Vince Dooley remembered the feeling. He remembered feeling his heart go to his throat. The Sugar Bowl game was less than six minutes old, his Georiga team had run just two offensive plays and here came Herschel Walker toward the bend, holding his left shoulder, the pain showing on his face.
"I looked around and thought, 'Oh my, things are not looking very good,'" Dooley said. "I was talking to myself, trying to figure some way to win without him. Never did think of one."
Fortunately for Dooley, he didn't have to. The injury was a bruise, not a separation as the Georiga doctors feared initially.
Walker returned on the next series and, even though he carried the ball with his right arm instead of the left, as he normally does, he finished the game with 150 yards and both Georgia touchdowns on 36 carries. Combined, the rest of the Georiga offense netted minus 23 yards with quarterback Buck Belue completing one of 13 passes for seven yards while being sacked five times for 58 yards in losses.
With Walker, the Bulldogs had just enough offense to produce a 17-10 victory over a Notre Dame team that killed itself with mistakes but never stopped trying to come back. The 6-foot-1, 218-pound freshman was a one-man offense good enough to produce an expected national championship.
"Not true, it wasn't just me," Walker said, trying desperately to deflect toward teammates some of the horde which surrounded his locker. "Everybody on this team was great today. I got the blocking I needed and the defense was just great. When we had trouble moving the ball the second half, they just hung in there and got it done.
"That's what this team has done all year, get it done."
The Bulldogs got it done 12 straight times largely because of the presence of Walker, who, at age 18, is best described by one word: indescribable.
"The only way to have any chance of stopping him is to have a lot of guys around him," Notre Dame linebacker Bob Crable said. "We didn't do that early and we got hurt. His legs are so strong, you can't just hit him and knock him down. You need help."
No one touched Walker on his two short touchdown bursts. The first, from one yard out, was a graceful leap over the middle of the line with 1:04 left in the first quarter. The second was a sweep right from the three, 2:11 into the second quarte on which Walker outran defenders to the corner of the end zone.
Georgia did not score again.It didn't have to.
Walker, undoubtedly the most popular Georigan in New Orleans today, even with President Jimmy Carter present, said he never saw Carter. Nor, he said, did he look up to try and see him. "My mind was just on the game," he said. "I didn't have time to look up."
Dooley, who had predicted prior to the season that Walker wouldn't really begin to contribute until next season, laughed when reminded of the comment. "Nobody's perfect," he said. "Except maybe for Herschel."