- Chris Low, ESPN Senior Staff Writer
- 0 Shares
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- All season long, the Georgia fans have been clamoring for more of Knowshon Moreno.
They got their wish and then some Saturday at a place that has been a house of horrors for the Bulldogs for most of the past two decades.
Moreno flounced through and around Florida defenders for a career-high 188 yards on 33 carries, and the Bulldogs punished the Gators 42-30 at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium to do their part in making this a rivalry again. It was only Georgia's third victory over Florida in the past 18 meetings.
Of course, Moreno wondered what all the fuss was about. The redshirt freshman has played against the Gators one time and is 1-0 against them.
"You hear people talking about how many games they'd won in a row against us, and you get a lot of questions about it," Moreno said. "But for a lot of us, we've only played them once or twice. The only game that mattered to us was [Saturday's]."
Moreno, whom the Georgia coaches were tempted to play last season, was all the rage this past spring and all preseason. But with such a crowded backfield, he was splitting carries with Thomas Brown. That all changed a few weeks ago. Brown went down with a collarbone injury, and Kregg Lumpkin also was sidelined with a knee injury. Neither player is expected back before the Nov. 10 Auburn game at the earliest.
So for the time being, it's Moreno's show -- and he's putting on a show.
He has started the past two games and has rushed for 345 yards on 61 carries. He now has 807 yards on the season, the fourth-best total for a freshman in Georgia history.
"I've compared him to [David] Pollack with his energy level and spirit," Georgia coach Mark Richt said of Moreno, who insisted he could have carried it 10 more times if the Bulldogs had needed him Saturday.
Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said the Bulldogs planned all along to lean on Moreno against the Gators. Don't look for that plan to change much the rest of the way as Georgia (6-2, 4-2) tries to hang around in the SEC Eastern Division race after being left for dead earlier this month following the Tennessee landslide.
"We know [No.] 24 is one of the best playmakers on our team," Bobo said. "The plan was to give it to him until he couldn't tote it anymore."
The other thing Moreno did against Florida was help open up the big plays in the passing game. Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford connected with Mohamed Massaquoi on an 84-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter and with Mikey Henderson on a 53-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.
"He had some nice holes to run through, but even when he didn't, he made his own holes," Stafford said. "He's a special player who can hurt you a lot of different ways."
He's also mature beyond his years.
"This win was a big one for us, but it doesn't mean anything if we don't do something with it," Moreno cautioned.
That something starts in two weeks against Auburn at home, after a nonconference date this coming weekend with Troy. The Bulldogs then have Kentucky on Nov. 17 at home in their SEC finale.
Georgia is a half-game ahead of Tennessee in the topsy-turvy Eastern Division race, but the Vols own the head-to-head tiebreaker by virtue of their 35-14 win over the Bulldogs on Oct. 6.
But given the way this season has gone, Moreno said the mere thought of peeking ahead is pure lunacy.
And his coach agreed.
"There are still so many scenarios that could happen," Richt said, noting that all six teams in the Eastern Division still are alive. "It's exciting for the SEC. I'm sure the nation is enjoying it. I don't know how much the coaches are enjoying it."
Chris Low is a college football writer for ESPN.com.
2dSharon Katz, ESPN Stats & Information
2dAndrea Adelson and Matt Fortuna