Clowney hit obscures some of offense’s big day

Big East, refs stay mum over controversial call

jkendall@thestate.comJanuary 5, 2013 

Steve Spurrier flew back into Columbia on Wednesday, one day after South Carolina beat Michigan 33-28 in the Outback Bowl, and settled in at home to watch the local evening news.

“All they show is (Jadeveon) Clowney’s hit. They must have shown it five, six, seven times,” Spurrier said. “I said, ‘When are they going to show Ace (Sanders’) catch in the back of the end zone? When are they going to show Damiere (Byrd)? When are they going to show Ace’s punt return? When are they going to show that fourth-and-3? When are they going to show Connor (Shaw) and Dylan (Thompson) escaping a sack?’”

Clowney’s crushing hit and fumble recovery in the fourth quarter turned around the game and became an instant Internet legend (More than 100 separate clips of the play have been uploaded to YouTube, and they have received around two million views.), but the Gamecocks won the Outback Bowl on the backs of their offense, something that couldn’t be said most of the regular season.

“There were a whole bunch of big plays, and Clowney’s was just one of them,” Spurrier said. “I am not trying to downgrade it, but I am upgrading the others.”

South Carolina had five offensive plays of more than 30 yards, plus Sanders’ 63-yard punt return for a touchdown. The Gamecocks had 16 offensive plays of more than 30 yards in their 12 regular season games.

“That might have been one of the most exciting games I’ve ever coached; it might be the most exciting,” Spurrier said. “For a minute, I thought we are going to kick a field goal to win from being behind, something that has never happened in all my coaching career.”

Instead, Thompson found Bruce Ellington for a 32-yard touchdown with 11 seconds remaining. The Gamecocks’ 8 yards per play against the Wolverines were 2.4 more per play than they averaged in the regular season.

The quick strikes of South Carolina’s offense led to 82 Michigan plays, the most of any Gamecock opponent this year. The Wolverines gained 355 yards and had the fourth-highest point total of the season against the Gamecocks.

“The only real good thing we did defensively all day was force field goals,” Spurrier said. “They got three field goals. We played pretty good red zone defense, but obviously it wasn’t one of our best defensive days.”

Clowney’s play overshadowed plenty in the game, including the play that preceded it, when the Gamecocks appeared to stop Michigan short on a fake punt. The officials called for a measurement, and referee Jeff Maconaghy signaled first down despite the fact the ball was not past the marker.

When contacted this week by The State, a representative from the Big East, whose officiating crew worked the game, declined comment on behalf of the crew and supervisor of officials Terry McAuley.

Spurrier will not press the issue, he said.

“I think the only thing the guy would say is he thought it touched when obviously it didn’t. What else can he say?” Spurrier said. “I don’t what he could say, but the whole world saw it. It was on television. There wasn’t any doubt it was a good inch or so short.”

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