A defensive play that has become an instant social media sensation will serve as the starting point for South Carolina sophomore All-American defensive end Jadeveon Clowney’s 2013 Heisman Trophy run. A look at Clowney’s five biggest plays.
1. The hit heard around college football
Jan. 1, 2013: USC 33, Michigan 28
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Clowney beats All-Big Ten left tackle Taylor Lewan and levels running back Vincent Smith, separating Smith from his helmet and the ball. Clowney recovers the fumble with one hand. USC scores on a pass from Connor Shaw to Ace Sanders on the next play.
The buzz: Clowney’s hit is named ESPN SportsCenter’s top play of the day. USA Today columnist Mike Lopresti writes that “Clowney officially opened his 2013 Heisman campaign Tuesday ... with a play that turned the game around, as Heisman candidates must.”
The quote: “Clowney’s very good. I’m very happy with the success I had against him today. On another day, he might be more successful. He dominated me one play. I told him after the game, I had to give him that.” – Taylor Lewan
2. Record-setting day
Nov. 24, 2012: USC 27, Clemson 17
Clowney has 4.5 sacks, including sacks on each of Clemson’s final two drives, to set school season records for sacks (13) and tackles for loss (21.5).
The buzz: Lorenzo Ward tells Clowney before the game that Melvin Ingram had six sacks against Clemson last season and challenges him to surpass it. Ward knew it was an exaggeration, but Clowney comes close anyway.
The quote: “I don’t know how it feels to lose to Clemson. I’m not going to know because we’re not going to lose to them while I’m here.” – Jadeveon Clowney
3. Dawgs feel his bite
Sept. 10, 2011: USC 45, Georgia 42
Clowney sacks Aaron Murray and forces a fumble that Ingram returns 5 yards to put USC up 45-35 with 3:12 remaining.
The buzz: The nation’s No. 1 recruit records his first collegiate sack in the second quarter.
The quote: “I don’t know if (Clowney) was touched, but I know he got back there like he wasn’t touched.” – Melvin Ingram
4. Vols hit roadblock
Oct. 27, 2012: USC 38, Tennessee 35
With the Vols driving inside the USC 20-yard-line with less that two minutes remaining in the game, Clowney sacks Tennessee QB Tyler Bray, forcing a fumble that is recovered by Shaq Wilson to end the threat.
The buzz: Tennessee’s record was poor, but there was no doubt the Vols had an outstanding offensive line, which had not allowed a sack to a defensive lineman — until Clowney.
The quote: “Jadeveon Clowney wins the game for us.” – Steve Spurrier
5. Forced fumble leads to touchdown
Sept. 24, 2011: USC 21, Vanderbilt 3
Clowney strips the ball from Commodores quarterback Larry Smith. The ball is picked up by Antonio Allen. He returns it 20 yards before fumbling into the end zone, where it is recovered by Ingram for a touchdown.
The buzz: In his fourth game as a freshman, Clowney has two sacks — both resulting in fumbles.
The quote: “I told him, ’You’re going to be a Heisman candidate, aren’t you?’ ” – Melvin Ingram