously, the Owls also struggled on defense. They allowed Everett Golson and the Notre Dame offense to rack up 576 yards, while recording just a single sack. Zach Patt (six tackles, 1.0 sack) tied for the team lead in stops. Drastic improvement will need to be made if they have any hope of slowing down an even more dynamic and explosive Texas A&M offense.