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Dogs' Stafford having more interception problems
ATHENS — Matthew Stafford is moving up on some big names on Georgia's career passing records — including for interceptions.

David Greene finished with a school-record 72 touchdown passes and 32 interceptions as a four-year starter for coach Mark Richt from 2001-04.

Stafford has 38 touchdown passes and 31 interceptions with three regular-season games left in his junior season.

Stafford is on the verge of matching Greene's interceptions, even though Greene's total came in almost 600 more pass attempts.

Stafford began the season with no interceptions in the first four games, drawing praise for his growth in his third season. But his problems with interceptions have re-emerged in recent weeks. He has thrown seven interceptions in his last four games, including three in last week's 49-10 loss to Florida.

For the season, Stafford has 12 touchdown passes and eight interceptions.
Stafford retains the support of Richt, who reminded reporters on Tuesday that interceptions can't always be blamed on the quarterback.

"I've not lost any faith in Matthew whatsoever," Richt said as he reviewed the loss to Florida and talked about his No. 14 Bulldogs' game at Kentucky on Saturday

"When you look at them one by one they don't look as bad as when you say seven," Richt said. "Some of them, you might get a ball tipped at the line of scrimmage, you might have a receiver who ran the wrong route, which you are not going to say and lay somebody out there after a ballgame. Stafford is not going to do that. We're not going to do that either.

"It's a combination of things. Sometimes there is a guy who is getting ready to hit him in the throat and sometimes he just needs to throw the ball away and sometimes he needs to eat it. Ultimately it's the quarterback's responsibility on the picks, but there are some circumstances that are a little bit out of his control, too."

Each of the three interceptions against Florida came in the second half. Georgia abandoned its attempts at a balanced offense as the Gators' 14-3 halftime lead quickly grew with 21 third-quarter points.

"Interceptions happen," Stafford said Tuesday. "I understand that. That's just the way it goes sometimes. Obviously Saturday we tried to get back in the game throwing the ball a bunch. I'm going to take chances trying to get us a touchdown anytime we're not doing well on offense.

"A lot of the plays they got interceptions on were really good individual plays on Florida's part. They're a good team. They make plays as much as we do, too."

Interceptions were a problem when Stafford started eight games as a freshman in 2006. He threw 13 interceptions with seven touchdowns as a freshman. He turned the ratio around with 19 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions last season, when Georgia won its final seven games to finish No. 2 in the final poll.

Stafford's improvement was one reason Georgia was No. 1 in this year's preseason poll, but the Bulldogs have suffered lopsided losses to Alabama and Florida.

Stafford's completion percentage has improved each season, from 52.7 as a freshman to 60.7 this season.

"That's good," he said. "Obviously I've got a chance to finish out the season and bump it up some. I think I've been a lot more accurate than I have been in the past, so that's a good thing."

Stafford wore a sleeve on his right arm Tuesday, revealing the arm was bruised in the Florida game.

"It's just to keep it loose so it won't get stiff," Stafford said. "That's all. All good. ... It's fine. I'm practicing today."

The 6-foot-3, 228-pound Stafford has good size and excellent arm strength, making him a possible high first-round pick if he enters the 2009 draft.

It's unlikely the interceptions will hurt Stafford's draft status. The Atlanta Falcons made Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan the No. 3 overall pick in this year's draft after Ryan threw 19 interceptions in his 2007 college season.

Georgia (7-2 overall, 4-2 in the Southeastern Conference) has almost no chance of playing in the SEC championship game. Florida could clinch the East Division by winning at Vanderbilt on Saturday.
Could the unfulfilled quest for a SEC championship affect Stafford's decision about entering next year's NFL draft?

"I don't think it really has too much," Stafford said. "I'll have to evaluate it at the end of the year. That's something I'm not really thinking about right now."

Greene and Buck Belue, who led Georgia to the 1980 national championship, are tied for fourth on the school's career records for interceptions. Another four-year starter, Eric Zeier, is third with 37 career interceptions.

Greene threw 1,440 passes in his career and Zeier had 1,402. Stafford has 866 pass attempts, already third on the Georgia records.

At least Stafford doesn't have to worry about approaching the school record for interceptions. Zeke Bratkowski threw 68 interceptions from 1951-53.
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