To find the worst critic for Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford you don't have to look very far.
That critic is Stafford himself .
For example: Shortly after throwing for a career-high 310 yards in last Saturday's win over Tennessee, Stafford was still ruing the two interceptions he threw, mistakes that he felt kept the Bulldogs from enjoying a more leisurely afternoon.
"I just hate to make mistakes," Stafford said. "I'm not helping the team when I do something like that."
Ask Stafford about his current numbers, and he simply shrugs. Through six games the junior is the top- passer in the SEC having completed 111 of 180 passes, a completion percentage of 61.7 percent, for 1,503 yards and eight touchdowns.
Considering that Stafford has posted those numbers operating behind an inexperienced offensive line that Saturday against Vanderbilt will include two true freshmen in Cordy Glenn and Ben Jones, one true sophomore in Clint Boling, one redshirt sophomore in Chris Davis and a redshirt freshman in Justin Anderson, it's a wonder the Texas native has been as efficient as he has.
But for all the turmoil and all the injuries, Stafford said he feels his young line took a big step forward in its development during the Bulldogs' nearly 11-minute drive in the fourth quarter which enabled Georgia to put Saturday's game away.
"I challenged our guys before that drive. They (Tennessee) know we're running it. We know we're running it. What are you going to do about it?" Stafford said. "I asked the guys, can we move the ball, can we get first downs and get that time off the clock? They did a great job. They were getting excited and they could tell they were taking over the game."
Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo gave Stafford his share of the credit as well, especially, he said for showing the kind of leadership that makes a good quarterbacks great.
"I've seen him really improve as a leader since he's been here and this year he's really done a nice job of leading the football team," Bobo said. "That's a situation where quarterbacks have got to step up, and tell everybody what they're going to do. They need somebody in the huddle that's going to give them direction and when you've got a quarterback who can do that, that can lead, then that's when you've got a special guy.
"A lot of guys can throw the ball and make plays, but when you've got 10 other guys who believe in you and what you say will come true then you've got a chance to be pretty good."
Fullback Brannan Southerland agreed.
"He just showed the attitude that we were going to finish the game," Southerland said. "Even though we didn't get the touchdown, we got the field goal, His leadership and the attitude that he showed was pretty cool."
Basically, Bobo said that Stafford has grown comfortable in his own skin.
Although it took the Texas native the better part of a year to gain the confidence he now has in Georgia's offensive system, Stafford is now at the point where he's able to command the type of respect that makes him such an integral part of the Bulldogs' success.
"It's just been a gradual process and Stafford's been really trying to fine-tune himself and work on his fundamentals, make his play better and I think he has improved in that area," Bobo said. "He's more comfortable helping everybody out. Sometimes when you haven't figured everything out it's tough to lead, but now he's got a grasp of what we want to do. He had that last year but really he feels comfortable fundamentally which helps him feel more relaxed to lead."
As for his first career 300 yard game, Bobo said there's doubt Stafford was happy to get that proverbial monkey off his back, although in reality, there was only one stat that truly mattered - the final 26-14 score.
"I think it's a big deal to any quarterback when you can throw for X-number of yards. You see guys across the country throwing for a lot of yards and a lot of touchdowns and obviously, you want to prove that hey, you can do it as well," Bobo said. "But I think the reason we've been successful is that he's never let that bother him. He's only concerned on winning and what it takes to win football games."
Stafford conceded as much after the game.
"All people are going to remember is whether or not you won," Stafford said. "That's all I'm trying to do. There are no excuses. I just want to do what I can to help this team be successful."
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