Coaches want Stafford to keep focus

ATHENS – It's hard even for the people who know Matthew Stafford best to think of him as anything but a well-ripened veteran.

Georgia coach Mark Richt and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo tend not to think of Stafford as a true sophomore who still is seasoning himself to all that is being thrown at him.

"He played so much last year and he played so well in the first game, you think he's a veteran and he's going to play lights out from here on in," Richt said. "That's what you kind of hope for, but he still is learning some things here and there."

What was always true but often overlooked became clear again Saturday against South Carolina, when Stafford threw a career-worst 25 incompletions in a 16-12 loss, missing badly on throws he normally makes with ease.

"He still has a lot of potential, but he hasn't done it yet on a consistent basis," Bobo said. "He's got to keep his focus on his fundamentals daily. It's something we've got to continue to work on."

The South Carolina game was Stafford's 10th start and 15th collegiate game. He has thrown 324 passes in that time.

Former Bulldogs quarterback David Greene -- who, unlike Stafford, had a redshirt season -- completed 46 percent of his passes for 210 yards in his 10th start. The Bulldogs beat Georgia Tech that day, and Greene went on to become the winningest quarterback in major college football history.

Stafford, who completed 43 percent of his passes (19-of-44) for 213 yards against the Gamecocks, isn't concerned about how anyone else views him, he said. He thinks of himself as a veteran.

"I demand a lot from myself," he said. "It doesn't matter what people expect from me. Personally, the only people I'm trying to please are the guys on my team and myself, just trying to get us some wins, not trying to please anybody but Coach Richt, Coach Bobo and myself."

Richt thinks the pressure got to his quarterback Saturday, not the game pressure but the physical pressure from South Carolina's defense. Stafford was sacked three times, but even when the offensive line blocked well, he rushed throws, Richt said.

"He can't allow that to happen," Richt said. "He's got to make sure he trusts his protection every time back. You have to expect it's going to be there and then if it's not, you have to react to that."

Stafford's personal review of the game turned up no single reason for his inaccuracy, he said.

"Just a bad night," he said.

And that's all he wants to say on the subject.

"We're not talking about South Carolina anymore," he said, "we're ready for Western."

The No. 23 Bulldogs (1-1) play Western Carolina (0-2) on Saturday at 1 p.m. in Sanford Stadium. When they take the field, Stafford's teammates will once again believe they're following a veteran leader.

"He might still make some young mistakes, but there are not too many people I know who understand the game like he does," junior tight end Tripp Chandler said. "He's constantly telling us things in the huddle, what to look out for before it even happens."

The Bulldogs are fully behind their quarterback, senior running back Thomas Brown said.

"His year doesn't really matter to me so much," Brown said. "He's still going through a growing process, but he's a lot more mature than most sophomores are."

Compare and Contrast

David Greene quarterbacked the Bulldogs from 2001 through 2004. He threw 324 passes in his first season as Georgia's starter. After the same number of collegiate attempts, Matthew Stafford is slightly behind Greene's pace.

Player Percentage Yards TDs INTs

Matthew Stafford 53.1 percent 2,196 9 14 David Greene 59.3 percent 2,789 17 9

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