One thing did seem apparent, however. Florida's usually aggressive defense—"Sometimes I think they hit a little late," Dooley said before the game—played pussycat in front of Herschel's bulldog. "I feel worse about the loss this year because he [Walker] didn't even have to pay for it," said Gator Cornerback Ivory Curry. "Last year we punished him. But this year we made it simple for him."
Which is something Georgia's defense didn't do for Florida. Early in the first quarter the 'Dawgs' superb secondary blanketed the Gator receivers as Peace retreated back, back, back under heavy pressure from Defensive Guard Kevin Jackson and Defensive End Stan Dooley, until he fumbled and Dooley recovered at the Florida 37. From there it was Walker for seven and then Walker for 30 and a TD on a superb run, during which he juked Free Safety Tony Lilly, perhaps Florida's surest tackier, off his feet and carried Strong Safety Randy Clark on his back the final five yards.
Peace then moved the Gators to the Georgia 17 before the Bulldog secondary reasserted itself. On second down, Terry Hoage's safety blitz forced Peace to hurry a pass. Incomplete. On third down Peace lofted a pass that Wide Receiver Tyrone Young was supposed to run under, but instead it was Georgia Free Safety Jeff Sanchez who was at ground zero. Interception—the first of two for Sanchez as the Bulldogs increased their NCAA-leading total to 31.
The next time Florida got the ball, Georgia's defense applied the crusher by stopping the Gators on a fourth-and-one at the 'Dawgs' goal line. Though Florida's James Jones had been having success to that point—he had gained 37 yards on 10 carries—Lorenzo Hampton got the call on both third and fourth downs and came up short.
No one was about to stop Walker on the 80-yard drive that followed Sanchez' interception. He gained 50 yards on 10 carries, and did it every which way. He used his sprinter's speed to simply outrun defenders around the corner to gain 13 yards on a pitchout. He used his balance to pick up four yards after stumbling and almost falling behind the line of scrimmage. He used his quick reactions to cut back off a block and gain five yards. He used his strength to batter the middle of the stacked Florida line for two yards near the goal line. And he used his booster rockets to launch himself up and over the line on his one-yard plunge.
"What I noticed right away was how much better Herschel is reading blocks and holes," said Georgia's 1980 and '81 starting Quarterback Buck Belue, a TV color commentator at the game. "The other areas, his strength and speed, were sort of hard to improve on, though I think he's even better there, too."
What's more, Walker has the dependability that great backs have to have. For example, the Bulldogs, leading 14-0, started a second-quarter series from their own 12 after Sanchez' second interception, and Walker ran them right out of trouble with a 24-yard gain. Third-and-nine from their own 36? Walker got the needed nine on a draw. Eventually, Kevin Butler kicked a 32-yard field goal that put Georgia up 17-0 at halftime.
"Walker did exactly what we expected, and we still couldn't stop him," said the Gators' Lilly. "There are a lot of great backs, but he's got something on every one of them."
If you're scoring, Walker is now the NCAA's alltime three-year leader in rushing (with 4,920 yards, 66 ahead of USC's Charles White) and carries (with 936, 18 better than Cornell's Ed Marinaro), and Saturday he moved past Marinaro into fifth on the alltime career rushing list.
But chew on this for a moment: Walker may never win the Heisman Trophy. He should have won it two years ago, but the voters invoked the unspoken Freshman Rule and gave it to George Rogers. He gained 1,891 yards last season, third best in college history, but Marcus Allen went over 2,000 and the voters invoked the Statistics Rule and gave it to Allen, perhaps justifiably. And if Stanford Quarterback John Elway beats Walker out this year in what promises to be one of the closest votes in the history of the award, no one can predict if Walker will even be around to win it as a senior—or if an injury, like the broken thumb that hampered him in the first two games this season, will be a factor. "What they should do is award him a career Heisman," says Dooley.