Stafford shines as Georgia upsets AuburnNov 11, 2006 - 11:09 PM AUBURN, Alabama (Ticker) - Georgia has found a quarterback while Auburn has lost its Bowl Championship Series hopes.
In the midst of a disappointing campaign, Georgia received an inspired performance out of true freshman Matthew Stafford and dealt a fatal blow to Auburn's Southeastern Conference and national title hopes with a 37-15 victory.
Stafford was the offensive hero for the Bulldogs, who also received a stellar performance from safety Tra Battle, who intercepted three passes.
Georgia (7-4, 4-4 SEC East) came into the game having lost four of five games and struggled at the quarterback position. Stafford, Joe Cox and Joe Tereshinski III each had opportunities to make the job his own and no one had stepped forward until Stafford against the Tigers.
It would have been easy for the Bulldogs to throw in the towel in this one. They not only have a loss to Kentucky but were defeated at home by Vanderbilt in mid-October and were playing nothing like defending SEC champions until Saturday.
"I am extremely proud of this team. If there has been one saving grace for me through all of the bad things that have happened, it's that we stayed together and we stayed unified," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "We didn't give in. We kept grinding and we kept working. We kept trying to do the things we needed to do to win."
Stafford had thrown eight interceptions and just three touchdowns in his last three games, including three picks in a 24-20 loss at Kentucky last week. He did lose two fumbles against Auburn but the Bulldogs were able to force four turnovers themselves.
Georgia took a 7-0 lead on an eight-yard TD run by Kregg Lumpkin in the first quarter and put the game away with a 23-point outburst in the second quarter.
All three of Battle's picks led to points for Georgia in the second quarter. The first set up a 34-yard field goal by Gordon Ely-Kelso that made it 10-0. Battle did the damage himself on the second interception, returning it 30 yards for a TD to make it 24-0.
"This is maybe one of the best feelings I've had since I've been at Georgia," Battle said. "It says a lot about us. It shows our character. We have taken a bashing, but we showed that we can come back up."
After Auburn (9-2, 5-2 West) scored to make it 24-7 and forced a three-and-out from Georgia on its ensuing possession, momentum seemed to be swinging in the Tigers' direction. But Battle came up with his third interception on Auburn's next drive and Stafford hit Lumpkin for a 14-yard TD with 38 seconds left in the half to make it 30-7.
Stafford completed 14-of-20 passes for 215 yards and added 67 yards on 11 carries. He capped the scoring with a nine-yard TD run with 12:57 to play.
"I don't like to put Matthew out there a lot of times but he is an athletic quarterback, and when he learns to hold onto the ball people are going to have to account for him," Richt said.
While Stafford had his best game as a Bulldog, Cox suffered through one of his worst as a Tiger, completing 4-of-12 passes for 35 yards with four interceptions. He was also sacked four times.
"The safeties made good reads on the first two. I think the third one got tipped and the last one I just underthrew it," Cox said. "I don't think their pass rush affected me. The offensive line did a good job. There were a couple times that we just got beat. You have to credit Georgia for how they played."
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