In college football, there's always a morning after.
The morning after the first game day of the season was no different.
As you read this, the fallout from South Carolina defensive superstar Jadeveon Clowney's less-than-enthusiastic showing against the North Carolina Tar Heels in their season opener is rapidly being cycled through the college football hype-machine. Nothing if not predictable, the oversized laundry mangle that is the mainstream sports media has already quick-processed last night's opener into a single storyline:
To paraphrase CBS Sports' Dennis Dodd: Maybe Clowney isn't the eats-Heismans-for-breakfast beast we've spent the last eight months creating...but he's still really good!
(Apparently, as ESPN's Heather Dinich reported early this morning, the only thing Clowney had for breakfast yesterday was "bananas and a few grapes," so perhaps that was the problem.)
Fox Sports' Greg Couch takes a similar tack:
"We need new training. Clowney is going to provide it, going to change the way we watch football. He has to if he’s going to be the first defensive-only player to win the Heisman Trophy. The momentum is with him, but he lost ground Thursday night."
Or how about in-game commentator Jesse Palmer—a man who's never met a jar of Axe hair gel he didn't like—calling out Clowney's commitment and accusing the defensive end of "taking plays off."
The response from college football's sprawling maw of restless fandom (aka, the Twittersphere) has been no-less predictable:
"He had his hands on his hips!"
"He took off plays!"
"He looked gassed!"
(Is it just me or does the term "gassed" sound like street slang from the 1920s?)
But here's the thing: Is there anything Clowney could've done last night, short of ducking into a phone booth and then flying through the air, that would have made a difference in today's headlines?
Some points to remember, folks:
1. North Carolina's up-tempo offense was built around facing Clowney, the none-too-shabby senior DE Chaz Sutton and the rest of the SC defense in the first game of the season. In other words, North Carolina developed an offensive game plan they had to execute flawlessly to even have a chance to win this one: South Carolina just had to get out with a win, which they did.
2. For those of you who were watching the game with a half pound of hot wings in your mouth and another umbrella drink on the way, it was about 110 degrees in Williams-Brice last night, with some observers reporting that it was even hotter on the field.
3. North Carolina likely will have a hard time winning their division: South Carolina could play for a national championship if the stars align just right.
Thus, the coaching philosophy on the defensive side is deceptively simple: keep your powder dry and your superstars healthy. Oh, and do your best to keep 'em away from Grade A knuckleheads like UNC offensive tackle Kiaro Holts. (God help us if SC fans get to thinking this kid is in some way related to Lou Holtz.)
4. Offense or defense, it doesn't matter: Spurrier doesn't give anything away for free. They've got Georgia in eight days, remember?