COLUMBIA — Jadeveon Clowney used two trainers as crutches in the first half Saturday night, slowly walking off the field while limping on his right leg.
Here was the worst-case scenario, the greatest fears potentially realized. Clowney hobbled to the trainer’s table, unable to support his weight with his right leg. Teammates came over to offer words of encouragement.
Clowney just wanted his leg to stop hurting.
“When I made the tackle, I got rolled over,” Clowney said. “The lineman just fell on my foot. I don’t know what happened to it, but I got caught up and it hurt real bad.”
Clowney shook off the pain, returning a couple of plays later to have one of his better games of the season, finishing with five tackles and two for loss. One came on a key third-down stop, pushing Florida back when it was in field goal range. The Gators eventually missed the field goal attempt.
Defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward was pleased with how his star defensive end played. He said Clowney’s lower leg injury is a frustration everyone will have to live with the rest of the season.
“JD’s ankle is going to bother him until he gets it cleaned up at the end of the season,” Ward said.
Clowney’s lower right leg — ankle, foot, the region in general — has been bothersome all season. Earlier this year, he said he’ll get surgery following the season.
Asked again Saturday night about the possibility of having surgery, Clowney said: “I’m not really thinking about that,” Clowney said. “I’m just thinking about this team, what we have in front of us and what we can accomplish.”
Davis surrenders SEC lead
Sophomore tailback Mike Davis surrendered the SEC rushing lead Saturday night to Auburn tailback Tre Mason.
Davis has led the conference in rushing for the past few weeks, but he was held to 54 yards on a season-low 13 carries. Davis was also held under 100 yards from scrimmage for the first time this season.
“He had some good runs in there, and he had some sideways runs that didn’t go anywhere,” Spurrier said of the sophomore.
Spurrier said Davis had bruised ribs and he’s banged up. Backup tailback Brandon Wilds was slowed by a hamstring issue, opening the door for Shon Carson to have 102 yards on 13 carries.
“He’s a little beat up,” quarter- back Connor Shaw said of Davis. “Why not use some other running backs when we have them?”
Davis now has 1,112 yards, behind only Mason in the SEC. He’s played one fewer game than Mason.
There was no mystery with what Florida’s offense planned to do Saturday night.
Down to its third-string quarterback, the Gators’ only real option was to run the football. That’s what they did early, keeping the ball on the ground for their first nine plays and 10 of 11 during an opening-drive TD.
USC’s inability to stop Florida early was surprising. It shouldn’t have been. The Gamecocks’ defense has been inconsistent on its opening series this season, allowing five opening-drive touchdowns in 10 games.
On Saturday, USC allowed its second straight opening drive touchdown. It allowed Mississippi State to march down for a touchdown on its opening possession two weeks ago.
It’s been a season-long problem, only amplified recently. Long ago, South Carolina defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward identified his defense’s opening series as a problem.
“We had them in third-and-nine and Kelcy jumped offsides,” Ward said. “The one thing I say about these guys is they are resilient. Bad plays are going to happen. Florida’s a good football team.”