FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- What distractions?
No. 14 South Carolina brushed off two weeks' worth of relentless questions following an injury to star defensive end Jadeveon Clowney to pound Arkansas 52-7 Saturday afternoon at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Clowney returned after sitting out last Saturday's game against Kentucky and had only one tackle, but his presence was felt on and off the field.
“There weren’t any distractions,” South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said. “There really weren’t. There was a little bit last Saturday night, but come Monday there weren’t any distractions. Jadeveon got in the training room twice a day for about three or four days, and he was ready to play. He really added a spark to our defense. He was fired up. He was even giving little pep talks in the locker room before the game. That was good to see.”
Clowney agreed that it was good to get back on the field and help his team contribute to the largest margin of victory on the road in the Spurrier era at Carolina. He laughed when reporters asked about talk that he wasn’t involved with his teammates over the past two weeks and another report he didn’t take the team bus to the game.
“I wasn’t really away from it,” Clowney said. “I was studying film, doing my job, even though I wasn’t playing. I was there, helping my team out, cheering them on. It was good for us to come out here and do what we had to do today.”
What’s also good for Gamecocks fans to see is that they’re right back in the thick of the SEC East race. With Georgia’s loss to Missouri on Saturday, the race to Atlanta appears wide open, and the Gamecocks don’t have Alabama, Texas A&M or LSU on their remaining schedule. But Carolina does have to travel the next two weeks to Tennessee and Missouri.
“Right now we’re in good shape, but can we continue?” Spurrier said. “We’re back with a chance, and we’ll see how we’ll go from here. But it was the most complete game of the year, certainly.”
South Carolina dominated on both sides of the ball, possessing the ball for more than 43 minutes, racking up 537 yards of offense and limiting Arkansas to 37 plays. Quarterback Connor Shaw managed the Gamecocks offense with precision, passing for 219 yards, rushing for 37 yards and having a hand in four scores. Running back Mike Davis also helped provide great balance for South Carolina, rushing for 128 yards and a touchdown.
“We knew, going through this stretch, it was going to be tough,” Shaw said. “Any time you go three straight weeks on the road in the SEC, it’s tough. We had to start off strong with Arkansas. We knew we had to have that mentality coming in to play well on the road. We wanted to come out here and make a statement, and I think we did.”