Tech game a final exam for Stafford

ATHENS – If Matthew Stafford's freshman year was a test, and it certainly was at times, today's Georgia Tech game is the final exam.

And, like most finals, it's going to be a bear. All the course work Stafford has covered this season probably will be reviewed today when the No. 16 Yellow Jackets meet the Bulldogs in Sanford Stadium at 3:30 p.m.

"Most of the blitzes that will be coming at him, we've seen," Coach Mark Richt said. "We just don't see all of them in one game."

Under fifth-year defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta, Georgia Tech (9-2) has become known for an aggressive and varied blitzing package. The Yellow Jackets are tied for second in the ACC with 29 sacks and are sixth in total defense (292.6 ypg allowed) and scoring defense (17.7 ppg allowed).

Five Georgia Tech players have at least three sacks, led by linebacker Philip Wheeler, who is third in the ACC with eight. "They're good at what they do, and they do it with a lot of different people," Stafford said.

Previous Georgia quarterbacks D.J. Shockley and David Greene have handled the system, but neither of them had to face it as a freshman, much less a true freshman.

"How (Stafford) will handle that I don't know, but I think if you break (the blitzes) down one at a time, that part of it won't be too confusing for him," Richt said. "But with a constant barrage and if they hit him enough and things don't go well early on, I don't know how he'll hold up."

Two things make the Jacket defense unique, Stafford said. The first is its willingness to mix things up.

"A lot of teams are predictable in what you think they're going to bring in certain situations and a certain part of the field," he said, "but these guys bring everything from any part of the field, which makes it tough."

Secondly, Tech usually plays zone defensive behind its blitzes rather than man-to-man, which means Stafford must not only be aware of the rush but read defenses behind the blitzers, rather than throwing into single coverage like most teams use on blitzes.

"They drop defensive linemen and linebackers are flying across the middle of the field," Stafford said. "If you don't study them hard, you're not going to know where they're going to be."

Throwing the ball away, a skill Stafford has struggled to master, will be of paramount importance today, Richt said.

"There's going to be pressure on him and he'll end up getting hit, I'm sure," Richt said.

"Hopefully, we can keep them off him, but there will probably be some blitzes we don't get a hat on them, but if he gets rid of it properly he shouldn't get hit on those.

"I think he'll be able to do it. I hope he'll be able to do it."

Matthew Stafford game-by-game

Opponent Comp.-Att.-Yards TDs INTs
Western Kentucky 3-5-40 1 0
South Carolina 8-19-171 0 3
UAB 10-17-107 0 0
Colorado 8-16-76 0 0
Ole Miss 7-18-91 0 0
Tennessee 2-5-11 0 1
Vanderbilt 9-13-86 0 0
Mississippi State 20-32-267 2 3
Florida 13-33-151 0 2
Kentucky 16-28-230 1 3
Auburn 14-20-219 1 0

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