Rixon's History Lesson

Anatomy of a “tired” Clowney



1. drained of energy; spent, exhausted

“Jadeveon Clowney looks gassed”


If you watched Thursday night’s broadcast of the South Carolina-North Carolina football game, or any sports network since that night, you have probably heard that there are some rumblings about star defensive end Jadeveon Clowney’s conditioning. In USC 27-10 victory over the Tar Heels, Clowney recorded only three tackles and had no YouTube-worthy moments or highlight-reel plays.


After eight months of watching him nearly break Vincent Smith in half, many were disappointed to find out that the USC lineman will apparently not be able to send headgear into orbit anytime he wants to. Jesse Palmer, David Pollack, a majority of the Twitter-sphere and several sports radio callers and hosts seemed rather peeved that Clowney would have the audacity to grow weary during a college football game played in the south with a temperature of 95 degrees at kickoff while reportedly fighting off the effects of a stomach virus. Some even stated that he was a non-factor in the contest.

In order to see whether Palmer, Pollack and others have a legitimate beef, I pulled up the video of Thursday’s game and watched Jadeveon Clowney’s every movement on every single snap.

NOTE: The following analysis was compiled from watching every play from opening kickoff until the game was suspended with 8:20 remaining in the 4th quarter, when the video ended:

Number of Defensive Snaps for South Carolina: 64

Everyone knew coming into the game that UNC would try to run its offense at hyper-speed and the Tar Heels did just that for most of the game. The Tar Heels also boasted an offense that only allowed 11 sacks last season. Not exactly a dream scenario for an ill pass rusher.

Clowney was in North Carolina's backfield on over half of his plays.
Clowney was in North Carolina’s backfield on over half of his plays.

Number of Defensive Snaps for Clowney: 42

Clowney played approximately 66% of USC’s defensive plays. He spent nearly all of his time at defensive end, lining up at nose guard on the first play of the game and also blitzing from a cornerback/linebacker hybrid possession on one play. In terms of effort, he performance in the first half was far better than the second. However, it is worth noting that nearly all of the plays where he appeared to simply stand up at the line of scrimmage occurred when the ball was run or thrown to the opposite side of the field.

Number of Plays Where Clowney Ended Up In the Backfield: 25

Almost 60% of the plays that started with Clowney at the line of scrimmage ended with him in the Tar Heel backfield. It’s easy for cameras to catch the two or three plays where a guy gives less-than-stellar effort, but Clowney was around the ball on almost two-thirds of the plays he participated in. Cherry-picking a few of his off plays does not accurately reflect his performance. Even on an “off night,” UNC failed to keep him out of the backfield 25 different times.

Number of Designed Runs That Went Away from Clowney: 14

Exactly one-third of the plays North Carolina called with #7 on the field were runs designed to go to the opposite side of the field. Only once did UNC run towards Clowney’s side and that came on a busted play that turned into a QB scramble. The Tar Heels never once lined up and sent the ball carrier to Clowney’s side. Hard to make tackles when an entire game plan is designed to go away from you.

Number of Plays Where Clowney Was Blocked by 2+ Players: 13

On nearly 31% of the snaps he played, Clowney had to fight off at least two blockers. Understand that this does not simply count plays where he was double-teamed at the line. This number also include plays that featured him having to beat an offensive lineman (or two) and then having to deal with a tailback. USC’s other defensive linemen had at least one less blocker to deal with on 13 plays over the course of the game because Clowney drew so much attention.

Number of Times Clowney Pressured the Quarterback: 12

Officially, Clowney was credited with three “quarterback hurries.” Watching the game again, there were 12 different occasions where Clowney was a step away from the quarterback when the ball was released or where Clowney forced UNC’s quarterback to move in the pocket or scramble away. On several plays, the quarterback escaped Clowney only to throw the ball away or run into the arms of another Gamecock defender. Those plays don’t show up in the stat sheet, but you can’t argue that they didn’t have an impact.

Number of Screens UNC Threw With Clowney on the Field: 7

One-sixth of North Carolina’s plays with Clowney in the game were screen passes. No one makes sacks on screen passes. Combine those seven with the 14 runs away from Clowney and you get 21 plays that were specifically designed to get the ball away from Clowney as quickly as possible. 50% of the snaps UNC’s offense took with him on the field were either runs to the other side or screens designed to draw him away from the ball carrier.

Number of Times Clowney Pursued from Hashmark to Sideline: 2

Twice in the game, Clowney ran from the far side of the field to the opposite sideline. Neither of those plays ended with him making the tackle, but he wound up near the pile on both occasions. There were plenty of plays where the ball went away from him and Clowney did not pursue, but that can be said for every defensive end who has ever played. This pair of plays may not have shown up in the box score, but they do show that Clowney’s effort was not nearly as poor as people claimed.

Ultimately, a relatively quiet night for Clowney on paper was anything but on film. He directly impacted the game while only making three actual tackles. Clowney’s motor has often been questioned and he has never used sickness as an excuse before, so there is no reason to believe he was lying about having a virus. The national media is going to scrutinize his every move from now until season’s end, but they missed the mark in the season-opener.

An underwhelming statistical performance? Perhaps. But a non-factor?

That’s a clown statement, bro.

Published by

Rixon Lane

Rixon is a senior at USC majoring in Broadcast Journalism. He hosts a sports-talk radio show on 90.5 FM on Thursday nights from 8-10 and served as the sports editor at The Daily Gamecock during the summers of 2012 and 2013. He also traveled to Omaha to cover the Gamecock baseball team during their 2012 CWS run. He has been spotted by ESPN cameras during the College World Series in 2010 and 2011 and at multiple USC basketball games. He attributes this feat to intense camera-pattern strategy, expressive body language and a total lack of shame.

  • DooDooIce

    Nice breakdown

  • rick

    what about the many times he was held, including in the picture in this article? and the cheap shot that only got a 15 yard penalty. if the refs keep letting this stuff go, there won’t be a Clowney at the end of the year.

  • eherring

    I am a girl who never played football and am not an announcer. I knew going in that UNC would build plays respecting Clowney’s presence, that the UNC offense would be uncomfortable dealing wit him, and that helmets rarely fly off. Perhaps I should have talked to the sports media before the game and told them how things are. Great article.

  • Wes

    “An underwhelming statistical performance? Perhaps. But a non-factor?

    That’s a clown statement, bro.”

    No your breakdown is a clown breakdown, bro.

    First: “Officially, Clowney was credited with three “quarterback hurries.” Watching the game again, there were 12 different occasions where Clowney was a step away from the quarterback when the ball was released or where Clowney forced UNC’s quarterback to move in the pocket or scramble away.”

    So now we are going to count semi-hurries? Do they count as 1/2 of a real hurry? Maybe we can do partial hurries where a player is 2 steps away from the QB and they can count as 1/4 of a hurry. Changing the definition of a QB hurry to make your guy look good, come on man.

    “Number of Plays Where Clowney Ended Up In the Backfield: 25″

    “Number of Designed Runs That Went Away from Clowney: 14″
    “Number of Screens UNC Threw With Clowney on the Field: 7″

    25-14 ( they will let him get into the backfield on a run designed to go away from him) – 7 (the whole point of screen is to let the line into the backfield) = 4 times Clowney earned his way into the backfield. Congrats.

    “Number of Times Clowney Pursued from Hashmark to Sideline: 2″

    Congrats, every person in football does this, does he want a cookie?

    4th: “After eight months of watching him nearly break Vincent Smith in half”

    Wow, unblocked going against a 3rd string RB.

    5th: Stomach Virus? Nice one.

    • Method

      Number of Clemson trolls trolling a GAMECOCK article -1

      • Wes

        Haha not even close. Please continue the ad hominem attacks rather than refute my points.

        • Aubrey Chinners

          4.5 sacks enough said. go home

    • Fairways Hate Me

      We will see… again. Its not enough that your team has had an entire class from freshman to junior be beaten, but you want another class to feel the same failure. Talk about a penchant for punishment!

      • Wes

        Do you even know who my team is? I doubt it.

  • Tony

    You’re a freakin CLOWN!! He was out of shape and it was obvious!

    • William Carl Whitman Jr

      I smell jealousy.

  • Michael

    Whatever makes you sugar coat of his sorry ass performance still smells like Clowney!

    • William Carl Whitman Jr

      You have to be a National Champ this season Clemson Fan.

  • William Carl Whitman Jr

    I don’t know of any team that would not like to have Clowney on their team. He’ll be okay. Georgia here he comes!

    • scotty

      We don’t want him. Vic showed how you play Defense. You guys can keep that tired lazy Pre Madonna in Cola.

      • William Carl Whitman Jr

        Jealous eh? He’s going to be so pissed no one will block him! I feel sorry for Murray!

  • Kyle LaCroix

    Good article but you need to proof read before you post. Made quite a few grammatical errors such as “hybrid possession” when I believe you meant to say “hybrid position.”
    Just one student studying journalism looking out for another

  • Tiger

    So he had an average game. So what? As much as plays were designed to avoid Clowney, I am sure there were plays designed to exploit other weak areas or to avoid the best defensive backs. That is just good game strategy. Not a sign that a team fears for their lives due to one player. I am sure USC did the same thing. they would be stupid if they didn’t. Clowney did a good job, but did not really set himself apart as the big, bad wolf he has claimed to be. Maybe next game. No pressure…

  • Rodney C. Crew

    Blah, Blah, Blah…… I didn’t see anyone sucking wind a hard as he was. Not even the QBs from either side. They did more running around then Clowney. You can break it down however you feel like in order to justify a poor performance by Clowney. He’s buying into all this media hype about he is unstoppable, and he actually believes it too. The worst thing that ever happen to him was when he was introduced to Jay-Z.

    • William Carl Whitman Jr

      Just his presence makes Murray tremble! U r gonna get whipped again. He is going to be a monster after all this garbage talk!

  • Rodney C. Crew

    Side Note: “a college football game played in the south with a temperature of 95 degrees at kickoff ” This should be a non-factor. He’s from South Carolina. He’s played in this type of heat probably over a hundred times.

    • iambateman

      This is pretty true. 95 degrees should not force Clowney off the field for 1/3 of plays.

      But if he really had a stomach virus, I think we should all cut him some slack.

    • scotty

      plus everyone else played in the same temp that night. Clowney spent the off season doing nothing and it showed.

  • scotty

    How sad and obsessed are The Game Cocks with this guy? Clowney is not a game changer he did nothing for S.C. last year, they still finished 3rd in the weakest SEC division. Also no way he ran a 4-40. That guy could not run 40 yards. GA will roll right past S.C. with ease.

    • William Carl Whitman Jr

      Keep dreaming. Your about to be whipped four times in a row!