Matthew Stafford has played many games and taken many hits since Sept. 22, 2007.
But the current Detroit Lions’ franchise quarterback can still remember one of his signature moments during his Georgia football playing career.
“I think we ran I-left, Y-return, 142 double-go, and I threw a touchdown to Mikey Henderson in the back left of the end zone. It was a go ball,” Stafford said this week, taking a moment to reflect on the game-winning play the last time a Bulldogs team topped the Crimson Tide.
“I remember it was a great catch by him. I remember celebrating like crazy after that one.”
No doubt, the 26-23 overtime win over then-first year Alabama coach Nick Saban 13 years ago was a big one for a Georgia team. The Bulldogs finished 11-2 and ranked No. 2 in the nation after a 41-10 Sugar Bowl win over a previously undefeated Hawaii football team later that season.
The 2007 win over Alabama was one of 22 games Stafford passed for more than 200 yards. Stafford, the No. 1-rated QB in the 2006 Class according to Rivals.com, was 19 of 35 for 224 yards with 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions that day.
Georgia had game-planned throughout the week to make a read on the defense on the play, determining if Saban’s defense was in man-to-man coverage based on how the Tide’s safety reacted to the tight end going in motion.
Stafford, now in his 12th year in the NFL with 153 games under his belt, said those Georgia memories mean a lot to him, as do watching Kirby Smart’s current Bulldogs’ team.
“It’s fun to look back on that stuff, especially being in the NFL now with a bunch of other SEC school guys,” Stafford said. “Every time there’s a big SEC matchup in our locker room, we’re always talking, maybe even a small wager here or there.
“Obviously got some other Dawgs with me in Isaac (Nauta) and ‘Dre (Swift). Matter of fact, Georgia played Tennessee last week, and we had Jalen Reeves-Maybin make a bet with us. Loved coming out on top of that one.”
Coach Mark Richt, who moved to 23-3 in road games as Georgia’s head coach at that time, saw his team in quite a tussle in the 2007 classic even after taking a 20-10 lead on a 47-yard Brandon Coutu field goal with 12:23 left in the fourth quarter.
The Tide answered on the ensuing possession when John Parker Wilson (17 of 35, 185 yards) marched Bama 61 yards on 13 plays to set up Leigh Tiffin for a 22-yard chip shot that cut the lead to 20-13.
Wilson then directed a 10-play, 88-yard drive that he capped with a 6-yard scamper into the end zone to tie the game at 20-20 with 1:09 left.
Stafford and the Bulldogs scrambled to get into field goal range, Stafford completing an 11-yard fourth-down pass to Tripp Chandler to cap a hurried 36-yard drive down to the Alabama 30 where he called timeout with three seconds left.
Coutu, however, missed a 47-yarder on the final play in regulation to send the game to overtime in Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Stafford will be looking for receivers in Jacksonville on Saturday in a stadium where he went 1-2 against Florida, including a 42-30 upset of Tim Tebow in 2007.
But before Sunday’s kickoff, Stafford will take the time to watch his beloved Bulldogs battle Alabama in the 8 p.m. Saturday game in Tuscaloosa.
Like any other quarterback, Stafford will play the game in his mind — and reflect on the magical victory he delivered in 2007.
“This week, we’ve got a bunch of ‘Bama guys on our team now, so I’m sure we’ll have something going for the game,” the 32-year-old Stafford said.
“But looking back on all that, those were special days and a ton of fun, that game especially.”
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