Running game flashes potential

The South Carolina Gamecocks came into Saturday night's contest with the Florida Atlantic Owls still trying to establish themselves as a more dominant running team than they have been in recent years. The performance on the ground in USC's 38-16 win offered a glimmer of hope and proved to be a step in the right direction.

When the final whistle was blown, the Gamecock rushing attack had racked up 4 touchdowns and 287 yards rushing on 35 carries, with a gaudy 8.2 yards per carry average. The Gamecocks entered Saturday night's contest feeling that they could run the ball on the Owls, and they were right.

After the game, Coach Steve Spurrier seemed happy with the production from the running game. He said, "We felt like we wanted to give the running game a good opportunity, and we did most of the night."

As far as where the Gamecocks' rushing performance ranks since he's been the head coach at South Carolina, he said, "Offensively, that's the most rushing yards since I've been here."

The new and increased emphasis on the running game wasn't something that the Gamecocks pointed to just recently as they headed into this game with the Owls. No, the Gamecock football team, players and coaches have made a concerted effort since the end of last season to take the running game to a different level.

All year long, Gamecock Nation has waited anxiously to see what Jarvis Giles, the Gamecocks' true freshman phenom at running back, could do. Well, Giles didn't disappoint in his first home game ever as a Gamecock. Giles promptly rumbled for 113 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries, averaging 10.3 yards per carry.

Giles was glad to finally break some big runs, but it was his first touchdown as a Gamecock that really fired him up. "That was a whole ‘nother experience right there," he said emphatically. "I went crazy out there, right in front of the student section. Everyone acting crazy, screaming, I started having me a good time and started screaming. I threw the ball up, I just got lost in the moment. It felt good. I hope I can touch that end zone a lot more this season."

Gamecock fans hope to see him touch it a lot more too.

However, amidst all of his excitement Giles was quick to remember and compliment the offensive line for their performance as well. Giles said, "Wow. Them boys came out there and did their job. Every day in practice, they say, ‘We've got you Giles, we've got you B-Madd, we've got you to all the backs.' They were just flying around, making blocks, cutting, pancakes; I mean the offensive line was balling tonight. Those boys looked real good."

Another running back who was impressive in his debut as a Gamecock was redshirt freshman Kenny Miles. Miles logged the first carries of his career against the Owls. He tallied 56 yards on 5 carries, averaging 11.2 yards per carry, before suffering a shoulder contusion that caused him to miss the rest of the game. On those carries, Miles showed a combination of speed and power that will be of great benefit to the Gamecocks as the season goes on.

While not many had been able to see what Miles could do on the field until Saturday night, it has been said by some that Miles could be the best all around back on the team. He possesses a combination of speed, power, vision, and outstanding footwork that makes him an extremely versatile and dangerous weapon in the Gamecock backfield.

Lost in the excitement of the performance by Giles and Miles was the steady workmanlike effort of Brian Maddox. Although not recording the amount of yardage Giles did, Maddox scored 3 touchdowns (2 rushing and 1 receiving) on the night to lead all Gamecocks. Maddox had been leaned on heavily in the NC State and Georgia games as the featured back while the younger and more inexperienced backs found their legs. When the young backs got their opportunity against the Owls, he just continued doing what is most important - putting the ball in the end zone.

Maddox said, "All I try to do is play hard and do my best each time I play. That's what I do."

In light of all the good news that surfaced for the Gamecock rushing attack on Saturday night, the only bad news that can be found is that the Gamecocks may have a hard time finding enough playing time for each member of their deep and talented backfield.

That type of problem is certainly not something the Gamecocks have been blessed to have in recent years. In fact, one has to think that the Gamecocks are overdue to step up big in the running game.

Saturday night was a start, and you can bet the Gamecocks will look to keep the momentum going against a top five Ole Miss team on Thursday night.

The groundwork has been laid. Now all the Gamecocks need to do is execute.

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