Athens, GA (Oct 27, 2008) - There are games, both basketball and football, where the "player of the game" selection at the end makes sense. You know, the player the announcers (with a little push from the producer in the truck) highlight, and a donation is made to the general scholarship fund of the player's school. But sometimes viewers might be left scratching their heads. This may have been the case at the end of Georgia's 52-38 win over LSU this past Saturday. When this game ended, CBS Sports ended up naming Georgia Quarterback Matthew Stafford (17-26, 249 yards, 2 TDs passing, 1 rushing) as the player of the game. Was this the right choice or was it a choice made because it was supposed to be made?
The question is asked because Stafford had this game against the 9th-rated total defense, and 10th-rated passing defense, in the Southeastern Conference. He probably should have had even better numbers, but did not really need them, as Knowshon Moreno ran for 163 yards on 21 carries, with one touchdown. But if you look at the emotional of the game and the plays that made up the final scoring difference of 14 points, there is only one player responsible for this: Linebacker Daryll Gamble, a player starting in place of the injured Dannell Ellerbe. Not only did Gamble record 13 tackles in the game, he returned 2 interceptions for touchdowns, tying the NCAA single-game record for a linebacker.
Photograph by Ashley Connell. Courtesy of UGA Sports Communications.
When a player picks off the first pass of a game and returns it for a touchdown, and then does it again later, a lot of heat is taken off the rest of the team. Starting a game like this gives an immediate emotional jolt to the team, playing in front of a hostile crowd. Providing the winning margin of victory is, in the words of an ad campaign, priceless.
Stafford will have many more "player of the game" honors. This one really should have gone to Gamble. From the way CBS Sports game analyst Gary Danielson was saying he was a very close second, it sounded like in his heart he knew it too.