Yes, Herschel Walker did play against Clemson tonight. He gained 20 yards on 11 carries, despite a broken thumb..
"I was just trying not to fumble," said Walker.
So it was left for the Georgia defense to bump Herschel off the season-opening marquee. It did that and more, blocking a punt that resulted in the Bulldogs' only touchdown and intercepting four passes by Homer Jordan in a 13-7 victory at at Sanford Stadium.
Two of the interceptions came in the final seven minutes, on Clemson's two final possessions. Georgia's other points came on field goals of 39 and 23 yards by Kevin Butler.
Consequently, the 13-game winning streak of Clemson, longest in the nation entering this game, is now as fractured as Walker's right thumb, which was protected by a long cast.
Walker sat out the game's opening 20 minutes and was used as a decoy on three first-half plays. He played most of the second half.
"We talked about this plan some during the week," said Georgia Coach Vince Dooley. "In the event the doctors assured us the risk was at a minimum, we would possibly use him in the first half, mainly as a decoy."
"At halftime the doctors said they thought he was okay anbsd the risk still would be minimal. So we decided to let him run the ball a few times in the first half. However, our main use was as a decoy."
It had been reported previously that it was unlikely Walker would play, but on Sunday the junior tailback held out hope, saying if he dressed, he would play.
Jordan threw only nine interceptions all last season. But when senior linebacker Nate Taylor intercepted Jordan's short pass on fourth-and-13 on the Georgia 36 with 1:01 remaining, the surrender was final.
It left Sanford Stadium percolating on a calm Georgia night. As most of the crowd of 82,122 danced an encore to "Glory, Hallalujah" on the field afterward, Jordan took a deep breath in the silent Clemson locker room. He sang these simple blues: "I kind of want to forget this game. After the first interception, I kept thinking back to two years ago when I played badly here. I tried to forget it. But . . . "
Jordan did not finish his sentence the way the Georgia defense finished him. The native of Athens completed 15 of 28 for 120 yards. His offense creaked and clanked for 249 yards, which was eight more than Georgia's offense accumulated.
But Georgia won.
"The credit must go to our defense," said Dooley, record now 141-58-6 after 18 full seasons. He passed Wally Butts' 140-86-9 legacy tonight to become the winningest coach in Georgia history.
Danny Ford lost for the first time since Maryland beat his Tigers, 34-7, on Nov. 15, 1980.
"We made too many mistakes and that hurt us late in the game," he said. "We have to go back and work on our game plan."
By that time, the score was 7-7. Clemson scored first. Quarterback John Lastinger (eight of 16, 140 yards, one interception) fumbled the snap from center Wayne Radloff and William Perry, Clemson's 310-pound nose guard, recovered at the Georgia 10.
Three plays later, Jordan ran six yards on a quarterback draw, going into the end zone with hands raised. With 7:09 left in the first quarter, Clemson led 7-0.
Then, 32 seconds into the second quarter, Georgia proved that this season-opener would be a bit more difficult for Clemson than the Tigers' season-opener last year, a 45-10 win over Wofford. That victory, of course, started Clemson toward a national title.
With Dale Hatcher in punt formation in the end zone, left defensive end Dale Carver, the lone Bulldog rusher, blocked the kick.
Defensive end, Stan Dooley, picked up the ball on one high hop on the one and fell into the end zone. Butler's extra point restored equilibrium at 7-7.
"The offense hadn't been moving the ball real good and we told ourselves the defense had to make a big play," Carver said. "It was a bust on their part. I ran in there free and their guy on the outside just didn't pick me up."
Butler kicked a 39-yard field goal nine seconds before the half for a 10-7 Georgia lead and his 23-yard field goal six minutes into the third quarter accounted for the final margin.