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August 30, 2013
Sophomore running back Mike Davis grew up in Lithonia, Ga., about an hour's drive from the University of Georgia campus in Athens.
Connor Shaw was considered one of the top quarterbacks in the Peach State when he was a senior at Flowery Branch (Ga.) High School in 2009.
Eight days from today, South Carolina's starting backfield duo will get the opportunity to knock off their home state university for the first time at a place they've seen on TV dozens of times - Sanford Stadium.
It will be more than a game. It's personal.
According to Davis, some Bulldog players have already begun talking smack about the Sept. 7 game even though Georgia must play a heavily hyped opener at Clemson on Saturday night.
"I'm showing all my emotions in that game. It's a hometown game," Davis said. "I can't wait. I've already had guys calling me and telling me they're going to beat us or whatever."
Twenty-eight players on USC's roster hail from the state of Georgia, including five defensive starters based on the projected pre-game depth chart for the key Week 2 clash - Chaz Sutton, Marcquis Roberts, Sharrod Golightly, T.J. Gurley and Brison Williams.
USC trounced Georgia, 35-7, in the last meeting in October, sprinting out to a 21-0 lead at the end of the first quarter. The Bulldogs averted the shutout by scoring a touchdown with 1:55 left in the game, something that didn't sit well with Gamecock players.
"We have a lot of guys from Georgia, so we know the importance of this game," Shaw said. "We were fortunate in the past two years to beat them. We just didn't finish down the stretch. Our guys are looking forward to going to Athens and having another shot at them."
Davis has three carries for four yards in last year's win over Georgia as Marcus Lattimore had 109 yards. This year, though, Davis is the presumptive starter and should get plenty of opportunities when the nationally televised game kicks off at 4:30 p.m.
Shaw, who will make his first and presumably only start at Sanford Stadium, said the large group of Georgia natives will strive to follow in the footsteps of the North Carolina natives that helped boost the Gamecocks past the Tar Heels on Thursday night.
"We had a lot of guys from North Carolina that were really amped up for this game," Shaw said. "There is no difference next week."
Punishing The Heels: USC ran just 24 plays in the second half as UNC controlled the ball for almost 18 minutes, including 10 minutes in the third quarter. But USC outscored the Tar Heels in the frame because Davis ran 75 yards for a touchdown on USC's first snap of the second half, the longest run from scrimmage by a Gamecock since Bobby Wallace raced 88 yards for a touchdown against Middle Tennessee State in 2006.
Overall, USC threw just three passes in the second half compared to 21 runs for 138 yards, an average of 6.6 yards per carry. Davis and Brandon Wilds combined for 179 yards on 24 carries. Wilds had 64 yards in his first action since the Capital One Bowl 20 months ago.
"B-Wilds is a very big guy (listed at 6-foot-2, 223 pounds) and very hard runner," Davis said. "He has breakaway speed, too."
USC rushed for more than 200 yards for the fourth time since the beginning of last season. They won the last three of those games (Kentucky, Georgia, North Carolina) by an average of 22 points.
In Spurrier's nine seasons as coach, USC is 35-4 when it tallies 150 or more yards rushing.
"We knew coming in from watching film that we had a size advantage over them and we were going to run the ball a lot," Shaw said. "We struggled here and there on the five-man protection, they schemed us up pretty good on that, but other than that our offensive line played pretty well."
The lone negative on the night came with 3:32 left in the contest when Wilds was stopped for no gain on a fourth-and-1 from the UNC 45.
"We had a good little running game going," Spurrier said. "(Davis and Wilds) ran very well. Brandon was running very well. Then right there at the end we couldn't make that fourth-and-1. He sort of got stood up and he couldn't make it. But he had some very good runs."
* USC has Friday off before watching film and practicing Saturday afternoon.
* UNC snapped the ball six times inside USC's three-yard line in the second half and failed to score a touchdown, settling for a field goal and being stopped on downs. "Our red zone defense kept them out a couple of times and from scoring touchdowns," Spurrier said.
* Spurrier on UNC running 79 plays to 59 for USC: "Winning is the name of the game. The team that has the most plays doesn't always win. The team with the most points wins. That's where we're sort of at as far as what we do around here to win games," Spurrier said.
* Spurrier said the two timeouts - one by each team in the final 20 seconds by the game - was rooted in USC's desire to throw a pass to freshman wide receiver Pharoh Cooper. But Cooper ran the wrong route and Shaw overthrew him. "He was supposed to run a corner, but didn't get the signal and then Connor overthrows him," Spurrier said. "We were just trying to get him a catch, but we couldn't do it."
* USC is now 80-36-4 in 120 season openers. The last loss in a season opening game came in 1999.
* Spurrier improved to 5-0 in his career against UNC, 2-0 at USC and 3-0 at Duke.
* The 17 points scored by USC in the first quarter represented the most by the Gamecocks in the opening 15 minutes of the first game since USC tallied 23 against UCF in 1996.
* Gerald Dixon Jr. recorded his first career sack.
* T.J. Gurley came close to doubling his previous career high with nine tackles on Thursday night. He had five tackles against East Carolina last season.
* Seven different receivers caught a pass in Thursday's game. Walk-on Kane Whitehurst made his single reception count as he hauled in a 29-yard TD pass from Dylan Thompson.
* Spurrier said freshman placekicker Elliot Fry "answered the bell" by connecting on two field goals, one from 39 yards, and making all three extra points. "He's a confident young man," Spurrier said. "He had a chance to go to a smaller school on scholarship (Louisiana Tech), but he wanted to go somewhere in the SEC and Coach (Joe) Robinson found him and offered him the chance to come walk-on. He snapped it up and I think he likes it here."
* USC improved to 32-7 in non-conference games under Spurrier. The last loss in a regular season non-conference game came in 2008 at Clemson.
* Connor Shaw had 149 passing yards and one touchdown on Thursday night, giving him 3,776 yards and 33 touchdowns through the air in his career. He needs 224 yards to eclipse the 4,000 career passing mark.
* Bruce Ellington, still recovering from a hamstring issue, played limited snaps and caught one pass for 17 yards.
More Rush's game coverage: Click here for more Rush's game coverage
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