Matthew Stafford has been an elite quarterback for years. Whether it’s in the NFL with the Detroit Lions or playing college football with the Georgia Bulldogs, the signal caller always finds a knack for making big-time plays. He can be pretty creative, too.
Nothing perhaps proved his creative genius more than in the 2006 Chick-fil-A Bowl against the Virginia Tech Hokies. Stafford, then a true freshman, helped the Bulldogs make a furious second half comeback to secure a victory and really spark the star quarterback’s legacy.
Trailing 21-13 early in the fourth quarter at the Georgia Dome, and after the Georgia defense made a huge interception by Tony Taylor, Stafford pulled off a play-action fake so good, so much better than UGA head coach Mark Richt could draw up, that it fooled everyone in Atlanta and even fans watching it at home.
Matthew Stafford’s Play Fake vs. Va Tech
The 2006 season was quite the roller coaster and learning curve for freshman quarterback Matthew Stafford. The Bulldogs were ranked to begin the year, but lost four of five SEC games in the middle of the campaign to Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Florida and Kentucky.
However, Stafford was able to find a groove late in the season. He helped Georgia football take down ranked teams in Auburn and Georgia Tech to set up a Chick-fil-A Bowl matchup with head coach Frank Beamer and the ACC’s Virginia Tech Hokies.
The Bulldogs’ Brandon Coutu kicked a field goal in the first quarter to take an early lead, but found themselves down 21-3 by halftime. UGA was solid in the third quarter — shutting out the Hokies — then poured it on in the fourth quarter to seal the 31-24 victory with over 75,000 fans in attendance.
Stafford was not at his best, completing just 9 of 21 passes for 129 yards with one touchdown and an interception, yet he made several winning plays in the second half to complete the comeback.
None were better than the play-action fake and a 41-yard strike to Martrez Milner to set up a Kregg Lumpkin touchdown and two-point conversion to the game.
It was a thing of beauty.
2006 Chick-fil-A Bowl Highlights
The bowl game — now known as the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl — was a classic. It featured NCAA offensive stars stars such as Matthew Stafford and Kregg Lumpkin for Georgia, as well as Sean Glennon, Branden Ore and Eddie Royal for Virginia Tech.
Despite it being a relatively high-scoring football game, there wasn’t a ton of offense. It was both defenses that made most of the game’s biggest plays, and Georgia made the clutch ones to come out on top.
Although Stafford never led Georgia to the BCS National Championship Game, he went 3-0 in bowl games during college by winning the 2006 Chick-fil-A Bowl over Virginia Tech, 2008 Sugar Bowl over Hawaii, and 2009 Capital One Bowl over Michigan State.
As Georgia continues to battle the likes of Alabama and Clemson for College Football Playoff supremacy each year, never forget how good Matthew Stafford was during his time in Athens.