Knowshon Moreno didn’t recognize the calls coming in on his phone.
The former Georgia running back almost had to change his number when he started getting non-stop calls the week before Georgia played LSU in 2008. Tiger fans harassed the then-sophomore running back when he answered.
It wasn’t the first time LSU fans did this to a fellow SEC opponent ahead of a game at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. But it was one of the few times that the taunting came back to bite LSU fans, as Georgia headed to Death Valley with hopes of returning with a win, and the phone calls only added extra motivation.
“The nature of that is that you’re throwing gasoline on the fire,” former Georgia fullback Fred Munzenmaier said.
The phone calls led to one of the most iconic moments of Georgia and LSU’s 2008 clash, the last time the Bulldogs played in Baton Rouge. Ahead of Georgia’s game with LSU on Oct. 25, 2008, the Bulldogs were 6-1 and ranked No. 9 in the country. The Tigers were coming off a national title in 2007.
By all intents and purposes, this was an important game. It determined who was in the driver’s seat to contend for a SEC title and possibly a national championship.
A loud crowd and a live tiger
Moreno had something besides the stakes of the game on his mind when traveling to Baton Rouge — LSU’s live tiger mascot. Unfortunately for Moreno, LSU’s tiger, Mike VI, wasn’t in attendance for the game that day. He hung back at his habitat on campus.
“We come running out, and the tiger wasn’t there. I was so upset,” Moreno said.
Tiger or not, LSU’s crowd made its presence known that day. Moreno remembered it being similar to playing Florida in Jacksonville, where the crowd noise is “on top of you.”
Much like this year’s Bulldogs, many members of the 2008 team were experiencing a game at LSU’s stadium for the first time.
"We had a big chip on our shoulder going into a hostile environment."
- Rennie Curran, former Georgia linebacker
Both teams were loaded with talent. LSU boasted future NFL players such as Brandon LaFell, while Georgia had talent of their own, including Moreno, Reshad Jones, Matthew Stafford and A.J. Green.
“It was just a heavily anticipated game,” former Georgia linebacker Rennie Curran said. “We had a big chip on our shoulder going into a hostile environment.”
‘Here we go’
LSU started with the ball, and it was only 20 seconds before Georgia made its first statement.
Tiger quarterback Jarrett Lee stepped back and threw a ball toward the sideline. Georgia linebacker Darryl Gamble stepped in front of the ball, intercepted the pass and took it 40 yards back for a touchdown.
“That was electric,” Moreno said. “That was definitely a big boost for us because we were like, ‘Here we go. Let’s go.’”
The defensive touchdown took the crowd of 92,904 out of the game. Munzenmaier remembers when the Bulldogs headed to the locker room for halftime, the crowd was not as much of a factor, as Georgia led 24-17.
The interception return set the tone for the rest of the day, former Georgia outside linebacker Akeem Dent said. There were two more interceptions, including another one returned by Gamble 53 yards for a touchdown.
Despite the performance of the defense, it was an offensive play from Georgia that put the game out of reach, all while providing a response to the LSU fan base.
Phone call to house call
It was a simple fake toss, one that Georgia’s offense ran more than once. But this one was different, especially for Moreno. He took the handoff 68 yards for a touchdown. Not only did the run put the game out of reach for LSU, but it gave Moreno a chance to respond to the crowd.
The running back stuck out the thumb and pinky on his right hand and brought the hand to his ear as if he was answering a phone.
“At the end of the run, you can see me doing the phone call thing, because they had been calling me all week,” Moreno said.
After finishing the day with 21 carries, 172 yards and the one touchdown, Moreno had an impressive day. But he wasn’t the only running back to impress, as LSU’s Charles Scott finished with 21 carries, 150 yards and two touchdowns of his own.
“[Scott] was a big bruising running back,” Curran said. “He was like a freight train when he gets going. It’s hard to stop him.”
Scott did everything he could to keep the Tigers in the game, but Lee’s second interception saw Gamble and the Bulldogs in the end zone again. LSU continued to try and claw back in the game, but it was too little too late, and Georgia headed to the locker room with a 52-38 victory.
When the clock struck zero in the fourth quarter to end the game, players made their way to the locker room to celebrate. Music was playing, coaches were excited and players were jumping around.
“It was a fun time, something I’ll never forget,” Dent said.
The celebration didn’t last long. Starting in 2008, Georgia used the Athens airport to fly in chartered planes to and from road games. After the celebration ceased, players piled into the small team planes and flew back to Athens, leaving the rest of the night to celebrate in a familiar place.
Although Georgia would lose two more games throughout the season, the win was its best of the year, and the Bulldogs left Baton Rouge feeling as if they accomplished something.
“[It] was an important game for us to win, and especially to win against an opponent that’s one of the better teams in the SEC really kind of solidified our identity as a contender that year,” Munzenmaier said. “That’s a difficult thing to prepare to play a football game at, but I think if you prepare well, it’s definitely a place you can go and win.”