Georgia football-Stetson Bennett-National Championship Game
120421 Atlanta: Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett looks to pass under pressure from Alabama in the SEC Championship game on Saturday, Dec 4, 2021, in Atlanta. “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”`

Stetson Bennett sums up national championship game perfectly: ‘You’re either the hero or the zero’

Intentional or not, Stetson Bennett sounded like Batman at the end of The Dark Knight when the Georgia quarterback spoke on Saturday. He knows he has to take the heat and frustrations that come with being the quarterback at Georgia.

At the end of The Dark Knight, Chrisitan Bale’s Batman accepts responsibility for crimes he did not commit so that the city of Gotham can move forward. Bennett seems to often carry the burden of Georgia’s last seven losses to Alabama, with each being more painful than the next.

Like Batman, he admits he can take the punishment doled out, whether in the press or by the fan base he was once a part of.

“It’s the nature of the beast. You’re the hero or the zero,” Bennett said. “I’m glad it was me instead of anybody else because I can handle it because I can just shut it off and tell people to go blah, blah. "

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Bennett has been the hero Georgia needed for much of the year. He’s thrown 27 touchdown passes to just 7 interceptions. He’s made big plays with both his arm and his legs. Against Michigan, he threw for 313 yards and 3 touchdowns in an emphatic win for the Bulldogs. It was the best performance of his career in what had been the biggest game of his career.

Of course, Bennett also knows his story will be defined by how he plays in this national championship game. Bennett grew up a Georgia fan and understands the magnitude of this moment for a program that has not won a national championship since 1980.

That championship predates the flip phone Bennett carries around. Unlike Batman, Bennett has eschewed the latest technology in order to help himself.

“I had a bunch of school coming up the next semester, I had football, I was, like, I spend, whatever, an hour on my smartphone a day doing what,” Bennett said. “Doing nothing, nothing that’s going to help me. I don’t even remember what I did. I’ve thought about it before. I’ve thought about it for years. And I was like, well, I’ve got all this stuff to do, all this important stuff. Let’s try not to let anything get in the way of that focus and just go get a flip phone.”

Related: Stetson Bennett shares honest truths about 5-star rankings and the importance of recruiting

To some, this might seem like a strange thing to do, given the celebrity nature that comes with being the quarterback at the University of Georgia. Much like a billionaire sneaking around at night and beating up criminals.

In reality, it speaks more to the comfort Bennett has with being himself.

“I think it’s just the genuineness in who he is and what he represents kind of draws people to him because he’s going to be Stetson at all times,” offensive tackle Jamaree Salyer said. “He’s like kind of quiet but he can be loud when he wants to be. Jokester. He’s calm and collected. He’s confident in who he is.”

That confidence — which he stresses isn’t “an ignorant confidence,” — exists within Bennett despite his two previous losses to Alabama. They’re two of his worst games as a starter, as he’s thrown five interceptions in those two games. They also resulted in 41-24 losses as well.

Related: Alabama DC Pete Golding: ‘pick your poison,’ force mistakes against Georgia

Bennett’s play drew the ire of the Georgia fan base, the one he used to be a part of growing up in Blackshear, Ga. The outside noise and hate got so loud that even Bennett’s teammates were aware of some of the vitriol Bennett received.

Those same teammates know Bennett is tough enough to take it. To deal with the ups and downs that come with playing such a high-profile position.

“I definitely think there was definitely a lot of trash talk about him after the SEC game that we all seen,” Jordan Davis said. “We just want to make sure he had our support. And no matter what, we always are tenfold behind him. Stetson is, how he went to Michigan and played lights out. And we know and you know what he’s capable and we all know what he’s capable of and we just need his best just like he needs our best, and we’re always there for him.”

Bennett will start Monday’s national championship game for Georgia. He’s earned and deserves it, given how he has led Georgia to this moment.

Whether or not Bennett will be the hero Georgia needs will be based on his play on Monday night.

“You come to the university because you think you’re a good enough football player to play at the University of Georgia, and you want to play against really good other players from other teams,” Bennett said. “And we’re playing against the best in the country this week. So it’s exciting. And I think we’re all ready for it.”

Stetson Bennett previews 2022 National Championship Game

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