Clowney’s strip-sack clinches USC victory

South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney (7) celebrates after causing a fumble late in the fourth quarter against Tennessee on Saturday, October 27, 2012, at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, South Carolina. (Gerry Melendez/The State/MCT)

COLUMBIA — After losing running back Marcus Lattimore to a knee injury that seemed serious, South Carolina led Tennessee by just three points with about 1:15 left Saturday. The Volunteers lined up for first down and 10 at USC’s 19-yard line, and quarterback Tyler Bray dropped back to pass. USC defensive end Jadeveon Clowney beat left tackle Antonio Richardson, knocked the ball away from Bray as he brought his arm back, and linebacker Shaq Wilson recovered.

That play sealed a 38-35 victory for USC that will be remembered mostly for Lattimore’s injury, but was a productive outing nonetheless for the Gamecocks, who clinched their fifth straight seven-win season — a first for the program.

“Jadeveon Clowney, he wins the game for us,” said USC coach Steve Spurrier.

This was not a banner day for coordinator Lorenzo Ward’s defense, which allowed 472 yards, compared to the 510 gained by USC. The Volunteers’ offensive line lived up to its reputation and kept Clowney at bay for most of the game. Tennessee allowed just three sacks all season before Saturday, and none to a defensive lineman. Clowney’s game-clinching play was the only sack for the Gamecocks on Saturday. They entered the game with 29, third-most nationally.

As expected, J.T. Surratt started for Kelcy Quarles at defensive tackle. Quarles missed his second straight game with a sprained shoulder, though he was also suspended for last week’s loss at Florida because he punched an LSU player a week before.

Offensive line coach Shawn Elliott also followed through on his promise to again start Corey Robinson at left tackle and A.J. Cann at left guard. Mike Matulis and Kyle Harris were in those spots last week, with Harris making his first career start. Robinson had started the previous four games at left tackle. Cann had started since the beginning of last year at left guard.

Right tackle Brandon Shell (Goose Creek High) left the game with a sprained left ankle and did not return. Cody Gibson replaced him. … Defensive tackle Byron Jerideau sprained his right ankle – the same one he sprained Oct. 6 against Georgia. … Backup cornerback Akeem Auguste missed the game with a left groin injury. … USC has won nine straight home games.

… Quarterback Connor Shaw had a career-best 356 passing yards, surpassing 311 against Kentucky last year.