Offensive firepower

Hershel Walker is one of the names that you don't often touch when comparing talent on the football field to the historic greats.

Walker, who shredded Southeastern Conference defenses from the first touches of his 1980 freshman season, remains one of the most highly touted college football running backs of all time.

           

A member of the college football Hall of Fame, Walker nabbed the Heisman Trophy after his junior season, reaching the ultimate mark of success for an individual on the college level.

           

So, when Bulldog fans begin to whisper the name of sophomore Knowshon Moreno alongside that of Walker, you know that something special is brewing in the Georgia backfield.

           

After sitting out his freshman season, the Belford, N.J. native began his quest to be among the best backs to ever play between the hedges.

           

Becoming the first back to rush for over 100 yards in five straight games since Walker accomplished that same feat in 1982, Moreno took over the starting job midway through the season , finishing with 1,334 yards on 227 carries for 14 touchdowns. He also added 253 receiving yards on 20 receptions.

           

This season, Moreno has not slowed himself a bit.

           

Coming off of his second SEC offensive player of the week award on the season, Moreno shredded the visiting Vanderbilt defense for a season-high 172 yards and one touchdown on 23 carries during the Bulldogs 24-14 win last weekend.

           

"He's a very patient runner and probably one of the most patient runners I've seen," LSU linebacker Darry Beckwith said. "He really follows his blocks and when he sees a seam he bursts into it. I think that's what makes him a great back is his vision and his pass-blocking capabilities."

 

This offensive production comes despite a depleted offensive line for the Bulldogs, where last week against the Commodores they started two true freshmen, a redshirt freshman, a sophomore and a redshirt sophomore.

           

The success of the running game hinges on the line’s performance, and as senior fullback Brannan Southerland points out, the task will be tall against a deep LSU defensive front.

           

"We are going to need our offensive line to handle their defensive line," Southerland said. "We're going to need some time for [Matthew] Stafford to throw, and we're going to need some running lanes for Knowshon [Moreno] and Caleb [King] to run. Our offensive line is going to need to play very well come Saturday."

           

Moreno echoed his fullbacks sentiments, pointing out that the Tiger defensive front will be the key to the Bulldogs’ success on the ground.

           

"It's definitely a challenge," Moreno said. "All four guys up front are really good athletes and players. They are really making big plays right now, so I think that will be a challenge for us up front.

 

"It's going to be an exciting atmosphere and a tough place to play," Moreno added. "But it's a business trip for us. We're going to go down there and play the best we can play."

           

Of course, that is easier said than done.

           

Come Saturday afternoon, with Tiger Stadium roaring at full strength, the visiting Bulldogs will need to stay composed and ahead of the chains if they hope to return to Athens without a second conference loss.

           

"We are going to Baton Rouge and one of the most storied stadiums in the country," head coach Mark Richt said. "My strongest memory of being there in 2003 was when we were down 10-3 late in the game and threw a screen pass that went 90-something yards and tied up the score with a couple minutes to go. I was expecting hush from the crowd.  Usually when the opposing team does well the crowd quiets down. All I began to hear was a chant L-S-U, L-S-U.  It got louder and louder and louder. It was the loudest I've ever heard a stadium."

           

If the Bulldogs are not able to move the ball on the ground, the aerial attack will kick into high gear.

           

Led by junior quarterback Matthew Stafford, the conference's leading passer with 1,697 yards on the season, the Bulldogs have shown success in spurts.

           

"Watching some of the highlights, the guy has a really good arm and does a really good job of reading defenses and getting the ball to his playmakers," LSU defensive lineman Kirtson Pittman said.  

           

While many expected senior split end Mohamed Massaquoi to lead the way through the air for the Georgia receivers, it has been freshman A.J. Green who has stepped into the lead role, currently leading the conference in receiving yards.

           

Was Richt surprised at the freshman's rapid maturation?

 

"I was hoping he would make an impact on the team just watching his high school film and hearing the veterans talk about him in the summer," Richt said. "He has done great. He has a ways to go but he has done well. He is still thinking, coming to that line and making sure he has the right split. He is getting more and more comfortable."

 

This being the Bulldogs first marquee matchup since the blowout loss to the Crimson Tide, Stafford feels the team is getting closer and closer to playing their first complete game.

 

"I think we are working hard towards it," Stafford said. "Nobody is ever going to play a perfect game, but you at least try to get a game where all three phases of the game are clicking well and see what happens. We're young in some spots, but guys are playing better and better each week, which is good to see. We'll just see what happens."

           

The Tigers remain ready for whatever the visiting Bulldogs throw their way, whether it’s by ground or air.

 

"It's a very well prepared football team with a great quarterback and a great running back," Beckwith said. "It's going to be a battle but it's going to be fun."


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