On game days, in the heat of the action, South Carolina offensive lineman Ronald Patrick has little time to spend watching Mike Davis run.
It’s when the offense watches game film that he sees it.
“He wants to be the hammer and not the nail,” Patrick said. “He tries to bring it to them.”
“Of course,” said Davis, the Gamecocks’ 5-foot-9, 215-pound sophomore running back. “I don’t want to be the guy that gets hit first. I want to be the guy who comes in and hits the guy in the mouth before they hit me.”
That punishing style, plus a healthy dose of top-end speed, has made Davis the SEC’s leading rusher headed into Saturday’s game between No. 20 South Carolina and No. 5 Missouri. Davis is averaging 125.6 yards per game, putting him on pace for 1,633 yards for the season.
That would be the third-best, single-season total in school history and the best by anyone other than Heisman Trophy winner George Rogers. Davis’ 10 touchdowns put him on pace for 18 this season, which would break Marcus Lattimore’s school record of 17.
“I can’t lie and tell you I don’t look at the stats after the game, but, overall, I don’t look to see where I could be,” Davis said.
For now, being the leading rusher in a conference that was headlined at the beginning of the season by Georgia’s Todd Gurley and LSU’s Jeremy Hill is enough to satisfy Davis’ competitive juices.
“I take a lot of pride in it,” he said. “Now that I am, I look forward to keeping it up.”
With 121 more yards this season, Davis will become the eighth player in South Carolina history with a 1,000-yard rushing season. He is 10th in the nation in rushing yards per game, and his four runs of 40 or more yards this season are the second-highest total in the nation and more than 77 teams have totaled.
Even more than those numbers, it is Davis’ style that has won over his offensive linemen.
“They fuel off that,” offensive line coach Shawn Elliott said. “They really enjoy blocking for a big guy like that who can really pound it up in there and make positive yards. He follows blocks real well. I think he understands the concept and scheme of things, and that says a lot about him. He pays attention to what we are doing up front.”
Davis could be South Carolina’s best weapon against Missouri, which features a potent offense that will be a tough matchup for South Carolina. The Tigers are no slouch in run defense, though, allowing 116.6 yards per game, the third-lowest total in the SEC.
“Well, we have to run, we have to throw and have to mix it up,” coach Steve Spurrier said. “We’ve got to mix it up, stay on the field, all that kind of stuff. Anytime we win, we generally run pretty well.”
BEST IN THE SEC
USC’s Mike Davis leads rushers in the SEC.
|MIKE DAVIS, USC||132||879||6.7||10||75||125.6|
|Jeremy Hill, LSU||114||779||6.8||10||69||111.3|
|Alex Collins, Arkansas||141||797||5.7||4||55||99.6|
|Rajion Neal, Tennessee||132||693||5.2||8||53||99.0|
|Tre Mason, Auburn||119||693||5.8||8||53||99.0|