MIAMI GARDENS, Fla — “No,” Stetson Bennett said, he couldn’t have imagined this five years ago when he was acting as the scout team quarterback for Georgia’s Rose Bowl team.
“Every day, from then until now,” Bennett said, “you go about your business and put your best foot forward.”
Bennett’s best led to a 34-11 win over Michigan and Offensive MVP honors in the Orange Bowl CFP Semifinal Game on Friday night at Hard Rock Stadium.
Bennett was 21-of-31 passing for 310 yards with 3 touchdowns and scrambled three times for 32 yards.
“He performed at a very high-level today, and he’s been focused the last couple of weeks,” said Georgia coach Kirby Smart, whose confidence in Bennett was questioned after a shaky performance against Alabama in the SEC Championship Game on Dec. 4.
“It’s amazing to have a guy his age block out the noise and focus even harder,” Smart said. “You look at some of the plays he made with his feet, they couldn’t account for his mobility.”
Bennett got the Bulldogs off to a fast start, completing his first nine passes as Georgia jumped to a 17-0 lead before taking a 27-3 lead into intermission.
Bennett made clear his performance had little to do with proving doubters wrong and more to do with winning the football game.
“I didn’t go out and play well to spite people,” Bennett said. “I played well after the few weeks we had off because my teammates needed me to do that.”
Bennett was the first to admit his performance against Alabama in the SEC Championship Game on Dec. 4 -- which included two interceptions and a 3-of-12 third down conversion rate -- was not up to par.
“We just didn’t play our best game — they did,” Bennett said in the aftermath of the 41-24 setback to the Tide. “Can’t turn the ball over. Just little mental lapses. That can’t happen.”
It certainly didn’t happen against Michigan
Bennett appeared razor-sharp throwing short darts to the perimeter the first two drives, setting up the Wolverines for his deep passes down the field to James Cook (53 yards) and Jermaine Burton (57 yards).
“I tried not to underthrow them this game,” Bennett said. “Cook ran a great route, and Jermaine baited the DB, and I trusted him on that one.
“So far as a statement, that’s my goal every week, is to play well.”
Next up, a rematch against Alabama in the CFP Championship Game on Jan. 10 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
“I think we’re good enough,” Bennett said. “Obviously, they’re a great team, but yeah, we’re going to enjoy this one tonight and start preparing tomorrow.
“We know we’re better than we played the last game.”