In a confrontation the Peach State has awaited all season, freshman tailback Herschel Walker and undefeated Georgia ran over Heisman Trophy candidate George Rogers and South Carolina today, 13-10.
Walker set a school record with 43 carries, gained 219 yards and scored one touchdown. His teammate, Rex Robinson contributed two field goals including the game-winning kick of 51 yards with three minutes remaining in the third quarter for a 13-0 lead.
A national television audience and 62,200 spectators in carved-out-of-the-mountains Sanford Stadium witnessed one of the best college football games of the year and perhaps the two best running backs in the country in Walker and Rogers.
After a sluggish first half in which Walker, 18, was held to 62 yards in 21 carries, Georgia got down to business. Walker took a handoff, forged up the middle, cut right, faked left and dashed 76 yards for a touchdown. That gave the Bulldogs (8-0) a 10-0 lead three plays into the second half.
Rogers tried everything in his power to win the game single-handedly. He gained 168 yards in 35 carries, but he fumbled with less than six minutes left and Georgia controlled most of the rest of the way.
Rogers, who rushed for more than 100 yards for the 18th consecutive game, left the game for one play before the fumble because he was tiring. But Gamecock Coach Jim Carlen sent his senior back in on second and seven from the Georgia 17, with South Carolina down by three.
Rogers was hit by several Bulldog defenders three yards downfield and fumbled the ball over to Georgia's Chris Welton.
"It was a dumb play on the part of Coach Carden to put George back in the game, as tired as he was," Carlen said afterward.
Walker, meanwhile, insisted he was not tired after carrying the ball 43 times, nine more than the school record.
"Did I carry the ball that many times?" Walker asked. "I sure don't feel tired."
The teams seemed almost incidental in the pregame hoopla, with bumper stickers all over the South touting one running back or the other for the Heisman Trophy. Many left the stadium not knowing it was fullback Carl West, who wears No. 39, who made South Carolina's 39-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, not Rogers, who wears No. 38. Eddie Leopard's 45-yard field goal in the same quarter provided the only other South Carolina points. f
"I've been trying to tell people all week that there's no battle between me and George. We have a good passing attack, too," Walter said.
But Walker didn't see the statistics that revealed he had run 43 of Georgia's 74 plays and Rogers 35 of the Gamecocks' 63. But Walker was right. Passing actually did win the game for Georgia.
Bulldog quarterback Buck Belue completed 10 of 18 passes for 179 vented South Carolina from keying on Walker the entire game. Lindsay Scott caught two, one for 41 yards that set up Robinson's first field goal, of 57 yards.
However, South Carolina quarterback Garry Harper completed only two of 13 passes for 25 yards, with one reception gaining 17. Harper missed his four second-half passes and Carlen elected to hand off repeatedly to Rogers.
"We can't expect George Rogers to do everything, thought," Carlen said. "We just didn't throw the ball well enough to complement our running game."
"I didn't play the best I could, but I performed all right," said Rogers, whose father saw him play football for the first time today.
Walker, a modest fellow, said after the game, "Whatever you do, please don't write about just me. We had a great passing game today, which shows how well our offensive linemen here can pass block and run block."
He also singled out fullback Jimmy Womack for the key crushing block on his touchdown run. "Jimmy was sticking those linebackers all day. On the long run he took out the linebacker so that there was only one guy left who had an angle on me. I saw him out of the corner of my eye but it was too late by that time, anyway, for him to catch me.
"I'm still inexperienced," he said. "I need some more experience before I can get everything down pat. I shouldn't even be compared with George Rogers. If I was voting for the Heisman, I'd vote for George. He's the senior. He's shown what he can do over four years. I still don't know what my capabilities are yet."
While Gamecock players were lamenting only their second loss of the season, Georgia fans were celebrating in the streets of Athens after their biggest win in several years. The shouting got louder when they found out arch rival Alabama lost to Mississippi State, 6-3.