COLUMBIA, S.C. — There was more talk about Jadeveon Clowney on Thursday than action from the South Carolina defensive star.
ESPN basically has had Clowney’s helmet-popping hit of Michigan’s Vincent Smith on an endless loop since January. Clowney even received strong Heisman Trophy hype during the summer vacuum without actual football.
All eyes were on the defensive end, the projected No.1 pick in the next NFL draft, on Thursday, but the junior did not provide any new highlight-reel hits during the 27-10 win against North Carolina.
A 6-foot-6, 274-pound defensive end, he had a relatively quiet night with just two tackles. Clowney did have a few pressure situations on Tar Heels quarterback Bryn Renner, but he did not record a sack.
Clowney was on the pile after a third-quarter sack by defensive tackle Gerald Dixon Jr., but that was as close as he got to Renner.
As expected, Clowney moved around the defensive front – lining up over center on the first snap of the game and at both end positions – but he matched up with All-ACC tackle James Hurst on most snaps.
Clowney’s most notable plays were an offsides on a fourth-down conversion during the second quarter (UNC declined the penalty) and when he took the third series of the game off because he appeared to be fatigued.
Going for it: Tar Heels coach Larry Fedora was willing to gamble on fourth down Thursday. UNC converted its first three fourth-down conversions, which led to the Tar Heels’ first 10 points.
During the second quarter, on fourth-and-2 from the South Carolina 25, Renner hit tight end Jack Tabb for an 11-yard gain. Five plays later, Renner connected with receiver Quinshad Davis for a 4-yard touchdown.
On UNC’s first scoring drive of the third quarter, the Tar Heels converted on fourth-and-1 from the South Carolina 35 and then fourth-and-11 from the 30. Renner hit receiver Mark McNeill for a 13-yard gain on the second conversion. That drive ended with a 20-yard field goal from Thomas Moore.
Missed call: UNC’s Brandon Ellerbe should have been penalized for a late hit during the second quarter on a tackle of punt returner Victor Hampton, head of ACC officials Doug Rhoads said at halftime in the pressbox.
Ellerbe’s tackle, which came after Hampton was down and was to the back of Hampton’s neck, did not fall under the umbrella of the NCAA’s new “targeting” or defenseless player rules, Rhoads said. Ellerbe was not penalized for the hit.
Hampton was shaken up on the play and took several minutes to get up after the hit, but he started the second half at his cornerback spot.
Thorpe’s return: Receiver T.J. Thorpe missed all of the 2012 season and spring practice with a broken foot. He returned to action Thursday and was Gio Bernard’s replacement at punt returner.
The redshirt sophomore from Durham led the ACC in kickoff returns as a freshman in 2011 but did not return a kickoff Thursday.
He returned two punts for 20 yards Thursday and fumbled one return during the second quarter. Thorpe’s fumble, near midfield, didn’t lead to points because ofUNC’s defense.
Thorpe did have four catches for 9 yards.