COLUMBIA — South Carolina didn’t really need its best defensive player, end Jadeveon Clowney, in Saturday’s 24-7 win over Wofford, though Clowney certainly could have made a difference. It is undeniable that the Gamecocks will need him in next Saturday’s matchup with Clemson’s fast-paced offense. But will he be healthy enough to play?
Clowney rested his injured right foot Saturday and did not dress. He hurt it Sept. 29 in a win at Kentucky and had played through it, until Saturday. The foot likely will require surgery after the season. Defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward said Clowney did not practice last week for the fourth consecutive week and instead just observed.
“We thought he’d be OK by Thursday,” said USC coach Steve Spurrier. “He couldn’t push off, couldn’t get in his stance. He had a little knee problem (in addition to the foot). He couldn’t play. Hopefully he’ll be ready Wednesday or Thursday. We’ve got to wait and see.”
Ward is optimistic that Clowney will play at Clemson.
“We found out (Friday) during the walk-through that he wasn’t going to be able to play (against Wofford),” Ward said. “I think he’ll be able to play next week.”
Clowney has 8½ sacks this season, two shy of breaking USC’s single-season record, shared by Andrew Provence (1982) and Melvin Ingram (2011). Clowney’s 17 tackles for loss are three shy of breaking Eric Norwood’s record from 2007.
He is already a finalist for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, awarded to college football’s best defensive player. On Saturday, he was announced as a finalist for the Lombardi Award, given to the best lineman or linebacker.
Shaw explains passing issues
USC quarterback Connor Shaw was 16-of-20 passing for 122 yards, one touchdown and one interception against Wofford. His 6.1 yards per attempt tied for his third-lowest of the season and paled in comparison to 12.4 and 11.1 in the previous two games, against Arkansas and Tennessee, who have struggling defenses. Shaw has also dealt with a left foot sprain since the Tennessee game, on Oct. 27.
“I’m a little banged up,” Shaw said. “I re-twisted it in the first series (against Wofford), but I was able to finish strong. It was bothering me through the game, but it was tolerable.”
As for his poor passing numbers against Wofford and Spurrier saying he scrambled too much, Shaw said, “They dropped eight and rushed three just about every other play. And the play calls that we did have on them, they dropped into big zones, so I was forced to run on a couple of those. I don’t know how much longer I could have hung in the pocket. We had four sacks. I tried to stay in the pocket as long as I could.”
Shaw said the sacks were related more to Wofford’s coverage than his offensive line’s struggles.
“I didn’t think anybody got open because of the coverage with (Wofford) dropping eight and rushing three,” he said.
Before the game, USC honored 29 seniors. The most prominent: center T.J. Johnson, tight end Justice Cunningham, tailback Kenny Miles, defensive end Devin Taylor, defensive tackle Byron Jerideau, free safety D.J. Swearinger, cornerback Akeem Auguste, and linebackers Reggie Bowens, Shaq Wilson and DeVonte Holloman.
Among the 29 were six fourth-year juniors who might not return next season for their final years of eligibility. By far the most prominent of those six was wide receiver DeAngelo Smith, who was listed as a starter before the season, but has played in just six games and has two catches for 46 yards. He entered the season with four career catches for 23 yards. Smith did not dress Saturday because of an eye injury.