Davis hopes to be back to his old self for bowl game

jkendall@thestate.comDecember 20, 2013 

For 12 games, Mike Davis’ personality has been a constant.

This week, he interrupted an interview with fellow running back Shon Carson, draping an arm around Carson.

“Want to get some food tonight?” he asked.

“Where we eating?”

“Salty Nut. Fifty cent wings.”

It was a typical interaction with Davis, who is usually affable and outgoing if, at times, coy. South Carolina’s sophomore running back can only wish his play on the field was as consistent this year.

For much of the season, Davis led the SEC in rushing. On Nov. 2, he became the eighth player in South Carolina history to gain more than 1,000 yards in a season, and he was beginning to be mentioned as a Heisman Trophy candidate in 2014. However, since that day he gained 128 yards against Mississippi State to pass the 1,000-yard mark, he has carried the ball 28 times for 76 yards, an average of 2.7 yards per carry.

“I wasn’t healthy at all,” said Davis, who sat out the Nov. 23 game against Coastal Carolina. “My ankle was killing me, and I had shoulder and rib problems. I wouldn’t say I was wearing down. It’s just that more and more people were keying on me. Hopefully, I will be good by the time we go to Orlando.”

The No. 8 Gamecocks take on No. 19 Wisconsin on Jan. 1 in the Capital One Bowl, and Davis is hoping to use that game to remind people he’s the same player who has seven 100-yard rushing games this season.

“I do feel I need to have a great game,” he said. “Every game I always prepare like I am going to have a good game.”

Davis is practicing with his teammates this week, but his health remains a question mark. He declined to say how close he is to 100 percent, prompting Carson to tell him, “Stay in that training room.”

Davis’ coach and teammates aren’t concerned by his late-season dip in production.

“He had nowhere to go (against Clemson),” coach Steve Spurrier said. “We didn’t block very well. We were whiffing up front.”

Davis rushed for 22 yards on 15 carries against the Tigers to go along with 54 yards on 13 carries against Florida.

“He was battling through a lot, and that’s a testament to him and how tough he is,” quarterback Connor Shaw said. “I think he’s getting better. He’s a little bit more fresh now, and he’ll be ready to go.”

Davis’ 1,134 yards on the ground give him the fourth-best rushing season in school history with one game to go. He needs 64 yards against the Badgers, who have the nation’s sixth-best rushing defense, to pass Marcus Lattimore and move into third on the list.

Earlier this season, he received a letter from the Heisman Trust acknowledging his season and saying he would be on their radar entering 2014. He’s unsure if his past three games have knocked him off that radar, he said.

“I can’t tell you where I should be,” he said. “That’s all up to politics.”

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