ATHENS, Ga. — When the conversation turned to running backs this week leading up to the South Carolina-Georgia game, the focus was always on the Bulldog tandem of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall.
Gurley plowed his way through the Clemson defense for 152 yards and two touchdowns a week earlier.
Hardly mentioned in the pregame conversations was South Carolina running back Mike Davis, who rushed for 115 yards against North Carolina in the Gamecocks’ season opener.
“I know Gurley got all the accolades before this game,” South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said.
“Mike Davis had half the carries that Gurley did tonight and more yards. Maybe it’s time to talk about Mike Davis a bit. He’s a heck of a back.”
Davis rushed for a career-high 149 yards on 16 carries and caught four passes for 49 yards in the Gamecocks’ 41-30 loss Saturday.
“People talked more about Gurley and Marshall than me,” Davis said “Me and Brandon (Wilds) wanted to come out and make a statement.”
For the second straight game, Davis turned in a 75-yard run, this one coming up five yards short of a touchdown. Davis had a 75-yard TD run against the Tar Heels.
Davis is the first player in USC history to have two runs of 75 yards.
In two games, Davis has rushed for 264 yards on just 28 rushing attempts and is averaging more than 9.4 yards a carry.
Davis, however, came up a yard short on a fourth-and-goal play from the one-yard line.
Shaw comes home
South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw grew up in Flowery Branch, Ga., less than an hour’s drive from Sanford Stadium.
But Shaw was never a Bulldogs fan. He grew up following Florida and head coach Steve Spurrier.
This was Shaw’s first start in Sanford Stadium, and he made the most of his appearance. The senior completed 16 of 25 passes for 228 yards and two TDs. He also rushed for 75 yards on 16 attempts.
“Connor Shaw played his heart out, he had an excellent game,” Spurrier said. “He was gutsy and tough.
“Sometimes you wish he’d throw it away, but he made some good runs. He’s really a good passer, he throws a beautiful ball.”
Shaw, however, had a crucial fumble in the third quarter, the only turnover of the game. After picking up a first down on a nine-yard gain at the Bulldogs 25, Shaw was hit from behind and fumbled.
“I thought I was down,” Shaw said. “I thought my knee was down, but there’s no excuse for that. I tried to make a guy miss and they punched it out from behind. That’s going to stick with me for a little bit.”
Jones’ career night
USC wide receiver Nick Jones had his best performance in a Gamecocks’ uniform, catching a career-high six passes for 97 yards and two TDs.
“I was trying to get open and do what was best for the team,” Jones said. “I didn’t do anything special out there, I just caught the ball when it came my way.”
Jones came into the game with just one career TD and 24 receptions.
“Nick really stepped up and had a huge game,” Shaw said. “I was proud of the way our offense bounced back series after series tonight.”
After getting taken out of the game for lining up wrong in the second quarter, sophomore wide receiver Shaq Roland had three catches for 48 yards during a single drive in the fourth quarter.
USC starting cornerback Victor Hampton was suspended for the first half against Georgia for a violation of team rules.
Hampton was on the field for the first defensive series in the second half. He finished with three tackles.
Spurrier would not comment on the specifics of Hampton’s violations.
“The thing to do now is to suspend a player for a half,” Spurrier said in reference to Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, who was suspended by the NCAA for a half in the Aggies’ season opener last week against Rice.
Center of attention
Starting center Cody Waldrop did not play against the Bulldogs. Waldrop was replaced by freshman Clayton Stadnik.
“I thought Stadnik played well in there,” Spurrier said. “He had that one high snap that hurt us, but we hit a pass down the sideline and that didn’t hurt us. He played well. He’s a tough kid, give him a little credit for hanging in there.”
The South Carolina special teams were anything but special against the Bulldogs.
Gamecock kicker Landon Ard booted the ball out of bounds on USC’s first kickoff.
Georgia place kicker Collin Barber recovered an onside kick after the Bulldogs’ first TD of the game.
USC place kicker Elliott Fry missed an extra point after a bad snap that would have closed the gap to a field goal — 34-31 — early in the fourth quarter.
Twice Shon Carson fielded kickoffs that appeared to be headed out of bounds.
“Yeah, we got to do better,” Spurrier said.
Stratford High School quarterback Jacob Park was at Sanford Stadium on an unofficial visit Saturday afternoon.
Park, a four-star rated quarterback by Rivals.com, verbally committed to the Bulldogs during the summer. Park has thrown for more than 650 yards and six TDs in his first two games of the season.
“The atmosphere was awesome,” Park said.
Defensive back Jimmy Legree, a former Beaufort High School standout, injured his knee and played sparingly in the fourth quarter.
Defensive end Jadeveon Clowney was limping around in the second half. Clowney said the ankle that has bothered him since last season is still sore.