Before the first quarter was over, Walker had reached the 100-yard mark for the sixth time this season. Before the day was over, he had broken Willie McClendon's 1978 school record of 1,312 yards in a season. And if Walker can average 127 yards in his last two games he will also break Tony Dorsett's NCAA freshman record of 1,586.
But Walker isn't a one-man offense, nor the only reason why the Bulldogs, a disappointing 6-5 team in 1979, are suddenly leading the nation. Georgia is, for the most part, a veteran team. Twelve of last Saturday's starters are seniors, seven of them on defense. And Belue, a junior, is a much more effective quarterback now that he is out from under the shadow of graduated Jeff Pyburn, with whom he split time last year. There could be no doubt about that after Georgia's second scoring drive, an 11-play, 77-yard march that made the score 14-3 early in the second quarter. The big play in the drive was a 24-yard completion to Scott, and the touchdown came on a 13-yard pass from Belue to Fullback Ronnie Stewart. The Gators' only score at that point was the result of a knuckleballing 40-yard field goal by Florida's Brian Clark.
The Gators had come to Jacksonville with a 6-1 record, in sharp contrast to last year's 0-10-1 team. That was Charley Pell's first year as Florida's coach. Now he is performing the same sort of magic he did at Clemson, where in two years he turned a 3-6-2 team into a 10-1 squad ranked sixth in the nation.
Pell has had two excellent recruiting years with Florida, which was evident from his starting lineup Saturday. It included 12 sophomores and a freshman. The freshman is the quarterback. Peace. Pell also recruited a new offensive coordinator, 28-year-old Mike Shanahan, who has installed a wide-open offense that he calls "run and shoot." Most of the time Saturday the Gators lined up with four wide receivers and just one running back, and Peace ended up completing 20 of 37 passes for 286 yards and one touchdown.
That score came midway through the second quarter and narrowed Georgia's lead to 14-10. Florida had gotten the ball at the Georgia 46-yard line on an almost unheard-of occurrence, a Walker fumble. It was the first fumble Walker had lost all season, and the Gators made quick work of converting it into a touchdown. It took just five plays. The drive opened with a 12-yard reverse to Senior Flanker Cris Collinsworth and ended with back-to-back passes to Collinsworth, a 13-yarder to the left sideline and a nine-yard lob to the right corner of the end zone.
Walker went back to work tearing through Florida at the beginning of the third quarter. On Georgia's first two possessions the Bulldogs marched inside the Gator 10, but they could not put the game away with touchdowns and had to settle for chip-shot field goals by Rex Robinson. Those drives covered 51 and 44 yards, and Walker's running accounted for 43 and 29, respectively.
But then, with the score 20-10, the Georgia offense suddenly froze, and Peace started making things happen in the run and shoot. On a five-play drive from the end of the third quarter into the fourth, the Gators moved 81 yards to their second touchdown of the day. The big play was a 54-yard pass and run from Peace to sophomore Flanker Tyrone Young. On that play Young broke three tackles. On the next play Fullback James Jones broke another while bursting 11 yards up the middle for the touchdown. Peace then threw to Young for a two-point conversion to make the score 20-18.
Young was a quarterback last year, starting two games for Florida, and he also started for the Gators' basketball team. He was suspended for four games earlier this year for a curfew violation. On Saturday he made his first pass reception ever as a collegian, and he finished with 10 of them for a whopping 183 yards.
Young caught a 19-yarder for the big gain on Florida's next possession, but this time, after marching 52 yards, the Gator drive stalled at Georgia's 24. On came Clark for his second 40-yard field goal of the day. This one was a nice end-over-end affair and gave Florida its first lead, 21-20, with 6:52 to play. There it looked as if the score would stay, the Florida defense holding fast until Scott got himself out of the Dawg-house with his last-gasp heroics.
In the locker room afterward, Scott, not unexpectedly, called his touchdown the biggest play of his career and expressed the hope that it would help redeem him in his coach's eyes. "I have no more room to make any mistakes," he said. "I've really had to walk the chalk line."