3 keys Georgia vs. Samford: Kirby’s counsel, Stetson’s Heisman Hype, new game plan
ATHENS — Kirby Smart will have plenty to say on the sideline today, just like last Saturday when he coached up Stetson Bennett.
The No. 2-ranked Bulldogs will be looking for growth across the board against FCS Samford at 4 p.m. at Sanford Stadium.
As well as Bennett played, Smart will want to see even better, just like any other position.
WATCH: Video from Heisman voter on what Stetson Bennett must do to win Heisman Trophy
The Georgia quarterback was on point throughout most of the 49-3 win over Oregon, executing Todd Monken’s game plan to the tune of 25-of-31 passing for 368 yards with 2 touchdowns.
But Bennett wasn’t perfect — even when he was successful — and Smart was quick to let him know.
Yes, Bennett’s wheeling, dealing, scrambling 4-yard touchdown pass to Ladd McConkey was a thing of Heisman highlights.
But that sort of highlight is not the kind of Georgia football Smart wants out of his quarterbacks.
“I had a discussion with him afterward,” Smart said. “I told him it was an amazing play and a brilliant play in terms of his athletic abilities, but did he know the situation?”
Smart made sure Bennett did when cautioning him against needlessly making decisions that could lead to turnovers.
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“He probably didn’t make the best decision in terms of his read and decision making,” Smart said. “He turned it into a good play, but it could have been catastrophic…. one hand on the ball, we don’t coach that, multiple defenders around him.”
Beyond that, Smart reminded Bennett there was no reason to force a play.
“It’s first down, before the half, we have multiple opportunities, we have three timeouts, so we’re in control of the situation,” Smart said. " Coach Monken discussed it with him.
“He knows his read on that play, but you have to be smart with the decision making.”
Bennett said after the game he knew what the right read should have been.
“It probably wasn’t smart,” Bennett said. “I needed to either ground it at him (McConkey) or run it, or throw it to Brock (Bowers) or something on the front side.
“Especially first down at the 1, don’t do that. But it did work out.”
Heisman Hype arrived in Athens this week with Bennett’s performance, as he skyrocketed to being tied for fourth among the Heisman Trophy favorites alongside Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson.
Richardson, making his third career start, will have an opportunity to gain more prominence if he can lead the Gators over Kentucky in a key East Division showdown.
So what does Bennett need to do to stay relevant, other than win?
USC QB Caleb Williams, who Georgia unsuccessfully courted in the transfer portal, serves as a good example.
Williams was 19-of-22 passing for 249 yards and 2 touchdowns and also had 68 yards rushing in the Trojans’ 66-14 victory over Rice.
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Different game plan
Smart said Samford will be throwing a different game plan at Georgia, and UGA might not be as inclined to know what to expect as it was last week against former defensive coordinator Dan Lanning.
That could mean a return to last season’s offensive personality for this game, which would mean more runs between the tackles and play-action passes.
UGA’s average depth on passes last week was a short 5.6 yards, and further analytics revealed 306 of the team’s 421 passing yards were after the catch.
“A lot of times that decision is made by the defense, not by the offense,” Smart said of the offensive play calling. “A lot of times what they do determines what you do.”
Smart’s hunger for constant improvement is one of the reasons Georgia football has risen to the top of college football
Smart shared more of that philosophy when asked what areas he was looking for improvement against Samford.
“If you go with the assumption that always need to get better, and you always have things to improve, would there ever be something I’d go in the team meeting room and say, “Right here, we’re really good, we’re fine here, we don’t need to improve on this,’ " Smart said.
“I just don’t see it that way. If you say is there some (areas needing work) more than others, there’s really not,” he said. “If we’re really good at something, I want to be really better. And if we’re not good enough at it, I want to improve that.
“Incrementally, I want everything to go up and get better,” Smart said. “I want us to have more players playing winning football, making less mistakes, that’s my goal.”