January 1, 2009

Offense finds a way

ORLANDO, Fla. - The only thing offensive about Georgia's first-half output against Michigan State in the Capital One Bowl was the Bulldogs' offense itself.

After looking the first drive like it were going to be easy to pile points up against the Spartans, Georgia's offense slowed to a proverbial crawl and Mark Richt's squad limped into halftime on the short end of a 6-3 score.

This certainly wasn't the kind of start that quarterback Matthew Stafford had envisioned.

Instead of providing his own fireworks to emulate those that snapped, crackled and popped throughout Orlando at midnight Wednesday, Stafford stumbled, bumbled and looked anything but a quarterback many believe could be the first player taken in April's NFL Draft.

Of course, that's if he decides to come out. But that's another story.

Stafford's first-half tale was horror story as the junior completed just 6-of-14 passes for 71 yards with one interception, which set up Michigan State's first field goal.

Fortunately for Georgia, a transformation was taking place in the Bulldog lockeroom.

When Georgia took the field to start the third quarter, apparently so did a different Stafford, whose second-half performance included a 14-of-17 effort for 179 yards and three touchdowns to spark the team to its 24-12 win.

"I wasn't performing the way I should. I wasn't throwing the ball well. We started the game hot moving up and down the field but we kind of squandered some chances in the second quarter and before we knew it we looked up and there were maybe two minute left in the half," Stafford said. "At halftime we just talked about coming out in the second half, throw the football and make some plays. The offensive line did a good job all day of keeping me upright and giving me enough time to throw the football.

Knowshon (Moreno) got us some big runs when he needed to. The second half was just a testament of guys just battling and staying with it."

After just 118 yards of total offense in the first half, Stafford and company more than doubled that number with 232 more in the second to finish with 350 for the game.

"I think the biggest thing is we stopped making mistakes. We had been making foolish mistakes, be it me not hitting the open receiver which happened obviously a couple of times in the first half, or just not finishing a drive," said Stafford, who was voted the game MVP by the media. "All those little mistakes add up. You've just got to thank our defense for keeping us in it and giving us a chance to fight."

Stafford wasn't the only Bulldog to finish with strong offensive numbers.

Wide receiver Mike Moore enjoyed a career day with six catches for 91 yards and a touchdown, one of three by the Bulldogs, who also got scoring catches from tight endAron White and Moreno, both from 21 outs out.

"Matthew just put it right where it needed to be," Moreno said. "I had the easy part catching the ball."

Basically, Richt said his offense just started to relax.

"All I told the offense was just don't make it harder than it is. Just protect the ball and get after them; just do what we do," Richt said. "I think we had a couple of mistakes early and we began to press and make it a bigger deal than it was."

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