December 14, 2007

Winning all that matters to Stafford

When Matthew Stafford first signed with Georgia, no doubt Bulldog fans envisioned the strong-armed quarterback slinging the football all over the field, carving out chunks of yardage at a pace so dizzying it would give everyone at Sanford Stadium vertigo.

That hasn't exactly been the case.

Thanks to the breakout season by Knowshon Moreno and the continued success of Thomas Brown, Stafford's air time has been shortened much more than some might have figured.

Five times this year, Stafford has thrown 24 passes or less, including a season-low 18 times in Georgia's 42-30 win over Florida.

While his statistics are certainly respectable - 180 of 325 for 2,2348 yards and 18 touchdowns - they pall in comparison to quarterbacks like Hawaii's Heisman Trophy finalist Colt Brennan, and any number of quarterbacks that have faced the Bulldogs this year.

But complain? Not Stafford. That's not his style.

As long as the Bulldogs are winning - which fourth-ranked Georgia (10-2) has done plenty of - that's fine with him.

"We're still playing pretty balanced, but we've got two great backs and an offensive line which is doing a great job run-blocking," Stafford said. "If it's working, let's keep doing it."

Georgia coach Mark Richt has been thoroughly impressed with the way Stafford has handled the situation.

"He's had some opportunities too for more yards, more completions and more touchdowns. He's got to improve, and he is. I think Matthew's future is extremely bright and I think he senses it and he knows it," Richt said. "I don't see Matthew as a selfish guy. If all you're worried about are your numbers, you're probably little bit too self-centered for the position, in my opinion. Even the guys with the big numbers, they want to win games. The great ones want to win the games."

That kind of team-first attitude has certainly not gone unnoticed by teammates.

Center Fernando Velasco would certainly know if that wasn't the case. According to the Bulldog senior, the simple fact that Stafford doesn't make a big deal about his statistics, makes it easier for the rest of the offense to give it their all.

"Matthew is a real team guy. Whatever is best for the team is what he's going to do. He doesn't get caught up in all the stats, as long as Georgia is winning, that's what he's here for. Of course, he wants to perform well and have those kinds of stats, but the bottom line is I don't think he cares about it as long as we are winning," Velasco said. "It's real easy to be around and be with somebody like that. He never gets the big head like he's this all-everything quarterback. He's the complete opposite."

Stafford said the big key for him is he's finally learned to relax.

That wasn't always the case.

Stafford said there were times this year when he would try to do too much, either by making a perfect throw or attempt to drill a pass into coverage, even if the receiver was not in a good position to catch the football.

But after Moreno burst onto the scene, Stafford began to realize that he didn't have to carry the offense as much as he initially thought.

"There were times early in the year when I was pressing, but I'm doing a better job of taking what the defenses are giving us now," Stafford said. "It's tough to sometimes get into a rhythm, but we do a good job of picking out plays that are pretty basic and easy for us to throw and catch, so it's working out well for us."

Patience has also been a virtue for offensive coordinator Mike Bobo.

"(Bobo) just wants to win and whatever it takes to win is what we're willing to do," the sophomore Stafford said. "We're not forcing the issue at all. We'll probably start throwing it more and more as I get older and the offensive line gets older, things like that. But even if it did stay like this and we're winning games then I'm happy."

Richt said he noticed that attitude about Stafford when he first began recruiting him four years ago.

"This whole recruiting process on Matthew, for a guy as talented as he was and as much hype as he could have had surrounding it, he really wasn't interested in that," Richt said. "He was interested in going where he wanted to go without a lot of fanfare. He enjoys the college experience and he wants to try and win some championships. I think he's well on his way to doing that."

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