After getting just eight carries a week ago, Moreno put on a show in Georgia’s 56-17 win over Central Michigan on Saturday, racking up three touchdowns, 168 yards rushing and one highlight that head coach Mark Richt compared to the exploits of Walter Payton.
On a third-and-14 in the third quarter, Moreno took a handoff from quarterback Matthew Stafford, darted around the end of the line and headed up field. He met with a defender about 20 yards later, jumped over him, then picked up a half dozen more yards before being pulled to the ground.
“I’m catching it from the back view, so I’m making my block,” left guard Vince Vance said. “I just happen to look and see Knowshon hurdle a dude, and I’m like, ‘Whoa, did he really just do that?’ I had to get myself together and keep blocking.”
It was a play Richt had only seen once before – when Moreno did it two years ago in practice.
“We saw him do that once before,” Richt said. “And I redshirted him anyway. That wasn’t very smart. I knew he was pretty good, but I didn’t think he was that good. He’s fun to watch.”
The highlights didn’t end there, however, as Georgia racked up a bevy of big plays en route to the second highest point total since Richt took over as head coach.
Georgia’s offense tallied 10 plays of 19 yards or longer, including Moreno’s brilliant 29-yard run, while racking up more than 500 yards of offense for the second straight week.
Moreno also added 52- and 21-yard touchdown runs in the second half, but his high jump over the defense stole the show.
“I thought he was going to cut it all the way back,” Stafford said of the play. “I was going to throw a block for him. I was downfield, ready, but he decided to pull something out of the hat.”
Coming into the game, Central Michigan’s quarterback, Dan LeFevour was earning Heisman hype after a brilliant sophomore season a year ago. It was Moreno, however, who seemed determined to steal the spotlight.
“Those kind of numbers and that kind of style gets people’s attention,” Richt said. “Knowshon has the ingredients people look for in a Heisman winner.”
It wasn’t just Moreno who was looking to impress voters.
One week after falling out of the top spot in both the AP and Coaches polls, Georgia sent a message that it wasn’t the same team that was outscored 21-7 in the final 20 minutes of play against Georgia Southern.
The Bulldogs scored virtually every way possible. Their first two scoring drives were both long, methodical marches down the field, something Stafford said was intended to keep Central Michigan’s high-flying offense on the sideline.
“We knew their offense is high powered and can really move the ball up and down the field,” said Stafford, who finished 18-of-28 for 213 yards and two touchdowns. “So we wanted to really control the ball and work on the running game, and we did that.”
The defense, much maligned after last week’s performance, got into the act, too.
With the score 21-0, LeFevour threw a pass that was batted in the air by cornerback Prince Miller and picked off by Demarcus Dobbs. The 290-pound defensive lineman then rumbled 78 yards to the end zone behind a wall of blockers to put the Bulldogs up by 28.
The return proved important despite the score. Central Michigan scored the next two touchdowns to pull within 14 before Moreno put the nail in the Chippewas’ coffin with his 52-yard score.
“I came around the corner, couple of the big boys were blocking, a receiver threw a block for me, and everything else was just running, basically,” Moreno said of the touchdown run.
It was the first of two two-play drives that resulted in touchdowns for the Bulldogs, who ended the quarter with a 99-yard, 11-play drive to cap the afternoon for the starters.
“I think we came out in the second half on a mission as an offense to really put some drives together and make some plays,” Stafford said.
And when it comes to making plays, there’s not many that do it better than Georgia’s star running back. Highlight footage has become commonplace for Moreno, his teammate Caleb King said. So the big plays – even the ones where he hurdles a defender – don’t surprise the Bulldogs anymore.
In fact, Richt said, it’s how ordinary Moreno makes it seem that truly sets him apart.
“I don’t know how else to describe him other than that he’s relentless, he’s competitive and he’s talented. He’s not like the other guys. There’s something about him.”