COLUMBIA — A pair of injured feet — quarterback Connor Shaw’s left and defensive end Jadeveon Clowney’s right — will have South Carolina fans waiting anxiously this week as the Gamecocks prepare for Saturday night’s game at Clemson.
Shaw played through his left foot sprain in Saturday’s win over Wofford, while Clowney missed the game with an injured right foot that likely will require postseason surgery.
“Connor Shaw’s foot obviously bothered him throughout the game,” said USC coach Steve Spurrier. “He sort of toughed it out and finished and played pretty well overall. But his foot is a little bit of a problem. He probably won’t practice too much this week. We’ll see where it is around Wednesday or Thursday.
“We’ll just have to wait Tuesday or Wednesday or Thursday to see what kind of speed (Clowney) is up to and see if he’s going to be able to play in this game.”
No. 13 USC at No. 12 Clemson will be the second meeting of top 15 teams in the rivalry’s history, and first since 1987, when No. 12 USC beat No. 8 Clemson in Columbia. This game’s most intriguing matchup is Clemson’s offense against USC’s defense. The Tigers rank No. 6 nationally with 535.6 yards per game, while USC is No. 13 with 310.8 yards allowed per game.
“Without a doubt, they’ll be the best offensive team we’ve played against,” Spurrier said. “It’ll be a big challenge for us. “It’s a huge game, maybe one of the biggest since I’ve been here, anyway, of our rivalry series.”
If Shaw plays, Spurrier hopes he can throw better than he did against Wofford, when he averaged 6.1 yards per attempt, tied for his third-lowest in a game this season. He was sacked four times.
“Our passing game is a concern,” Spurrier sad. “We didn’t protect extremely well at times (against Wofford). We just didn’t throw it down the field very much.”
USC’s leading receiver, Bruce Ellington (31 catches, 492 yards, four touchdowns), bruised his right hand against Wofford, but should be OK for Clemson, Spurrier said.
Spurrier downplayed the impact on the game’s intensity of his periodic verbal spats with Clemson coach Dabo Swinney since last year’s USC victory over Clemson, the Gamecocks’ third straight in the rivalry.
“I like Dabo,” Spurrier said. “I think he’s a wonderful guy and an excellent coach and has done a super job there at Clemson. He and I, and I think our wives, get along very well. But every now and then, just to keep the rivalry going, I think he and I probably need to say a little something to stir up emotions here and there. But it’ll probably be all about football this week.”
If anything, Spurrier said, the Gamecocks put less emphasis on the rivalry than they did when he arrived in Columbia in 2005.
“I think we take it less seriously than they used to,” he said. “I think they over-did it prior to (me) coming here. When I was hired, there were signs all over the locker room and the coaches’ office that said, ‘Beat Clemson.’ They were all over the place. The fans, when I did the booster club things, several times people would say, ‘Coach, I don’t care if you lose them all. Just beat Clemson.’
“I said, ‘My thoughts are the opposite. I’d rather win them all and lose to Clemson if that was a choice.’ My belief is that you don’t talk about one team the entire year. You don’t practice every day and say, ‘We’re going to beat Clemson today.’ We take it seriously, but we don’t talk about beating Clemson all year long anymore, maybe the way they did in the past around here.”
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