Wilds steps up in first career start

Outsiders probably didn't expect much from freshman running back Brandon Wilds this week. Especially when they realized the back charged with trying to replace the replaceable, Heisman candidate Marcus Lattimore, started the season as the fifth-string running back. But Wilds was confident from the beginning.

Brandon Wilds said he fully expected a big performance in his first career start as a Gamecock, and that's exactly what he had.

The true freshman racked up 168 yards of offense en route to a 14-3 victory over the Tennessee Volunteers in Knoxville, as Carolina improved to 7-1 (5-1) on the year.

"I expected to go over 100 [yards]. Not being cocky, but I just work hard," Wilds said."

Wilds carried the ball 28 times for 137 yards. He was also the featured back of a running game that carried the offensive unit at times when they were otherwise quite stagnant.

Carolina passed for just 87 yards in the win; its star receiver Alshon Jeffery had just three catches for 17 yards - all screen passes. Wilds actually was the Gamecocks' leading receiver with three catches for 31 yards.

In the first quarter, he had 36 total yards. The rest of the team had -9. And as the game wore on, he only looked stronger, rushing for 93 yards in the second half.

"I mentioned coming in he's a good back. He can make yards," coach Steve Spurrier said. "He runs forward. He's got a good body lean. He can break some tackles."

What No. 22's performance does for the Gamecock nation is ease the pain of the absence of No. 21. USC has leaned on its running game to win ball games since Lattimore arrived in 2010, and Wilds' outing indicates that it's not going anywhere.

"He runs hard. He's not going to let just one tackler take him down. He's going to make them all," offensive tackle Cody Gibson said.

Although Lattimore wasn't in uniform, Wilds says he was there all week and throughout the game to help his teammate adapt to his new role. Afterwards, he talked about some of the advice that Lattimore gave him.

"How the game goes. Just hold the ball. Keep driving, just try and get four yards."

It became clear that Wilds was the man for the job when he led USC on a touchdown march in the third quarter that began at their own 2-yard line. On that drive, which took 20 plays and chewed up nearly 12 minutes of clock, Wilds ran it 11 times for 51 yards. The first three plays of the drive were all handoffs to Wilds as he took the offense from their own two out to the twenty.

"They came out and did what they wanted to in the third quarter and we couldn't stop them," Tennessee defensive tackle Maurice Couch said."

"They kind of wore down in the second half," Wilds said.

Wilds and the offensive line bulled their way downfield on that drive and throughout the second half in increments typically between two and six yards. As the opposing defense grew tired, the rushing attack seemingly grew stronger. Sounds familiar, doesn't it?

"There are similarities," Connor Shaw said. "Marcus is a great running back and Brandon proved tonight that he is a great running back."

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