The Tape: Grading Stafford against Michigan State

Stafford had one more great play in him and a few boners. You can see the particulars after the bump. Let's first get to how I would grade him out for the game. I'll use a letter grading system, but before we get to that, let's talk some essential details.

24 of Stafford's 31 pass attempts were out of shotgun. Michigan State's pass rush harried Stafford all day, but I don't think this an outlier. So, when we say that Stafford functioned in a "pro style offense" out of the drop back, we're misspeaking. While Stafford has some experience playing out of the pocket, and practicing his drop backs, it looks like the majority of his production came out of the shotgun. And while Georgia's offense wasn't a strict spread, it did feature plenty of spread formations.

13 of his 31 pass attempts were screen passes or outlet passes to the running backs. They accounted for 12 of his 21 completions. Another way to look at that, on "pro style" pass attempts, Stafford was 9 for 18.

Big highs but little substance in between, plus some maddening lows, makes this statistical corker look not so hot under scrutiny. Even some of Stafford's highs seem contrived. The play I featured so prominently in the previous piece, in which Stafford fakes a toss to the flats before finding Michael Moore splitting the safeties, doesn't so much smack of great decision making or savvy quarterback play, as a designed play Stafford simply carried out. Stafford never audibled and for much of the game seemed little more than an arm extending from Mark Richt's playbook. Sometimes, he made progressions, and sometimes progressions seemed built-in. His short range accuracy was mostly good, and good thing, because swings and screens were the essence of the passing offense. Stafford looked clueless at times in the pocket, once misread a hand off and ran into Knowshon Moreno, and was nearly hurt not hearing footsteps coming from a rather slow blindside pass rusher. It didn't look so much like Stafford was the foundation of the offense, as the offense a vehicle for Stafford's pro career.

Then there were the plays that confounded everything and made me see the immense potential in the twenty year old. Two exceptional twenty yard touchdown lobs. The ability to look off, swivel his head, find a weakness and strike before the opportunity lost. Plays that showed Stafford has more than just a powerful arm, but an accurate arm and one capable of touch. The ability to stay poised under almost constant duress. Michigan State manhandled and exposed Georgia's offensive tackles. The high rate of shotgun formation and screen passes is as much, more really, an indictment of Georgia's offensive line as it is of Stafford.

Make what you will of the grade. Like any proper review, the details are what matter.

Drive Nine

1st and 10 at MSU 21 Matthew Stafford pass complete to Aron White for 21 yards for a TOUCHDOWN.

2 WR (left), TE (right), I

The left wide receiver motions in and back out. This draws the attention of the free safety. Stafford drops with poorly disguised play action. The action draws the strongside linebacker and corner. The corner corrects by attempting to cover the fullback. The fullback is running a quick out into the flat. Tight end Aron White moves up and out, faking a downfield block, breaks free behind the strong safety and reels in a beautiful lob pass for 21 and the score. It's his third reception of his college career.

Drive Ten

3 WR (left), WR (right), RB (left), Shotgun

1st and 10 at GA 12 Matthew Stafford sacked by Brandon Long for a loss of 10 yards to the Geo 2.

Almost off the snap, Long is free. He turns the corner and closes on Stafford. Stafford sees pressure, but perhaps only right defensive tackle Kevin Pickelman. He rolls to the right attempting to separate, but - check the formation - there's no outlet on the right. He slows, never senses pressure and takes a bad hit that drives him down on his throwing shoulder. Stafford bounces up looking a little sore, but for as few sacks as he suffered at Georgia, that's not Dwight Freeney turning the corner and chasing his blindside. This plays makes me worry about Stafford's ability to sense pressure and minimize sacks.

Hand off

Hand off

Drive Eleven

Hand off

2nd and 4 at GA 39 Matthew Stafford pass complete to Michael Moore for 8 yards to the Geo 47 for a 1ST down.

2 WR (left), WR (right), TE (right), RB

Wobbly swing-pass to slot receiver.

1st and 10 at GA 47    Matthew Stafford pass incomplete to Tripp Chandler.

2 WR (right), WR (left), TE (right), RB

Play action. Michigan State overloads the offensive right. Stafford bootlegs into the teeth of the blitz. He wisely throws it away.

2nd and 10 at GA 47 Matthew Stafford pass complete to Kris Durham for 11 yards to the MchSt 42 for a 1ST down.

2 WR (right),WR (left), TE (left), RB (right), Shotgun

Play action. Stafford throws behind Durham on another slot screen. Nevertheless Durham stops, turns, catches the ball, and wraps around his blocker and runs for 11. Get a guy killed throwing passes like that in the pros.

Stafford run. (He's not NFL fast)

Hand off.

Hand off.

3rd and 3 at MSU 25 Matthew Stafford pass complete to Demiko Goodman for 4 yards to the MchSt 21 for a 1ST down.

2 WR (left), WR (right), TE (left), RB (right), Shotgun

Stafford reads up-up-left, reads right, sees the corner blitz and the uncovered receiver, throws without hesitation and delivers a perfectly placed pass that appears in the receiver's hands.

On the next play, Stafford and Moreno run into each other. Stafford hands off as if Moreno is cutting back right. Moreno accepts the hand off attempting to run left. The run looks to the left and Moreno therefore in the right, but we can't be sure. Whatever the case, an ugly play sometimes seen in the pros.

2nd and 10 at MSU 21 Matthew Stafford pass incomplete to Kris Durham.

2 WR (left), WR (right), TE (right), RB (left) -> Slot (left)

Wide receiver screen: Stafford tosses another wobbler that nonetheless effectively leads Durham. Durham watches as it passes between his hands.

3rd and 10 at MSU 21 Matthew Stafford pass complete to Knowshon Moreno for 21 yards for a TOUCHDOWN.

Drive Twelve

2 WR (left), WR (right), TE (left), RB (right), Shotgun

Stafford reads left, up-left, sees Moreno matched against middle linebacker Greg Jones, detects the mismatch and drops a rainbow over Moreno's shoulder for the score. Love this play. Moreno runs a wheel route and isolates Jones. He shows wide receiver hands and good concentration, but Stafford is the star. It's just a two look progression, but the amount isn't essential, getting the right read is. Stafford sees the mismatch and as he did all game, fires without hesitation. The ball drops just over Moreno's shoulder and Moreno tiptoes it into the end zone.

Stafford wouldn't pass again. The Bulldogs killed the clock and Stafford completed his final game as an amateur in often superlative, but thoroughly uneven fashion.

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