FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Before Jadeveon Clowney could even return to the field Saturday, there was more controversy brewing.
As South Carolina’s star defensive end went through his pregame routine before a 52-7 win at Arkansas, ESPN College GameDay host Chris Fowler erroneously reported Clowney did not take the team bus to Razorback Stadium.
In fact, Clowney rode the bus with the rest of his team. Fowler apologized on air for “making something out of nothing.”
It was a fitting way for Clowney to return from a rib injury that forced him to miss last week’s game against Kentucky — amidst another hailstorm of national scrutiny.
Clowney reiterated the national narrative about him was wrong. He never quit on his team. In Clowney’s mind, his commitment stayed as strong as ever in this past week.
Asked if it felt good to return to football, Clowney offered an odd look.
“I wasn’t really away from it like that,” Clowney said. “I was still studying film, doing my job. I wasn’t playing, but I helped my team out, cheering them on. So I felt like I did what I had to do today.”
USC coach Steve Spurrier said the controversy did not create a distraction for his team in the week leading up to the game.
“There wasn’t no distraction,” Spurrier said. “There really wasn’t. There was a little bit last Saturday night, but come Monday there was no distraction. Jadeveon got treatment, got in the training room twice a day there for about three or four days, and he was ready to play. He really added a spark, I think, to our defense and he was fired up.”
Sophomore running back Mike Davis trailed Arkansas freshman Alex Collins for the SEC’s overall rushing yards lead entering the game, but he exited in first place.
Davis exceeded the 100-yard rushing mark for the fifth time in six games this season, and the third straight game. He finished with 128 yards on 19 carries, including a 6-yard run that gave USC its first touchdown and a permanent lead.
Davis now has 742 rushing yards on the season, ahead of Collins’ 620. South Carolina has played one fewer game than Arkansas.
“I already told them, ‘We’ve got the best offensive line out there,’” Clowney said. “I go against them all the time. I was like, ‘Y’all are looking good.’ Going into the season, I told them they were going to be pretty good. With a weapon like Mike behind them, what else can you say? It’s going to keep happening.”
Davis also has nine rushing touchdowns, which places him among the SEC’s leaders.
Freshman receiver Pharoh Cooper started at kick and punt returner for the first time this season, and he did good enough to keep the job next week.
Cooper had a 36-yard punt return in the second half, one of USC’s only bright spots in the return game all season. Spurrier said he was impressed with the freshman.
“Pharoh is a good player, and we knew that,” Spurrier said. “When he got his hands on that last punt, some of the guys said he’s got a chance to break it. He got it up to about midfield. And he runs that little Wildcat for us, so he gives us an extra dimension in there.”
USC walked away Saturday with mostly a clean injury report, but offensive guard Ronald Patrick exited the game with a high ankle sprain.
Patrick’s status moving forward was unknown, but Spurrier said the injury was “not as bad as it appeared.”
Spurrier also said linebacker Skai Moore had a concussion on the game’s final play.