Stafford debut a success; No. 10 Georgia shuts out UAB

ATHENS, Ga. (AP) -- The way Georgia's defense is playing, Matthew Stafford can take his time learning what it takes to be a
successful college quarterback.

The freshman scored his first touchdown in a winning debut as
the Bulldogs' starter Saturday, but it was the guys on the other
side of the line who made sure there wasn't any pressure on the

Georgia's defense put up its second straight shutout -- the first
time that's happened since 1980 -- in a 34-0 rout of UAB.

"Those boys are playing light out," center Nick Jones said.
"We see them in practice every day, so we know they're good.
Back-to-back shutouts just shows everybody else how good they

The special teams aren't so bad, either.

C.J. Byrd scooped up a blocked punt and returned it 12 yards to
the end zone midway through the third quarter, which gave Georgia
(3-0) a 20-point lead and essentially finished off a team that
couldn't muster anything offensively.

Brandon Coutu kicked two more field goals, including a
55-yarder. He's 7-for-7 on the season.

That made things easy for Stafford, who completed 10 of 17
passes for 107 yards and powered into the end zone on a 4-yard run
in the fourth quarter. He broke a couple of tackles and dove across
with another defender wrapped around his feet.

"There wasn't any big stress or big burden on me," said
Stafford, who took over the No. 1 job after senior Joe Tereshinski
went down the previous week with a severely sprained ankle. "It's
just fun to be playing on Saturday."

After beginning the season with a surprisingly close 24-17 loss
at Oklahoma, UAB (1-2) managed only 163 yards against a defense
that shut out South Carolina 18-0 the previous week.

The Bulldogs opened with a 48-12 victory over Western Kentucky,
giving up a field goal in the closing minutes. They have gone 123
minutes, 32 seconds since then without allowing a point.

"This is the best team I have played in quite a while," UAB
coach Watson Brown said. "They just physically dominated us at

Georgia's last back-to-back shutouts were 41-0 over Vanderbilt
and 27-0 over Kentucky in 1980 on the way to a national

"If we continue to play defense and special teams the way we
are, and we get a little better on offense," coach Mark Richt
said, pondering the possibilities, "I don't know how good we can
be, but we certainly have a chance to get better."

UAB averaged less than 2.9 yards per play and never seriously
threatened to score. The Blazers' deepest drive was to the Georgia
36, where they were snuffed out on downs.

"There's a little pressure on us," end Charles Johnson said.
"We want to step up for him. We want him to know we've got his

Stafford, the first freshman to start at quarterback for the
Bulldogs since 1998, made his most glaring error when he failed to
pick up a blitzing safety, who knocked the ball loose with a big

Georgia recovered the fumble and kept Stafford from being
tainted by any major mistakes -- the primary emphasis after he
tossed three interceptions in relief of Tereshinski against South

The Bulldogs went straight down the field on their first
possession, taking advantage of a 26-yard punt return by Thomas
Flowers to the UAB 44. Stafford completed three straight passes,
UAB was penalized for a personal foul, and Kregg Lumpkin finished
it off with an 8-yard run around right end.

Flowers, who was coming back from a two-game suspension, hurt a
ligament in his foot later in the game and may need season-ending

On their second possession, the Bulldogs passed up a chance for
a short field goal after a penalty, then failed to convert on
fourth-and-1. But Coutu got another chance from long range and
barely cleared the crossbar on his 55-yarder, the third-longest
kick in school history without benefit of a tee. He also holds the
first two spots on that list, connecting last season from 58 and 56

Coutu made a 38-yarder early in the third quarter, then it was
time for the kick-blocking team to step up. Prince Miller broke
through to smother a punt by Parker Mullins, Byrd scooped it up on
one hop and sped to the end zone.

It was the 23rd block and 10th special-teams touchdown for the
Bulldogs since Mark Richt took over as coach in 2001.

Appropriately, Jeremy Lomax sacked UAB's Chris Williams on the
final play of the game.

Neither member of the Blazers' two-quarterback rotation did
much. Sam Hunt, getting the start because he's a Georgia native,
completed 6 of 10 for 49 yards. Williams was 5 of 10 for 46 yards.

"They took it to us today," running back Dan Burks said.
"They beat us up and down the field."