College Sports

USC's runners on the mend

COLUMBIA -- South Carolina's best option at equaling No. 8 Kentucky's offensive fireworks is on the mend.

Tailbacks Cory Boyd and Mike Davis are each nursing injuries as the No. 11 Gamecocks' match with the Wildcats looms tomorrow, although each is expected to play the same reps they've played all season. Boyd sprained his right knee last week and Davis, pressed into extra service against Mississippi State, has a deep bruise on his right thigh.

Neither is serious, and Boyd dodged a bullet when what appeared to be a season-ending injury turned out to be nothing. But with the Gamecocks' passing game coming off a good performance but still feeling its way across the landscape, USC's running game needs to be top-notch.

Boyd says it will be, but nobody will know for sure until 7:46 p.m. tomorrow.

"You got to know your body and I've had a lot of injuries in the past," Boyd said after Monday's practice. "This was something I knew I could get over."

Davis missed practice, letting the bruise heal, but was expected to be on the field the rest of the week. The two tailbacks have been the most consistent part of USC's offense, which seemed to set up well for Kentucky.

If the Wildcats (5-0, 1-0 SEC) have a weakness, it's stopping the run. They rank 11th in the SEC in run defense, allowing 203.2 yards per game, just below USC's total of 201.2.

Boyd (346 yards, four touchdowns) and Davis (333 yards, four TDs) have provided a perfect tandem as the Gamecocks have weathered a quarterback switcheroo and a stagnant downfield passing game. When both were banged up against Mississippi State last week, the short week of practice heading into Kentucky became more ominous.

Boyd hurt his knee on the MSU game's first offensive play, charging into the line and getting his cleat caught in the turf. He tried to spin out of it but was leveled by a defender, which sent him crashing to the ground.

He stayed down, clutching his knee, and limped off the field. Trainers iced his knee and Boyd sat on the bench, fearing his season might be over.

"At the beginning, I really thought it was," he said. "We had some of the players come over and talk to me. They said, 'Just think positively, don't think negatively,' and I thought, 'It couldn't hurt to try.'"

Boyd had his head bowed as players came over and offered some encouraging words, and the swelling went down enough so he could get back in the game. He didn't have his usual speed but posted a big gain on a receiver lateral, after Chris Smelley hit Kenny McKinley on a short toss, Boyd cut past McKinley and took a pitch for a few more yards.

Davis tied a school record with three touchdowns and displayed his hard-nosed approach to the game. But it also became apparent he wasn't going to be an every-down back, as his yards-per-carry began to drop during the third quarter.

"I'm going to come out and play hard just like Cory does," Davis said afterward. "But I know he's going to come back, so I'm not worried about that."

Coach Steve Spurrier said each should be fine and was thankful most of the Gamecocks have avoided serious injury.

"Mike and Cory should both be healthy by Thursday night," Spurrier said. "I think everybody that played last week should be ready to go."

Boyd said he felt no ill effects and was hoping he could play without the bulky brace he sported last week. The tweak cleared up enough that coaches didn't even order Boyd to get his knee scanned.

"A knee sprain, a phantom knee sprain, whatever ... it feels good," said Boyd, who also said he hadn't watched film of the injury and wouldn't in the future. "We got the kinks worked out with the ice and a little treatment."

WANT TO GO?

NO. 8 KENTUCKY (5-0, 1-0 SEC) AT NO. 11 SOUTH CAROLINA (4-1, 2-1)

• When: 7:46 p.m. Thursday

• Where: Williams-Brice Stadium, Columbia

• TV: ESPN (cable channel 25 in Rock Hill)

• Tickets: Sold out

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