Brandon Wilds (Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports)
Scott Hood, GamecockCentral.com
Mike Davis and Brandon Wilds have engaged in a healthy and friendly duel of 'Whatever you do, I can do better' through the first three games.
Statistically, Davis has superior number to Wilds - the sophomore from Lithonia, Ga., has 341 rushing yards and seven receptions compared to 109 rushing yards and six receptions for the Blythewood High product.
However, Wilds is enjoying an increasingly more visible role as the season progresses, capped by Saturday night's 35-25 victory over Vanderbilt at Williams-Brice Stadium in which he caught the first touchdown pass of his career and rushed 10 times for 37 yards.
Modest numbers perhaps, but Wilds performed well enough with and without the ball in his hands that he was singled out for praise by Steve Spurrier in his Sunday teleconference.
Eight of Wilds' carries came in the second half when he ran for 31 yards and turned a short screen pass into a 33-yard touchdown early in the third quarter, USC's final score of the night.
"We're going out every day and competing with each other. That's how we get better," Wilds said afterwards. "He's goes in and gets a long run and I have to go in and do the same thing."
Wilds and Davis combined for 113 rushing yards on 27 carries (4.2 yards per rush), but added a combined eight receptions for 132 yards to the tally.
Wilds was USC's second-leading receiver with five receptions for 65 yards.
"You can't ask for much more than that," USC quarterback Connor Shaw said. "You're just throwing a little one-yard pass and let them do the rest. It's fun to have those guys back there in the backfield with me."
Both players had a reception of more than 30 yards. Davis helped his own cause with a 38-yard catch-and-run during USC's second possession of the game, the biggest play of an 11-play, 93-yard march towards his four-yard TD run with just under five minutes left in the first quarter.
"I wanted another long run. Those are the things I look for and try to get highlight runs to make the crowd go crazy," Davis said. "I really did want a long run bad, and I guess I had a long run receiving instead."
Following his touchdown catch, Wilds patiently waited for his turn to carry the football. The opportunity finally came on USC's final possession of the night when Davis suffered a slightly twisted ankle and had to go to the sidelines for medical treatment.
Wilds entered the game and carried eight times for 30 yards over a 10-play span to move the ball from SC 33 to the VU 34, draining precious minutes off the clock in the process. He was finally stopped on fourth down, but his job was done.
"I was just fighting for it, going in and try to seal the deal and win the game by running the clock out," Wilds said. "I was just thinking three or four yards every time."
Six of his eight carries produced gains of three yards or more. His biggest carry might have come on third-and-2 from the VU 45 when he powered ahead for three yards and a crucial first down, allowing the Gamecocks to take even more time off the clock.
When Vanderbilt got the ball back, it was 65 yards from the end zone and less than a minute remained in the game, not enough time to mount a comeback.
Wilds came into Saturday's contest with 15 carries for 73 yards in the first two games. His total number of rushing attempts increased by 67 percent to 25, while his yardage improved to 109 yards, an average of 4.4 yards per carry.
Davis and Wilds are first and third on USC in all-purpose yardage with 457 and 184 yards, respectively. Together, they've combined for an average of 213.6 all-purpose yards in each of the first three games.