Given the intense—some would say fanatic—rivalry that exists between Georgia and Florida in football, Herschel Walker received the ultimate accolade last Saturday. After helping the Bulldogs destroy the Gators 44-0, he left the Georgia locker room in the Gator Bowl wearing a white shirt, black tie, black sweater-vest, black socks, neatly pressed black pants, black shoes, red Georgia blazer—and a straw hat with an orange-and-green Gator button pinned on it.
A Gator button?
"A fan gave it to me after the game," Walker explained as a cordon of policemen prepared to lead him out a side door and away from a mob of admirers waiting at the front door. "The guy said that after seeing the game he'd decided to convert."
Lord, when a Gator fan switches to the Bulldogs, we're talking serious evangelism. Why, just the day before the game, a white-haired, gentle-looking matron, watching her beloved Florida team go through a light workout, urged Linebacker Fernando Jackson to "break that Herschel's leg." Where is she now? Probably waiting in line in Athens, Ga. for 1983 season tickets.
If Walker, a junior tailback and criminology major, should announce that he's leaving school to become a superstar in the pros, or to crack crimes for the FBI, or to go to Katmandu to escape the press, the sigh of relief in Gainesville will be audible on every campus in the SEC. In three victories against the Gators in the wild affair known as The World's Largest Cocktail Party, Walker has averaged 216 yards and scored eight touchdowns.
Last Saturday Walker drove additional Gators to drink by racking up 219 yards on 35 carries in about 2� quarters. He and the white panty hose he wears to protect his legs from muscle pulls departed after Walker scored his third touchdown on a one-yard plunge to put Georgia ahead 27-0. What might Walker have accomplished if he'd remained in the game?
"He'd have gotten another 150 yards," said Georgia Coach Vince Dooley, "but it just wouldn't have been the right thing to do."
Nor the smart thing. Walker had a cold—"That's why I'm talking funny," he said—and he has taken to wearing a lower-back buckler for protection against the late and illegal hits he's been taking. He did allow, though, that the Gator defense "played with sportsmanship"—if not with notable success.
Besides, victory was assured after the last Walker touchdown, and with top-rated Pitt losing to Notre Dame (see following story), a solid win was all Georgia needed to move up in the polls. SI ranks the Bulldogs No. 1. With a win at Auburn this Saturday, the unbeaten 'Dawgs can clinch their third straight SEC title and another trip to the Sugar Bowl. LSU, which dumped Alabama on Saturday (see page 32) to also stay unbeaten, is nonetheless second in the conference standings because of a 24-24 tie with Tennessee.
Florida earned a trip out of the Top 20 with its performance. The Gators gained only 34 yards on 31 carries (average?—you don't want to know) and, more embarrassing, only 146 in the air. Quarterback Wayne Peace, who came into the game as the nation's best percentage passer (74.1%), completed 10 of 19 for only 102 yards. "I'm not going to pretend to be smart enough to tell you why tonight happened," said Florida Coach Charley Pell.