ATHENS, Ga. — Early in the second quarter of last Saturday night's 43-14 victory at Tennessee, Georgia running back Brian Herrien bounced off Shawn Shamburger's tackle attempt and bolted 40 yards to the Volunteers' 22-yard line.
It took five Vols to finally bring the 6-foot, 210-pound senior down after the longest run of his Bulldogs career. What does finishing such a carry feel like?
"It feels great as long as you're hanging on to the ball and you're protecting yourself as well," said Herrien, who is from the Atlanta suburb of Douglasville. "It would be a tragedy to get a long run like that and lose the ball."
Herrien's lengthy run aided an 11-carry, 88-yard performance that also set a new standard for single-game productivity for a veteran who began his career behind Nick Chubb and Sony Michel on the depth chart. Chubb and Michel were out of eligibility after the 2017 season, but the reserve role remained for Herrien last year behind the tandem of D'Andre Swift and Elijah Holyfield.
Swift is Georgia's clear-cut starter now, but Herrien has been his primary backup and has compiled 40 carries for 251 yards (6.3 per carry) and four touchdowns for the third-ranked Bulldogs (5-0, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) entering Saturday's noon showdown against visiting South Carolina (2-3, 1-2) on ESPN.
Herrien has rushed for 1,174 yards and averaged 5.5 yards per carry in his Bulldogs career.
"The Brian that I'm seeing now is the Brian I've always seen," Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. "The difference is that you guys are seeing him more. Guys who are in the NFL are the reason he didn't play earlier in his career, but Brian has always been perfectly capable. He seized his opportunities in the times he got them in the past. He's just getting more opportunities now.
"He doesn't treat practices any different than the games, and I think those practice habits have allowed him to be successful in games."
Herrien knew before this season that there could be more opportunities, which was evident out of the gate when he earned his lone career start and rushed 12 times for 65 yards in the 30-6 win at Vanderbilt.
"It's going pretty good, and it's going the way I thought it would go," Herrien said. "As the season goes on, I would like to do even better."
Herrien is not placing last Saturday's 40-yard run in Knoxville at the top of his all-time list. That's because he is equally fond of what transpired midway through the fourth quarter, when he converted on third-and-1 from Tennessee's 3 with a 2-yard run and then scored on the ensuing play to make it 36-14.
"My favorite runs aren't always the longest runs," Herrien said. "I like the hardest ones and the toughest ones. When it looks like you're going to be tackled for a loss and you fight for 2 or 3 yards, that's not a bad play.
"I think it's just my attitude. When I'm on the field, I like to think there isn't anybody who can stop me. A lot of people like to wait and hesitate, but I'm just going to go ahead and go in and get those yards early and fast."
Special salute scheduled
Georgia fans plan to raise three fingers at the start of the third quarter Saturday to pay tribute to the older brother of South Carolina freshman quarterback Ryan Hilinski. Tyler Hilinski quarterbacked Washington State and wore No. 3 before committing suicide in January 2018.
The Hilinski family started Hilinski's Hope, which helps raise awareness for mental illness, and South Carolina fans have been raising three fingers all season at Williams-Brice Stadium.