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injuries push moreno into spotlight

33 carries, 188 yards not too much for workhorse

by chip towers

the atlanta journal-constitution

published on: 10/28/07 jacksonville for georgia offensive coordinator mike bobo, the game plan for florida was as simple as any he has devised.

"twenty-four is one of the best playmakers on the team, and we were going to give it to him until he couldn't tote it anymore," he said.

"twenty-four" would be tailback knowshon moreno. the dynamic freshman carried the ball 33 times for 188 yards, caught two passes and scored three touchdowns as georgia rode his powerful legs to a 42-30 win saturday.

"i'd say he responded," bobo said with a wide grin.

as for bobo's "until he can't anymore" reference, moreno said he never got there.

"i wasn't tired at all," moreno insisted afterward. "i could go another game right now if i had to."

because of injuries to seniors thomas brown (collarbone) and kregg lumpkin (knee), moreno came into the game as the lone survivor in what was once a three-tailback rotation for the bulldogs. the other two are not expected back before the nov. 10 game against auburn and possibly later.

no matter. as moreno has continually proven, one may enough for georgia.

saturday's performance gave the bulldogs' back-to-back, 100-plus-yard games for the first time since 2004, when brown did it twice in a row.

moreno shot up from eighth to fourth passing tim worley, garrison hearst, danny ware and keith henderson in the process on georgia's list of best rushing seasons by a freshman with 807 yards.

his 188 yards was the most since verron haynes had 201 against georgia tech in 2001.

"it was just awesome," moreno said of getting the ball so often. "the offensive line gave me some big holes to run through and that made it easy. as long as it works out and we win, i'll do whatever they want me to. florida's a great team and that's what makes you feel so good about this."

senior center fernando velasco begs to differ with moreno's assessment of the line's play. he said it was moreno who made them look good.

"did you see some of those runs?" velasco said. "wow! the moves he makes, the way he lowers his shoulder and runs over 'em, how he beats him with speed sometimes. that was all knowshon."

said quarterback matthew stafford: "it's tough carrying out my fakes sometimes because after i give him the ball i always want to watch him run. he's fun for us to watch, too."

the gators' focus on trying to contain the shifty tailback helped stafford buy the time he needed to deliver touchdown passes of 84 and 53 yards.

"we knew if we could get some running game established early we could hit some deep stuff," stafford said.

even freshman running back caleb king had a good time watching moreno at work. coming into the game it was heavily debated among the coaching staff as well as bulldog nation whether they should pull king's redshirt for some depth behind moreno.

king practiced with the varsity the past two weeks and dressed out for saturday's game. but senior jason johnson was the only other tailback to get snaps in the backfield, and he was limited to only a handful of plays.

"every game i go to, i'm ready to play, but i wasn't disappointed i didn't get in because we won the game," said king, from norcross high. "we're running the ball well and our line is young, so i know i'll get my chances eventually."

georgia's players and coaches have increasingly leaned on moreno to provide spark and leadership. his penchant for popping up and dashing back to the huddle after every carry and clapping and imploring his offensive colleagues not only inspires his teammates but has resulted in him earning offensive captain honors for the past two games.

there's no reason to think a third in a row wouldn't be in order.

"i've compared him to david pollack in his energy level and his spirit," coach mark richt said. "he plays with passion."

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