Georgia QB has wins, not stats
By Marc Weiszer
By Marc Weiszer
ATHENS, Ga. — Quarterbacks Matthew Stafford of Georgia and Colt Brennan of Hawai'i got their teams to the Jan. 1 Sugar Bowl in New Orleans by leading offenses that hummed to a different beat.
Brennan, the triggerman of the nation's second most prolific passing offense, throws with the constant rhythm of a drummer: boom, boom, boom.
Stafford directs a Bulldogs offense that clicks with a nearly pitch-perfect balance: 179 rushing yards and 200 passing yards per game.
Brennan has led UH to a 12-0 record, the only unbeaten season in major-college football while averaging 43 passes per game. Stafford is 16-4 as a Georgia starter on a team that has run the ball more than 58 percent of the time this season.
"When you talk about quarterbacks, you talk about wins and you talk about numbers," Georgia coach Mark Richt said.
"Matthew's winning numbers as a starting quarterback are fairly impressive. They're not off the charts, but it's pretty darn good, but statistically it's not like anybody's going to want to write a lot about how things have gone for him."
Stafford has thrown 22 or fewer passes in five of Georgia's wins this season, including 18 passes against Florida, 19 against Auburn and 22 against Kentucky.
Brennan, who finished third in the voting for the Heisman Trophy, has eight 300-yard passing games this season. Stafford is still waiting for his first at Georgia. His career high is 267 yards against Mississippi State last season.
"We'll probably start throwing it more and more as I get older and our O-line gets older," Stafford said. "Even if it did stay like this, if we're winning games then I'm happy."
That may sound like the right thing to say, but teammates say it's genuine.
"The way the offense is set up, he doesn't put up the big-type numbers, but he's capable of that," center Fernando Velasco said. "If they let him throw the ball 35 or 40 times, I'm sure he'll go over 300 yards. Matthew, he's a really humble guy. I don't think he gets caught up in all of those stats and numbers. As long as Georgia is winning, he's doing what's best for the team whether that's checking to the fullback rather than trying for the deep ball if that's going to get us the first down."
Richt is quick to remind that Stafford didn't milk his recruitment to maximize the spotlight on him. He made an early decision to pick Georgia despite being one one of the most highly touted prep quarterbacks in 2005.
"He was interested in going where he wanted to go without a lot of fanfare and enjoy his college experience and try to win some championships," Richt said. "I think he's well on his way to doing that. I don't see Matthew as a selfish guy. If all you're worried about is your numbers, you're probably a little bit too self centered for the position."
Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said Georgia's best chance to move the ball and win games this year has been to be balanced and focus on the running game. That has come with three freshmen starting on the offensive line who Georgia didn't want to expose too much.
"If we continue to make improvements in the throwing game and we complete more balls, we'll throw the ball more," Bobo said. "We just haven't been efficient enough throwing the ball for me or us as a staff to say we're going to rely heavily on that aspect. I think the best chance for us has been balance, it hasn't been putting it all on his hands. Point blank, he's got to be more accurate in the passing game and his numbers will improve."
While Richt and Bobo say Stafford has improved from last year to this year, his 55.4 percent completion percentage this season ranked seventh in the SEC. Richt says the opportunity has been there for more yards, completions and touchdowns.
On the other sideline in the Sugar Bowl is Brennan, who is poised to become the NCAA leader in completion percentage. He's completed 70.7 percent of his passes.
"It's tough to sometimes get in a rhythm, but we do a good job of picking out plays that are pretty basic and easy for us to throw and catch," said Stafford, who completed 180 of 325 passes for 2,348 yards with 18 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
Why throw it more than you have to when you have redshirt freshman Knowshon Moreno, whose 1,273 yards are the seventh most in a single season in Bulldogs history and senior Thomas Brown, who rushed for 706 yards in nine games?
"Our best playmakers are our running backs, point blank," Bobo said.
Said Stafford: "We've got two great backs and an offensive line that is doing a great job run blocking. If it's working, keep doing it."
Stafford has been pegged with NFL potential. He sees the 4,174 passing yards that Brennan put up this year and knows that he's capable of putting up similar numbers if asked.
"It'll come," Stafford said. "I'm still young. Obviously I expect a lot of myself this year, but I've just got to keep doing what I'm doing and keep plugging away."
If he does, Richt believes Stafford's career will continue on the upswing.
"He's been a very good leader for us, a winner for us," Richt said. "I think his best years are yet to come statistically. He'll be much more grown up at his position and up front, I think our skill players will be mature enough for him to have a really fine season as a winner but also, statistically, I think those numbers will rise.""
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