This is what it has come to. Did he ride the bus or not?
Saturday started for South Carolina much like the week began. There were rumors, speculation and manufactured controversies (or perhaps just a miss on the Internet’s part). It fit into the narrative that was building all week, that the team’s best player had quit on the team or the sport as a whole.
The day ended with calm, smiles, a lovely quote from the team’s head coach, 52 straight points and a dominating 52-7 road win over Arkansas that capped off a bizarre seven-day stretch in tremendous fashion.
As the day was taking shape, a rumor began to swirl. The rumblings that South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney did not take the team bus to the stadium became deafening. They surfaced on ESPN’s College GameDay, originally thought to be a joke from host Chris Fowler, and they led to a social media-driven frenzy of sorts.
Fowler later apologized and acknowledged that Clowney was indeed on the trip, a strange and fitting development for a situation that requires no more ammunition.
What a week it has been.
Not only did Clowney make the trip, taking the same bus as everyone else, but his influence was felt immediately.
He nearly blew up the first Arkansas play in the backfield, a run that went just out of reach. Clowney then dropped into coverage the very next play, showing off his versatility, and the pass was an incompletion. On third down, he put an offensive lineman on skates, pushing him back into Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen.
Allen completed the pass, and the Hogs eventually found the end zone on the first drive. This was through no fault of Clowney’s. He was active; aggressive; and more importantly going forward, he looked healthy.
Looking like the team was on the ropes early on, South Carolina responded. And then responded. And then responded. And then responded. In fact, from that point on, it was all Gamecocks.
South Carolina scored the next 52 points, shutting down Bret Bielema’s team from that point on. In doing so, Steve Spurrier’s team came away with a few staggering numbers that rarely find their way into box scores.
The Gamecocks held the ball for more than 43 minutes, a figure that is even more impressive when you consider how well the Razorbacks have run the ball this season. Even more pronounced, South Carolina held Arkansas to just four completions and 30 yards passing for the game. Running back Mike Davis was superb (again) for SC, running for 128 yards on 19 carries. Davis has now eclipsed the 100-yard mark five out of six games this season.
Steve Spurrier celebrated the win in a slightly different way this Saturday. Last weekend he was critical of Clowney, jump-starting the chaos to follow. His tune returned to its normal trolling form following this win.
This was the Steve Spurrier we know and love, offering up his thoughts on the opposing team’s homecoming, according to Josh Kendall of The State:
Spurrier: "I do feel badly for Arkansas. That’s no fun getting your butt beat at home, homecoming and all that."— Josh Kendall (@JoshatTheState) October 12, 2013
And perhaps with that, all systems are a go, and normalcy will begin to settle in, if such normalcy can be found in a situation so volatile. Georgia’s loss to Missouri is yet another fascinating development in the SEC East, one South Carolina is smack-dab in the thick of.
The focus likely will be on football, the team and their incredible potential going forward.
Jadeveon Clowney will continue to disrupt offenses, even if the stats aren’t the jaw-dropping, Heisman-winning numbers that many were forecasting heading into the season. His influence is often overlooked and under-appreciated, which is why the past week got to the place it did.
The speculation over his play, his health, his coach’s cryptic responses and his bus presence will likely continue going forward, but for one Saturday, South Carolina quieted the critics and the talk with a dominating SEC win.