|COLLEGE FOOTBALL PACKAGE: Stafford hears criticism as leader of Georgia offense|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 12 September 2007 14:37|
``It was just a bad night,'' Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford said of the 16-12 loss to South Carolina.
The No. 23 Bulldogs must hope so.
The game marked the first time since coach Mark Richt's first season in 2001 that Georgia had been held without a touchdown.
The No. 23 Bulldogs, who play Western Carolina on Saturday, have lots of inexperience on offense and may need time to develop.
-Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, 33, is in his first full year of calling the plays.
-Stafford, a sophomore, has made only 10 starts, so he still hasn't played a full season.
-The offensive line includes a freshman, Trinton Sturdivant, at left tackle and a redshirt freshman, Chris Davis, at right guard. The right guard, junior college transfer Scott Havercamp, is in his first year in the program.
-Georgia's top rusher in each of its two games is another redshirt freshman, Knowshon Moreno.
As the quarterback and leader of the offense, Stafford will bear the brunt of the criticism.
He was 18-for-24 passing for 234 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions in Georgia's 35-14 opening win over Oklahoma State.
``He played so much last year and he played so well in the first game, you're thinking well, he's a veteran and he's going to play just lights-out from here on in,'' Richt said. ``That's what you hope. But he is still learning a few things here and there and still getting comfortable in some ways.''
Stafford was sacked three times by South Carolina, and Richt said the pressure of the pass rush affected the quarterback.
``I think the fact that the protection wasn't real clean in the beginning, I think that affected him,'' Richt said. ``He can't allow that to happen.''
The offensive line was the biggest concern of the preseason. The only starters with any major college experience are center Fernando Velasco and right tackle Chester Adams.
Richt said the line had some first-half troubles, but he pinned the loss on the skill players.
to overtime in that game.''
Stafford has been the only quarterback to play in each of the first two games, though Richt has said he wants to play backup Joe Cox.
BAD MEMORIES: The images are seared into the minds of many Alabama fans.
Freshman kicker Leigh Tiffin missing a 30-yard field goal in the fourth quarter, a 37-yarder in overtime that would have won the game - and then the painful finale. The missed extra point in overtime No. 2 of the 24-23 Arkansas victory last season.
Crimson Tide center Antoine Caldwell has another memory of the aftermath.
``I can just remember after the game on the plane he was sitting alone,'' Caldwell said. ``He was just down about everything that's happened. We had his back then, and no matter what we'll have his back if something like that would occur.''
Now, Tiffin and the Tide get a chance at redemption in Saturday night's rematch with the 16th-ranked Razorbacks. He was filling in for an injured Jamie Christensen in that game and claimed the job again with Christensen hurt before this season.
''It bothered me pretty bad for a while,'' Tiffin, who made a 46-yarder and missed a 33-yarder in that game, said earlier this season. He declined interview requests this week through an Alabama representative.
Tiffin has made 4-of-8 field goals in the first two games, with the last three misses on attempts of 40-plus yards.
``Leigh has done a really good job for us,'' coach Nick Saban said. ``He's a young player who is developing confidence at this point. What happened last year doesn't really matter unless it bothers you.
``I think he needs to focus on what's going on now, what he can do in this game. That's what we want him to be thinking about.''
FRESHMAN MISTAKES: Much was expected of Florida freshman Chris Rainey, but in the first two games the 156-pound running back who had 90 touchdowns and more than 7,000 yards in high school has had his number called for all the wrong reasons.
He was flagged for roughing the kicker in the opener against Western Kentucky, turning a fourth down into a first down. He had two more errors against Troy. He mistakenly ran on the field with the punt return team, prompting the Gators to call timeout to avoid a penalty, and then fumbled a kickoff early in the second half that helped spark Troy's 17-point third quarter.
His problems have coach Urban Meyer questioning whether he will be on the field Saturday when the Gators host No. 22 Tennessee.
``Chris is dynamic. He just has to take care of the ball,'' Meyer said. ``Chris comes from a great high school program. He's very well coached. He loves football. The reality is that he's not very strong and he's not very big. You're getting ready to face some very strong, very fast people.
``Have I lost trust in him? No. He's a young player that's going to go through some growing pains. He's going to have a great career at Florida. We've just got to build him up, and he knows that.''
Will that start against the Volunteers?
``I don't know about that,'' Meyer said.
SPREAD THIN: All these spread-option offenses are running Mississippi a bit ragged.
The Rebels are 1-1 against spread teams so far with two more to go. They have been susceptible to the pass, giving up 673 passing yards in games against Memphis and Missouri.
``We have to find more skill guys and bring them into our program,'' Ole Miss coach Ed Orgeron said. ``More cornerbacks, more safeties-outside linebacker-type of guys. And more receivers. I don't think we have enough receivers right now to go to a five-wide set. After three years we should.''
HONORS: Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, Mississippi State linebacker Gabe O'Neal and South Carolina kicker Ryan Succop were the SEC's players of the week.
Tebow threw three TD passes and ran for two more in a win over Troy. O'Neal returned an interception for a touchdown against Tulane. Succop was 3-for-3 on field goal attempts and averaged 40 yards per punt in a win over Georgia.
AP Sports Writers Chris Talbott in Jackson, Miss., Mark Long in Gainesville, Fla., and John Zenor in Montgomery, Ala., contributed to this report.