Quietly, he left Faurot Field, holding an unmarked pepperoni pizza box and chrome Dre Beats as he faced a cheering South Carolina throng.
Turning around, Jadeveon Clowney posed for a photo with a man wearing a “Clowney” jersey. Then, he strutted over to the crowd behind a metal divide, high-fiving fans who yelled his name. His dreadlocks bounced..
Clowney laughed as he pushed his way through the crowd to the waiting South Carolina team bus. Known for his big hits, the 6-foot-6, 274-pound defensive end didn’t force his way out. He moved slowly, letting the fans pool around him.
The entire evening, Clowney mildly bothered the Missouri offensive line. He leapt to break up passes, made 5 tackles and put consistent pressure on redshirt freshman quarterback Maty Mauk. He did not sack Mauk once.
Inside the Missouri press conference, comments about Clowney were brief. The reaction from players made it seem like Clowney was never really there at all.
Coach Gary Pinkel spoke five minutes less than normal, offering dull answers to questions. When Clowney was mentioned, he mustered little response.
“He’s a great player player,” Pinkel said.
Senior offensive lineman Justin Britt was assigned the Clowney task. According to the roster, Britt and Clowney are the same height. Britt holds the size advantage, weighing 41 pounds more.
The entire evening the he pushed and shoved back the large Gamecock force on the right side of the line. At times, the two even blamed each other for penalties, pointing and trying to call attention to the other’s mistake.
Britt, though, offered little more about Clowney, casting a downward gaze and talking softly.
“I think I did fine (against him),” Britt said. “He was just another player getting to my quarterback.”
Reporters jammed microphones and recorders at Mauk, who spoke barely above a whisper, averting eye contact with anyone.
“I mean, it was just the same feeling every other week,” Mauk said.
Clowney crashed into Saturday’s game at Faurot Field. In the Outback Bowl earlier this year, he delivered a crushing blow on Michigan running back Vincent Smith that made highlight reels and soared in views on YouTube.
A week prior, Clowney felled Tennessee running back Rajion Neal in his typical, big-hit fashion. He is considered one of the best defensive players in the nation.
On Saturday, Clowney and his natural force didn’t register any seismic blasts against Missouri. Yes, he disrupted the lines. Yes, he hurried the quarterback. But nothing he did stood out spectacularly.
Missouri might not ever remember the junior from Rock Hill, S.C, considered. The force of nature, it seemed, left quietly, clutching a pepperoni pizza box to remember the game.