Matthew Stafford rebounded from a tough start to complete 14 of 17 passes for 179 yards in the second half and set a new school record with his 23rd, 24th, and 25th touchdown passes of the season en route to a 24-12 Bulldogs victory.
Stafford earned game MVP honors and the main question on everyone's mind was if this was Matt Stafford's final game in a Georgia uniform.
"It's going to be an extremely hard decision for me," Stafford told reporters following the game. "My time at Georgia has been great and it's been an awesome time. It's something that I am contemplating continuing. Obviously there is the lure of the NFL but to tell you the truth, I am 50-50 right now and I really don't know what I want to do. I love playing for Georgia and it has been an outstanding time. I am going to take this next couple of days—it's really not too much time—to think about it and figure out what I want to do."
The Georgia Bulldogs offense cut through the Michigan State defense on their first offensive possession like a knife through warm butter, as Matt Stafford picked apart the Spartans secondary, completing 3 of 4 passes for 41 yards to take the ‘Dawgs from their own 37 yard line into the red zone. The Spartans defense then responded as Stafford was sacked at the MSU 15-yard line by Eric Gordon to stall the drive. Bulldogs senior kicker Brian Mimbs knocked through a 32-yard field goal to put Georgia up 3-0. Georgia went 48 yards on eight plays in just 2:39.
The Spartans defense made amends on Georgia's second offensive possession as Matt Stafford was intercepted by Michigan State free safety Kendell Davis-Clark who returned the ball 24 yards. A personal foul on Georgia caused the Spartans offense to take over on the Georgia six-yard line, but they went three and out and junior kicker Brett Swenson booted a 20-yard field goal to tie the game, 3-3.
The Spartans put together their longest drive of the day in terms of number of plays during their final possession of the first half as they methodically went 24 yards on 10 plays to set up a Brett Swanson 32-yard field goal to take a 6-3 lead. The drive began at the UGA 40 when Bulldogs punter Brian Mimbs couldn't handle a fourth down snap.
The story of the first half was the Michigan State defense, which stymied the Georgia offense following the first possession. MSU held UGA to just 118 yards of total offense and consensus number one draft pick Matt Stafford may no longer have that title, as he completed just 6 of 14 passes for 71 yards and one interception. MSU quarterback Brian Hoyer, who's considered a late-round prospect completed 6 of 12 passes in the first half for 60 yards and outplayed his blue-chip counterpart.
"I think you have the inner competitive drive and the one time I can think back is to last year's bowl game and Boston College's quarterback Matt Ryan," Michigan State quarterback Brian Hoyer said. "At least this year I'm not alone because Javon is going against Knowshon Moreno. There's an inner competition when you see someone in your same position do something well then you want to do something well. I think part of my troubles last year I was trying to out do Matt Ryan and I can't do that. I have to do what it takes to get this team to win, so if it's handing the ball to Javon 40 times because we're able to run the ball then that's what we have to do. I'm not going to go out there and try to out do Matt Stafford. I'm just going to go out there and be Brian Hoyer and do what it takes for Michigan State to win."
On the Bulldogs second possession, quarterback Matt Stafford began to get in a rhythm as he hit a bevy of wide receivers and running backs and took the ‘Dawgs from their own four-yard line 96 yards to paydirt. The scoring play came on a 35-yard slant that was perfectly thrown from Stafford to junior wide receiver Michael Moore. The drive took 5:51 off the clock and Georgia regained the lead, 10-6.
"Basically we needed to eliminate the big plays," Michigan State safety Otis Wiley said. "On the 96-yard drive we needed to get off the field and we had the chance to and didn't get it done. Stafford did make the big plays in the second half and if we eliminated those big plays then it's a different ball game. We gave them a fight and our secondary shut them out in the first half. In the second half we had to answer and finish and we did half of that, even though we didn't eliminate the big plays."
Georgia was in business on their very next drive as junior Prince Miller returned an Aaron Bates punt 38 yards and a personal foul on MSU put the ball on the Spartans 21 yard line. On the first play, Matt Stafford found tight end Aron White running ahead of the defense for a 21-yard touchdown to put the ‘Dawgs up 17-6.
The Spartans weren't finished as Brian Hoyer led the team down the field and into the red zone with 9:27 remaining. Two plays later senior running back Javon Ringer went off right tackle and galloped into the end zone for his school record 22nd touchdown run of the season. Hoyer was 6-8 on the drive for 50 yards as the Spartans pulled within five points at 17-12, as the two-point conversion failed.
The Bulldogs put the game on ice with their next possession as Matt Stafford continued his brilliant half by driving his team down the field 67 yards, capping his record-setting day with a 21-yard touchdown pass to running back Knowshon Moreno who ran a perfect wheel route.
As for the prospects, Michigan State's Javon Ringer ended his career with 47 yards on 20 carries and a touchdown, as well as catching three passes for 30 yards. Senior strong safety Otis Wiley finished with seven tackles, and averaged 15 yards per punt return and 24 yards per kickoff return. Senior quarterback Brian Hoyer struggled completing 18 of 34 passes for 169 yards and one interception.
For Georgia, quarterback Matt Stafford took home Capital One Bowl MVP honors with his 20-31, 250 yard, three touchdown performance. Redshirt sophomore running back Knowshon Moreno gained 62 yards on 23 carries, and caught six passes for 63 yards including the game sealing touchdown reception. Wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi was shut out in the stat sheet.
Defensive prospects for Georgia include junior defensive tackle Geno Atkins, who registered one tackle for loss and two quarterback hurries. Junior cornerback Asher Allen led the team with nine tackles, one sack, and one tackle for loss. Senior linebacker Dannell Ellerbe had four stops, one sack, and one tackle for loss. Senior defensive tackle Corey Irvin had three tackles, one sack, and one tackle for loss. Senior defensive end Jeremy Lomax registered two tackles including one tackle for loss.
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