- Sam Khan Jr., ESPN Staff Writer
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COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Each phase of the the Aggies' attack has had its chance to shine in Texas A&M's first three games.
The Aggies' defense has had its bright moments, including holding SMU to three points a week ago. The offense kicked into full gear in the second quarter that same day and exploded for 35 points on Saturday against South Carolina State.
But perhaps the most impressive performance against the Bulldogs came from special teams -- and specifically, Dustin Harris -- as the Aggies' rolled FCS foe South Carolina State 70-14 before 86,775 on Saturday at Kyle Field.
Through three games, there are certainly things to work on, but plenty for the Aggies (2-1) to be pleased with as they continue their Southeastern Conference schedule next week against Arkansas.
When the Razorbacks (1-3) visit Aggieland, that's when the games start really counting again. It'll be Texas A&M's first tilt against an SEC West team and one in which the Aggies will likely be favored, considering Arkansas' struggles to open the season.
Even against an overmatched FCS opponent in South Carolina State (1-3), there were things the Aggies did on Saturday that give them reason for confidence moving forward, starting with Harris. The senior cornerback and return specialist led the country last year in punt return average and turned in a career day on Saturday, chewing up a Texas A&M and SEC single-game record 246 punt return yards on eight chances. Those included a 96-yard touchdown return in the third quarter.
Prior to that return, Harris consistently produced good returns that appeared a tackle away from possibly being a touchdown -- something he had on his mind from the start, saying he thought the other seven returns were going to be scores as well.
"I am going to remember this day for the rest of my life," Harris said. "The punt return guys stepped it up this week. All of us as a special-teams unit stepped it up this week. We came out, knew what we had to do and executed perfectly."
And while Harris had the record-breaking day, no less impressive was the Aggies' redshirt freshman quarterback, Johnny Manziel. The 6-foot-1, 200-pounder was again effective with both his arm and his legs and he only needed a half to help put the game out of reach. He was efficient in the passing game (15-of-20, 174 yards, three touchdowns) and explosive when tucking and running (eight carries, 78 yards, two touchdowns).
He averaged 9.8 yards per carry and recorded a long touchdown run for the second straight week, scampering in from 39 yards out on Saturday after turning in a 48-yard scoring run against SMU a week prior. But the most impressive numbers to coach Kevin Sumlin were once again the zeroes in Manziel's stat line (interceptions).
"He took care of the ball for the third straight week and made some plays with his legs," Sumlin said. "He isn't being careless, and that's giving us the opportunity to be successful."
Defensively, the Aggies were solid again. Junior defensive end Damontre Moore had a sack for the third consecutive game (and has six for the year through three games) and the unit allowed just 223 yards and 11 first downs to the Bulldogs.
For the game, South Carolina State averaged just 1.3 yards per carry. The Aggies' defense is feeling good through three weeks of play.
"Every single week we've gotten better," senior linebacker Jonathan Stewart said. "In the Florida game, we had far too many penalties, far too many mental lapses and missed far too many tackles. In the SMU game (mistakes) came down. This game, it came down again.
"That's what's standing out, that we're getting better every single week and we're getting better at the little things. If we keep taking care of the little things, then the big things will take care of themselves."
4dSharon Katz, ESPN Stats & Information
5dEdward Aschoff and Greg Ostendorf