By Rixon Lane
The Gamecocks might have had a rough night at Williams-Brice Stadium on Thursday, but Nick Jones came to play.
The senior from Byrnes High pulled down five catches for 113 yards and two touchdowns in South Carolina's loss against the Aggies. He recorded the sixth-most receiving yards of any Gamecock in a season opener.
With the Gamecocks searching for a big-play receiver to replace Bruce Ellington, could Jones become a go-to target in South Carolina's offense? Let's take a look at how Jones performed on Thursday.
3:55 1Q, 3rd & 4 on SC 31 (1 target, 1 catch, 69 yards, 1 TD)
On a Dylan Thompson audible at the line of scrimmage, Jones beats linebacker Donnie Baggs to the inside, then sprints past Deshazor Everett on a post route. He nearly loses the ball on the catch, but manages to haul in the reception and gives South Carolina its first score of the 2014 season.
4:02 2Q, 2nd & 14 on TA&M 41 (2 targets, 1 catch, 69 yards, 1 TD)
South Carolina dials up the post route again and Jones has a step on his man off the line of scrimmage. However, Thompson airmails it under heavy pressure and the pass falls 15 yards beyond his intended receiver. Two A&M safeties have converged on Jones, meaning the overthrow was probably for the best.
:37 2Q, 2nd & 10 on TA&M 25 (3 targets, 1 catch, 69 yards, 1 TD)
The one pass Jones would probably love to have back comes as South Carolina is trying to cut into A&M's 31-14 lead before halftime. The seam has been open all day and Thompson drops a beauty to Jones at the goal line. Jones does not see Armani Watts behind him and fails to secure the ball. Watts blasts him from behind and forces the incompletion.
10:31 3Q, 3rd & 4 on SC 25 (4 targets, 2 catches 75 yards, 1 TD)
With South Carolina reeling, Thompson converts the first third down of the half by finding Jones on a hitch route against soft zone coverage. The nearest A&M defender was eight yards off the ball and Jones simply runs to the marker, making it one of Thompson's easiest throws of the night.
10:19 3Q, 1st & 10 on SC 31 (5 targets, 3 catches, 86 yards, 1 TD)
On the next play, Jones runs the exact same route against the same coverage. Thompson hits him and Jones manages to juke Howard Matthews and scamper past the 41 to move the sticks for the Gamecocks. This is the first time all night where Jones has been one-on-one with the ball in space against a defender and he makes the most of the opportunity.
9:07 3Q, 1st & 5 on TA&M 39 (6 targets, 4 catches, 103 yards, 1 TD)
As the Gamecocks increase the offensive tempo, Jones become a bigger part of the passing game. Jones runs a crossing pattern and is open over the middle, but Thompson gets flushed out of the pocket. Jones comes back to the ball and settles in open space. Thompson finds him and Jones fakes out two defenders to pick up eight additional yards after catch.
2:46 3Q, 1st & Goal at TA&M 10 (7 targets, 5 catches, 113 yards, 2 TDs)
Jones caps his best series of the night with his most impressive route. Facing soft coverage in the red zone, Jones comes off the ball as if to set up the short post. He plants his foot at the three and leaves Victor Davis behind. Thompson nearly overshoots him, but Jones extends and gets his left foot down by six inches.