It’s not often you get to witness a traffic accident during a college football game, but it happened early in the fourth quarter of South Carolina’s thrilling win over Michigan in the Outback Bowl.
Nursing a one-point lead with eight minutes remaining, the Wolverines lined up at the stoplight and proceeded to hit the gas on green. The Big Ten’s Buick, Michigan tailback Vincent Smith, barely made the intersection before he was squashed by a Cadillac Escalade that ran a red. Smith dropped to the turf after meeting Jadeveon Clowney, a mountain of steel who moonlights as the nation’s fiercest pass-rusher and devourer of ball-carriers.
Clowney should’ve been ticketed for indecent exposure, a helmet-to-helmet impact crunch that jarred the football loose and ignited the South Carolina sideline. With Smith sprawled on his back without a lid, Clowney palmed the pigskin to regain possession. Quiet for three quarters and sandwiched by a better-than-expected Michigan offensive line, one of the SEC’s top defenders had enough and broke the rules.
“It sounded like two cars hitting, I promise you. Hardest hit I’ve ever seen in my career,” USC defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward said.
Instead of easing to a halt, Clowney gunned it, pedal to Michigan’s backfield. The physical assault was a near instantaneous trend on Twitter and quickly became fodder for bad Sportscenter jokes. It also catapulted Clowney’s mean streak to an entirely different level, one scouts have been salivating to see. The future NFL lottery pick made a name for himself nationally, a shining moment frozen in time at Raymond James Stadium.
College football fans — especially those in the Southeast — knew of him before, but witnessed Clowney’s brutality first-hand in Tampa. It’ll take a few days, weeks maybe, to clean up the wreckage left in No. 7’s wake, just in time for his spring game walk-through.
As a Wolverine supporter said after surveying the scene and heading to the dealership for a new ride: “He’s a bad man.”
And he’s back for another season this fall.
Photo Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports