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 ATHENS, Ga. (AP) -Matthew Stafford has a big play to go along with the big wins he's led Georgia to in his short time as the Bulldogs' starting quarterback.
On the first play after Alabama kicked a field goal to lead 23-20 in overtime Saturday, Stafford lofted a perfect pass to Mikey Henderson in the left corner of the end zone, giving Georgia a 26-23 victory.
Stafford led Georgia to three straight wins over Top 25 teams - Auburn, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech - at the end of last season. But none of those games had a memorable play like Saturday's
``I think this game was important for Matthew,'' coach Mark Richt said Tuesday. ``Auburn was important for Matthew because he did play extremely well that day, but it didn't get down to that crunch time in that game.''
The win was especially important two weeks after a confidence-draining home loss to South Carolina. It gave No. 15 Georgia a needed boost as it prepares to play a pesky Mississippi team this week.
Stafford's big play could serve as a springboard for his career in much the way that David Greene, then a redshirt freshman, stamped himself as a clutch leader with his 6-yard scoring pass to Verron Haynes with 5 seconds left to beat Tennessee 26-24 in 2001.
``Those games help define your career and define your leadership and your confidence that you are the leader and you can make the play,'' Richt said. ``Just to know for sure that the guys believe in you, it goes a long way. If he knows he's a leader and he knows guys believe in him, then they usually take off and hopefully that will be the case with Matthew.''
Stafford enjoys having the ball with the game on the line.
``In high school I always felt like if I got the ball at the end of the game I was going to drive down and score and help us win,'' he said. ``That's what ate me up about South Carolina. I couldn't get us down there and give us a chance to win.''
Stafford passed for 224 yards and two touchdowns against Alabama, but he also threw two interceptions two weeks after throwing one in the 16-12 loss to South Carolina.
For the season, Stafford is 70-of-123 passing for 845 yards with six touchdowns and three interceptions - and one signature win.
``We'll have to see,'' Stafford said. ``As far as its potential to be a big game for us, it definitely has that. It got us back in the SEC race. It was a big win on the road for a young team.
``It could be big but it's going to be kind of forgotten if we don't take care of business the rest of the year.''
Notes: TE Tripp Chandler, who had three drops before making a big catch late in regulation against Alabama, will compete with Bruce Figgins to keep his starting job this week. ``I haven't lost confidence in Tripp, but we're going to continue to compete at that position,'' Richt said. ... RB Kregg Lumpkin, recovering from thumb surgery, may play only on special teams again this week but eventually will join a rotation with Thomas Brown and Knowshon Moreno. ``When he's healthy enough and can really wrap up the ball and protect it like it needs to be, he'll definitely get some (playing time) back there at tailback,'' Richt said. ``We're not going to forget about Lumpkin.''

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