October 11, 2008

A load off Stafford's shoulders

Quarterback Matthew Stafford laughed, noting that there was one good thing about reaching the 300-yard passing plateau for the first time in his career.

"Yeah, I'm happy to get 300, obviously, so people will stop asking me about it," chuckled Stafford, who completed 25-of-36 passes for 315 yards and one touchdown in Georgia's 26-14 win over visiting Tennessee.

It was certainly a relief.

Although he's regarded by most as one of the top quarterbacks in the country, one of the biggest knocks against the Texas native coming into play was that he had never thrown for 300 yards in a game.

No longer:

"I'm just happy to get it," Stafford said. "But it would have meant nothing if we hadn't won the game."

Stafford joked that receiver Kris Durham, who was out for the game with shoulder injury, let him know he was getting close.

"I don't know what time it was, but Durham came up and said 'Hey man, you got 290,'" Stafford said. "I was like 'Thanks a lot.' It's good to get there."

However, there was another part of the ever-critical Stafford that didn't allow him to enjoy the milestone quite as much as might ordinarily have.

Two interceptions deep inside Tennessee territory, one at the 13-yard line by defensive end Robert Ayers, and an even more costly one in the end zone by safety Eric Berry who returned the ball 54 yards until he was brought down, of all people, by Stafford near midfield.

"That's not a good feeling," Stafford said. "I was just trying to use the sidelines as a defender, really. I joked with Fab (assistant coach Jon Fabris) that I might have a shot of being one of the cage guys on kickoff coverage. But no, the guy's a great player and that was my one bad pick of the day."

According to Stafford, Berry was in man coverage but did a great job of getting his hand on the Georgia receiver who didn't have a chance to run his route.

"I threw it to a spot and he (Berry) ran the route for us and made the pick," Stafford said. "I'm just happy I got a little piece of him."

The interception by Ayers on what a little dump off pass did not bother Stafford quite so badly.

"On that one the defensive end doesn't rush and I'm throwing that ball no matter what. It was just kind of a fluke play and I'm not worried about that one so much.

"The other one (by Berry), it's going to happen. There's going to be interceptions in a game. But for the most part I felt we were able to move the ball well today and was able to throw it with some efficiency, which was good."

Georgia, which piled up 458 total yards, won the game with two key drives, the first a 97-yard beauty right before half that Stafford converted into points when he hit Mohamed Massaquoi for a 9-yard touchdown with nine seconds remaining in the second.

Earlier, Stafford hit running back Knowshon Moreno on a big third-and-8 play to the Tennessee 20 to keep the drive alive.

"I told Knowshon before that play to run me a hook, they'll be in a 2-Tampa I'm coming to you. I might scramble but I'm coming and he said all right," Stafford said. "Sure enough, that's what they played and Knowshon made a great catch to get up-field. The hardest thing in a two-minute drive like that is getting that initial first down. You've got to get a little rhythm going to start moving downfield. We just made plays. They aided us with a penalty here and there but it was good to see us execute and get a touchdown."

Georgia's subsequent 17-play drive that took nearly 11 minutes off the clock in the fourth quarter resulting in a 28-yard field goal by Blair Walsh was also pleasing to the Georgia QB.

"I challenged our guys before that drive. They (Tennessee) know we're running it. We know we're running it. What are you going to do about it?" Stafford said. "I asked the guys, can we move the ball, can we get first downs and get that time off the clock? They did a great job. They were getting excited and they could tell they were taking over the game."

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