In front of its home crowd at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, South Carolina, the No. 13 South Carolina Gamecocks defeated the Kentucky Wildcats 35-28. After nearly blowing a 27-7 lead, South Carolina moved to 4-1 on the season and 2-1 in SEC play.
In the end, the critics were silenced as Jadeveon Clowney's absence was felt.
According to Brett Dawson of Rivals, Clowney missed the game due to a case of bruised ribs. This was a turn for the worst during a season in which Clowney has underwhelmed the masses.
Fortunately, his team was bad enough to display how valuable he is to them.
South Carolina played well on offense, with Connor Shaw going 17-of-20 for 262 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions. Shaw added 50 yards and a touchdown on nine carries, with Mike Davis continuing his Heisman-caliber level of play by running the ball 21 times for 106 yards and two scores.
Unfortunately, South Carolina wasn't extraordinary on defense.
In fact, it was subpar.
South Carolina failed to force a single turnover and struggled to get after the quarterback in anything close to an adequate manner. Even still, the Gamecocks managed to keep Kentucky off of the scoreboard for three complete quarters.
During the fourth quarter, however, it became clear how valuable Clowney is to South Carolina.
Rather than having an athlete who can explode off of the edge and disrupt both the passing game and the rushing attack, South Carolina's defense fell apart late. As fatigue kicked in, Kentucky's offense stepped up and the Gamecocks defense failed to counter.
If there were any questions about what Clowney means to South Carolina before, they've been answered now.