Jadeveon Clowney's official visit to the South Carolina vs. Alabama game didn't go as expected—for the Crimson Tide and the national sports media, that is.
Arriving in Columbia as the nation's top-ranked team, Alabama was pegged by bettors as 7.5-point road favorites against the Gamecocks. According to the odds and the analysts, the Tide were expected to roll over a South Carolina squad still reeling from a heartbreaking 35-27 loss to Auburn.
And if Clowney—the best high school football prospect in the country according to ESPN, Rivals, and Scout.com—happened to be in attendance, so much the better.
Clowney, a 6'5" defensive end whose big frame, explosive speed, and sheer athleticism invite the comparison to former NFL star Jevon Kearse, recently suggested that Alabama and South Carolina were neck-and-neck atop his short list of schools.
On the field Saturday, they were hardly equal. The Gamecocks jumped out to an early 21-3 lead and clamped down on Alabama's meager second-half comeback, dominating the action every bit as much as the 35-21 final score would indicate.
Part of the blame might be laid on the Tide's schedule, which pitted them against top-10 foes Arkansas and Florida in the two weeks prior to Saturday's upset. After the game-planning and travel involved in those wins, Alabama looked gassed in Columbia.
Where will Clowney end up?
But that's not what Clowney saw.
Coming off consecutive 55-7 blowout wins as the defensive leader for the South Pointe (Rock Hill, S.C.) Stallions, it's safe to say that Clowney knows what a butt-whipping looks like. On Saturday that's exactly what South Carolina's defensive line put on the Tide's offensive line and quarterback Greg McElroy to the tune of seven sacks.
McElroy diced the Gamecocks' secondary to the tune of 315 yards and two scores on 27-of-35 passing, but he took an awful beating in the process and didn't do enough to win while South Carolina muzzled Alabama's ground game.
Getting held to 36 yards rushing was a bitter pill for the Tide, who were averaging nearly 230 yards per game. More importantly, it was an impressive outing for USC's defensive front.
Maybe Steve Spurrier, the "Ol' Ball Coach" better-known for his offensive ingenuity, and his assistants could teach Clowney a thing or two about defense, too. Alabama's Nick Saban is a renowned defensive guru, but his team didn't live up to that billing on Saturday.
Back in August, Clowney offered a few soundbites when asked about the two schools.
"You guys know how the Tide roll," he said at the time. "They play hard."
He didn't seem as impressed with South Carolina, suggesting that the program "appears to be in a little trouble right now. I'm going to have to see about that."
As part of a capacity crowd in Williams-Brice Stadium, Clowney saw first hand that he might have gotten those observations backwards. After putting on a show for his official visit, it's fair to speculate that the Fighting Gamecocks now lead the way.