Having gotten his man, Dooley called a press conference, at which he said with a straight face: "I really don't see Herschel giving us a whole lot of help next year. Realistically, I think he's going to have a slow adjustment period from Class A football [which is made up of Georgia's smallest high schools]. I think everybody, and that includes the coaches, fans and Herschel himself, will have to wait and be patient."
Walker waited no longer than the second quarter of the season opener against Tennessee. With 95,288 fans at Knoxville screaming in dismay, he let loose with a tackle-breaking, omen-of-things-to-come kind of run that will be part of Georgia highlight films for years. Starting right and then cutting back against the grain, Walker was touched by six different Vol defenders. He left Defensive End Mike Casteel lying on the carpet and belted Safety Bill Bates right back on his fanny en route to a 16-yard touchdown that gave Georgia's offense its first points of the year. He also got the gamer—a nine-yard scamper that won it for Georgia 16-15. The Bulldogs have been unbeatable ever since.
Though Kentucky's defense had been geared specifically to stop Walker, the Wildcats offered no great resistance to him—other than "bleeding slowly," as Dooley put it in the dressing room afterward. Walker's longest run was only 18 yards, but Kentucky's preoccupation with stopping him left it vulnerable to another of the Bulldogs' favorite big plays—a pass from Quarterback Buck Belue to Flanker Amp Arnold. This particular one, thrown early in the fourth quarter, was good for 91 yards and a TD. The PAT made the score 27-0, where—unlike many of the spectators—it remained until the end of the game.
Walker's touchdown came on a routine two-yard vault over the goal line in the first period. But despite rushing for 131 yards, he said afterward that he still had a lot to learn about running. Modest words indeed for a young man whose Georgia bio file is already thicker than Fran Tarkenton's and whose whereabouts during the week are largely determined by a long, typed schedule of press interviews that he carries around in the pocket of his old Johnson County track sweat shirt.
At least Dooley is no longer being coy. How could he be? He gave the ball to Walker 31 times against Kentucky, and he knows he's going to have to keep feeding it to him if Georgia is going to make it to the Sugar Bowl.
"By now everybody has their favorite Herschel run," says Dooley. "The 76-yarder against Texas A&M, the 60-yarder against Vandy and so on. Except I'm still stunned by the first few he made against Tennessee before his touchdowns. We put him in and he didn't know where he was supposed to go. Or when to make his move. He was just taking off running—as if for the sheer joy of it. He got only two yards on his first carry, but the speed, the power, the competitiveness...they were obvious."
Dooley's intonation and that far-off, wistful look in his eye made it seem as if he was talking about some magnificent animal, perhaps a new foal frolicking in a pasture. Could be, because Dooley may have the best hoss in the land.