Facing second-and-goal from Auburn’s 9-yard line in the fourth quarter, Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford wanted to throw to Mohamed Massaquoi in the end zone. Auburn’s defense collapsed on the Georgia wideout, so Stafford opted to throw the ball away and play for another down.
On the very next play, Stafford ran up the middle for a 9-yard touchdown that salted away a 37-15 Georgia win.
“The play I’m most proud of in this ballgame was when we were down in the red zone and it wasn’t there and he just threw it into the stands,” Richt said. “I was more excited about that play than I was about any play in the whole game.
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told him prior to a play, ‘If it’s not right, throw it away.’ … He finally listened to me,” he added with a smile. “That was nice.”
If the Bulldogs’ point total didn’t prove it first, Stafford’s throw-away may have been the most evident sign that the true freshman is indeed maturing before our eyes.
He has been prone to making boneheaded throws and poor decisions throughout the season. But on Saturday, with the Bulldogs facing long odds against a top-five team, Stafford played his best game of the year.
“He played awesome today,” said receiver A.J. Bryant, who caught a 53-yard pass on Georgia’s first drive to set up a Kregg Lumpkin touchdown run. “He just settled down in there and made plays like he did in high school. Hopefully that gives him confidence and he’ll keep going.”
Stafford finished the afternoon with 219 passing yards on 14-of-20 passing and – most importantly – a touchdown and no interceptions. He also ran seven times for 83 yards and a touchdown, mostly through enormous holes on quarterback draws.
“We did a great job up front picking it up and when I got past the line, there was nobody,” Stafford said.
He did turn the ball over twice Saturday, both on quarterback runs, but he took a dramatic step toward the superstardom so many expect for the young Texan.
David Greene had his signature win as a freshman when he led a Georgia team facing long odds to a win at Tennessee. D.J. Shockley’s came in last year’s opener when he picked apart an overmatched Boise State defense.
Georgia fans have been waiting for that type of statement game from Stafford. Saturday’s win very well may be it.