ATHENS — Through rain, sleet, snow and a few scattered boos during the video board introduction, Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett IV delivered.
Bennett had tied a UGA school record with his fifth TD pass of the day by halftime as Georgia built a 35-0 lead as the teams headed to intermission.
At that, Bennett didn’t even play on all of the series to that point, with Kirby Smart wedging three first-half series for Carson Beck to get the redshirt freshman’s feet wet.
Bennett led the Bulldogs to touchdowns on six of the seven drives he played in the game, finishing 10-of-12 passing for 288 yards with 5 touchdowns and no interceptions in the 56-7 victory.
Bennett was the ultimate reliever for Georgia last season, entering the opening game at Arkansas with UGA trailing 7-2 before he rallied the Bulldogs to the 37-10 victory.
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This Georgia team needed steadying, too, though the scoreboard might not indicate it.
The Bulldogs’ receivers were shaky in the 10-3 season-opening win against Clemson, some lining up in the incorrect places, others running the wrong routes and a few failing to deliver perimeter blocks.
The offensive line, too, was working on its fourth different starting lineup in as many games, still adjusting to the season-ending injury suffered by Tate Ratledge in the opening game, and redshirt freshman Sedrick Van Pran making his second career start.
All this, against a UAB defense that returned nine starters from a unit that ranked seventh in the nation last season.
Yet, when news broke this week that incumbent JT Daniels might not play on account of an upper-body injury — reports range from a strained oblique to a bruise pectoral muscle — many quickly assumed Kirby Smart would turn to his No. 2 quarterback, freshman Carson Beck.
Smart, however, clearly valued the game experience Bennett piled up last season, when he started five games including contests on two of the biggest stages in college football at Alabama (in Tuscaloosa) and Florida (in Jacksonville),
Not all of the Georgia fans agreed, and there was a social media outcry with some challenging Smart’s judgment when DawgNation broke the story that Bennett would start.
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Bennett’s answer was a 5-of-5 passing, 245-yard start to the game that included 4 touchdown passes and an absurd 775.6 QB rating.
And, just in case anyone forgot, Bennett delivered the longest run of the game, a 20-yard scramble on a third-and-6 at the UAB 34 to sustain a drive that saw James Cook run into the end zone on the next play for a 42-0 lead.
Bennett ran his record to 4-2 as a starter for Georgia with his losses coming to Alabama and Florida.
More importantly, Bennett’s performance commanded respect and confidence from his teammates, along with those outside the clubhouse who doubted him.