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Clowney's absence, defensive issues overshadow USC win over Kentucky

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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) -

Days after he had his post-game television show yanked from the air because it was "too negative", Gamecocks head football coach Steve Spurrier was positively...well...positive in his post-game comments following the win over Kentucky.

"We win! We win," he bellowed with a smile as he walked in to the press room. "That's who we are. Might as well write that down."

And so we did write it down.

But there was a 250 pound elephant in the room that assembled journalists wanted to know about. Junior defensive end Jadeveon Clowney sat out this game with bruised ribs after it appeared he would suit up to play earlier in the week.

It was a decision made just moments before the game started, according to the coaches. But it also appears from comments made by the coaching staff that something is wrong in the State of Clowney. 

"I don't want to get into all of that," said Spurrier. "I will just say he told me he couldn't play. He said his ribs hurt, he couldn't run and said, 'I can't play.' I said, 'That's fine. You don't have to play,' and we'll move on."

"If he wants to play, we'll welcome him if he wants to play for the team. If he doesn't want to play, he doesn't have to play. It's as simple as that."

Defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward even said he was totally surprised that his stud defensive end wasn't going to play.

"We went through walkthrough earlier in the day and he said he was hurting, but I thought he was going to play," said Ward.

Despite Clowney's absence, Ward says he didn't think it had any effect on his struggling defense.

"We love JD out there, but we've got to put 11 guys on the field regardless of whether he plays or not," said Ward.

Clowney-chat seemed to overshadow another win for the Gamecocks, but it was also another game with a large lead that South Carolina let slip away too easily.

The Gamecocks started the game quickly, storming out to a 21-0 lead on the backs of quarterback Connor Shaw and running back Mike Davis.

Shaw was efficient this game, going 17-for-20 for 262 yards in the air and a touchdown and 50 yards rushing. It was a remarkable performance considering last Saturday when it seemed he could be out for 2 to 3 weeks after he awkwardly landed on his shoulder.

Davis was equally destructive, rushing for 106 yards and two touchdowns and receiving for 54 yards.

"I couldn't be more proud of our guys on offense," Shaw said. "I have full confidence in the offense. I still think we haven't played the best we can. We'll progress through the season."

Progression is what Spurrier will obviously be looking for this season, but he's pretty happy for now.

"We've got a good offense," said Spurrier. "We should go out there and score a bunch of points if we can get a bunch of possessions."

With the offense clicking and the home crowd rocking, it seemed like South Carolina might put together a complete game at home.

But the defense just couldn't find a way to put Kentucky away, and the Wildcats rallied to 27-21 with just 11:50 minutes left in the 4th quarter.

The lead evaporation has been eerily similar for the past three weeks.

But the games have all ended in remarkably the same fashion: the Gamecocks find a way to get the ball with just a few minutes left in the game and they create sustained, clock-eating drives to finish out.

And that's what happened tonight.

But will the Gamecocks' late-game luck work again next week when they begin their stretch of three-straight road games?

And will Clowney play?

"We'll see," said Ward.

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