High-definition replays are well and good, but Michigan's Devin Gardner had a front-row seat to Jadeveon Clowney's helmet-ejecting hit on Vincent Smith—a better view than the rest of us.
And he thinks the whole thing was overrated, per Matt Hayes of Sporting News:
Devin Gardner on Clowney hit: "blown out of proportion. If a guy's not blocked, he should make that play."— Matt Hayes (@Matt_HayesSN) July 25, 2013
Clowney's hit has already spawned argument this past week, especially in relation to college football's new "targeting rule." According to Sports Illustrated, ACC officiating supervisor Doug Rhoads said he would have flagged and ejected Clowney if he saw that play this season.
But Gardner's claim is unique, likely to start arguments for a much different reason. Whether the hit was legal has long been up for debate; whether it was sensational was supposedly unanimous. But in truth, Gardner is both right and wrong in his assertion.
Was the hit blown out of proportion? Yeah, probably. It won the ESPY for best play last week, besting things like Ray Allen's Game 6 game-tying three-pointer against the San Antonio Spurs—moments that, you know, were crucial toward actual winning championships.
Clowney's hit was vicious, and within the context of the 2013 Outback Bowl, it was a monumental turning point. But it probably wasn't the play of the year, and seven months after the fact, it probably gets talked about too much. Gardner can be granted that.
But he also said unblocked defenders "should make that play." Um...what? Guys go unblocked all the time—on multiple occasions each quarter, each game—but plays like THAT happen once a season.
Beyond just the airborne helmet, Clowney forced and recovered a fumble in one fluid, terrifying motion. That is beyond the realm of expectation for a single player.
One second Michigan had the ball, the lead and the momentum; one second later, Clowney took away two of those things. And one play after that, after a South Carolina touchdown, Michigan also lost its lead.
Blocked or unblocked, Clowney single-handedly turned the Outback Bowl on its head. That's a pretty tall order. Even in a nonconference regular-season game, no player should ever "be expected" to do that.
Unless, of course, that player is Jadeveon Clowney.