Senior running back Justin Davis went to the sophomore running back duo that were taking over for him while he sat with a high ankle sprain. Davis repeated something he had told Ronald Jones II earlier in the year.
“When he was kind of struggling, he was kind of getting down on himself, but I kept trying to make him remember that he's very talented and that's always going to stay the same,” Davis remembered telling Jones. “The thing about young guys is that sometimes they start thinking too much. If maybe a play doesn't go their way, they start doubting whether they have the ability to actually be good.”
“You've just got to trust your ability and it's going to work because you really can't think about stuff when it comes to the game. You think at practice not in the game. That's when you let your instincts take over. Your instincts is what got you here. That's why you're such a good back and if you just trust your ability, it's going to be alright.”
The message worked.
Ware rushed for his first career 100-yard game against Arizona. Jones and Ware both ran for a career-high in yardage against California as USC rushed for 398 yards. Ware suffered his own ankle in jury in practice leading up to the Oregon game, leaving Jones as a solo feature back (with an occasional Dominic Davis complement) rather than the tandem’s USC had used throughout the first eight games. Jones ripped off 171 yards on 20 carries and tied a Trojan record with four rushing touchdowns.
“When you're not dressed up ready to play, you really see how good of a back he is because I take it for granted cause I'm at practice, 'Oh that's just Ronald. He does it all the time.' Really, sitting back and looking at it from a spectator view, it's crazy. I love to watch him. It's...it's...Dang, it’s special.”
During the games he missed, Davis was on the sideline coaching up his Texas tandem. Like running backs coach Tommie Robinson, Davis is a tough love coach that is hard to please. Jones and Ware said Davis would be mad when they missed opportunities for extra yards.
“Justin’s advice is just run hard,” Ware said. “[Ronald and I] both got to be at like 500 yards. That’s Justin’s advice. He pushes us like a big brother should.”
Big brothers show tough love. They are protective. But they normally also take what they want from a little brother.
Davis doesn’t plan to do that. Even though the starting role and the bulk of the carries should be his when he returns from injury, Davis doesn’t want to stop the momentum by stealing carries from Jones.
“I kind of just told Coach [Clay Helton] that I know I'm coming back off injury and Ronald has had two fantastic games and I don't want to stop his flow just to get me in when I'm not up to par yet…just to get me in there to try to get as much carries.
“I’m just totally playing it how for whatever the team needs at this moment. I know that Ronald has been doing great. We're just going to ride him until I get better.”
Helton said he is hoping Davis can provide 10-15 touches to help lighten the load on Jones.
Watch Justin Davis, above, talk about his rehab and trying to get back into action as well as the performances of Ronald Jones II and Aca'Cedric Ware filling in for him while he was injured with a sprained ankle.
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