Georgia’s Corey Moore resembles Shawn Williams

It was fitting that Shawn Williams was on the Georgia sideline for Saturday’s game against Florida. Not only did the former Georgia safety get to witness the Bulldogs come through when their toughness was questioned, but he also saw his protege make the defensive play of the game.

The outcome hung in the balance as Georgia clung to a three-point lead with nine minutes to play and the Gators faced third-and-12 at the Bulldogs’ 43-yard line. Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, with the blessing of coach Mark Richt, called for safety Corey Moore to blitz up the middle.

A key component of the play is not to show the blitz too early and tip off the quarterback. Moore timed his charge perfectly. Starting his charge 12 yards behind the line of scrimmage, Moore was moving full speed by the time he slipped through the gap between the center and guard. The elusive Tyler Murphy tried to escape to his left, but Moore was on him quickly and brought him down for a 14-yard loss.

The play snuffed the Gators’ drive and forced a punt with 8:17 to play. Georgia’s offense never gave the ball back.

“It was probably the biggest defensive play of the game,” Richt said. “I tell the guys that normally the biggest plays aren’t usually something spectacular; you basically do something relatively normal at an extraordinary time. That’s kind of what happened. He hit it right, and obviously no one blocked him.”

For Moore, his highlight came when he got to discuss the play with Williams in person after the game.

“He just said ‘great play’ and that it reminded him of one where (former Georgia defensive back Bacarri) Rambo snuck in and got the quarterback,” Moore said. “He said he liked the way we didn’t quit and most of all kept our poise at the end. … He knew that game was a dogfight, and we came out with the victory, so he loved it.”

Williams now is a safety for the Cincinnati Bengals, but when he and Moore played together, Williams rode him like a pony at the county fair.

Williams saw tremendous potential in the young defensive back that wasn’t manifesting itself on the field. Moore reminded Williams of himself, and he longed to get the potential out of him.

“You know Shawn Williams, he gives it to you straight,” Moore said with a grin. “He told me (Saturday) what I need to improve on, as well as the team. He thinks overall we’re playing all right, but we could always improve.”

Moore finished with five tackles against the Gators. He also had five tackles in the previous game, against Vanderbilt, and added the first interception of his career. He now has 22 tackles in seven games (three starts).

Suddenly people see a little Shawn Williams in Corey Moore.

“The credit goes to him for staying the course,” Grantham said. “He’s a mentally tough guy. He continues to work and do the things we ask him to do. He made those plays, but he also made a big third-down stop when he was in man-free (coverage) on a receiver, and he tackled the guy. So he’s made some physical tackles out there as a safety.”

Said Richt: “I’m really happy for him. He’s been playing well. He’s been playing a lot of special teams, too, and we need him to play well on special teams as well.”

Of course, none of it happened as quickly as Moore or anyone else would have liked. He was a high school All-American, but with Rambo and Williams on the roster, Moore’s services weren’t immediately needed, and he found himself sort of sheltered by anonymity.

A serious knee sprain suffered the second week of preseason camp sidelined Moore for several weeks this season and put him behind again on the depth chart. But slowly Moore has come on. And now that he has made some significant plays in games, his confidence is increasing with his productivity.

“That’s a factor,” Moore said. “Last week when I got that interception, I wanted that to carry over into the Florida game. Once coach Grantham called that (blitz), I knew I had to make that play, and I did. It boosted my confidence a lot.

“I know I’m a player. Like Coach says, you need players to make plays, and that’s what I did.”