Martin Fennelly Columns
Clowney's jaw-dropping play in Outback Bowl stuff of legend
TAMPA - If you were at home Tuesday afternoon and wondered what that noise was at around 4 o'clock, we're here to tell you. The hit, one of the best you'll ever see, or hear, became fact and legend in the fourth quarter of the Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium, courtesy of South Carolina All-American defensive end and all-around freak of humankind Jadeveon Clowney. The 6-6, 256-pound true sophomore raced untouched into Michigan's backfield and truly changed the molecular structure of Wolverines runner Vincent Smith. It was an eight-yard loss, for Smith, that is. His helmet landed another six yards back. Clowney recovered the football. Carolina scored next play, during the echo. "That's the hardest hit I've seen in my (22-year) coaching career," Gamecocks defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward said."It sounded like a car crash, man," South Carolina receiver Ace Sanders said. And that isn't even where the fun began _ or ended. There was the Head Ball Coach, holding the Outback Trophy after Carolina's thrilling, hairy, dying seconds 33-28 win. You can talk about car crashes, but this was a trip down memory lane for Spurrier, Spurrier lovers and even Spurrier haters. After all that new kind of Spurrier coaching deal at Carolina, running and defense and all, well, that wasn't Tuesday. He did it the old-fashioned way _ at least his old fashion. "We tried to throw it around a little bit and see what happened," Spurrier said. With two quarterbacks, no less. Let's do the time warp again. "I don't know if I've ever given two quarterbacks a game ball," Spurrier said. "But today I said we got to give one to both you guys, Dylan and Connor." That would be Gamecocks sophomore Dylan Thomspon and junior Connor Shaw, who took turns throwing touchdowns, two apiece, with Thompson throwing the last of them, the 32-yard game-winner to Bruce Ellington with only 11 seconds left, after replacing an injured Shaw midway through an amazing final drive. Spurrier and the amazing two-headed quarterback _ again. "Today, it really worked out," said Sanders, who caught a touchdown pass from both Thompson and Shaw and threw in a punt return TD to grab game MVP, not a bad trip home for a Bradenton kid. "We haven't won one like that in eight years, since I've been here," Spurrier said. We all know about Spurrier and two quarterbacks, but this worked beautifully, as well as it ever has, though think of all the times at Florida when it didn't. But this was perfect. Even when Shaw came out late in the game (Sanders was actually injured on the same play), no one blinked, least of all Thompson. "(Connor) sort of hobbled off and Dylan was right there and we had no hesitation to fire him in there," Spurrier said. "I've certainly coached two in a season before. You give one the game, and if he struggles, if it goes bad, you give the other one an opportunity. We tried to tell Connor it was his game _ and it was his game _ but Dylan was going to play. It worked out beautifully. Nobody knew it was going to work out like this." After Michigan drove the field for a 28-27 lead, Clowney knew his head coach was in no way interested in three points, and not just because South Carolina's kicker had already missed on one field goal try and had another blocked. "I told everyone we ain't going for no field goal," Clowney said. "Coach Spurrier don't want to leave it in no kicker's hand. He's going for it all." Just like old times. Spurrier has officially swept the January 1 Florida bowls. He already had won the Orange, Gator and Citrus. Now was on Outback watch. "I'm a little greedy," he said. "I wanted one." Tuesday, Spurrier also became South Carolina's all-time coaching bowl winner _ with three. That might sound funny. South Carolina football history can be like that. But you better not laugh, you better not cry, better not pout, I'm telling you why: He'll send Clowney after you. Or those quarterbacks.