Stetson Bennett ‘knew he had to play well’ for Georgia football; here’s how he did it

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091121 Athens: Georgia quarterbacks JT Daniels (from left), Stetson Bennett, and Carson Beck prepare to play UAB in a NCAA college football game on Saturday, Sept 11, 2021, in Atlanta. “Curtis Compton /”

ATHENS — Most fans were probably surprised when Stetson Bennett was announced as the starting quarterback. A few were upset, as they booed when the senior quarterback was announced as the starting quarterback in Sanford Stadium on Saturday.

Linebacker Channing Tindall was not. Nor was he shocked to see Bennett tie the school record by throwing 5 touchdown passes, all of which came in the first half in No. 2 Georgia’s 56-7 win over UAB.

“It wasn’t surprising that he went out and did what he did,” Tindall said. “They call him ‘Mailman’ for a reason. I’m very proud of him.”

Bennett learned he would be starting on Thursday morning after head coach Kirby Smart told both Bennett and redshirt freshman Carson Beck the plan. That came after a discussion with offensive coordinator Todd Monken, though Smart tried to reiterate he doesn’t involve himself in the quarterback room all that often.

JT Daniels was held out of the game due to an oblique injury. The normal Georgia starter did dress out and Smart said Daniels felt better as the week went on.

Related: Kirby Smart updates JT Daniels’ injury, Georgia QB situation, decision to start Stetson Bennett

Georgia didn’t need him on Saturday though. Not Bennett as threw for 288 yards on just 12 pass attempts.

“That’s usually an Oklahoma stat-line when they play north, south, west Texas,” Bennett said.

To start Georgia’s next drive, he hooked up with Brock Bowers for an 89-yard touchdown. Then on his fifth pass attempt of the game he completed a 61-yard pass to Arian Smith.

The Bulldogs had a 28-0 lead just one play into the second quarter. Bennett finished the first half completing 8 of his 9 pass attempts for 269 yards and the five touchdowns. The fifth found Bowers’ hands just before the end of the first half. The Georgia offense finished with 56 points, but the passing game showed an explosiveness it did not have against Clemson a week ago.

“We’re really young offensively and have a lot of guys who were injured and out,” Smart said on his decision to start Bennett. “We thought it would give us a calming effect to have him in. His experience, his ability to play in games. Really proud of the way he played and handled it.”

Smart and Bennett both downplayed any questions of what this all means going forward. Beck had been named the No. 2 quarterback this week, but Smart added that Bennett practiced really well.

And by this point in his Georgia career, Bennett is very accustomed to making the most out of a strange situation.

“It’s a little bit of innate confidence where you believe you’re good enough,” Bennett said. “It really doesn’t matter the situation thrust upon you. It seems the last two games I’ve had to come in when no one expected me to. It always helps when you have great players all over the field.”

Bennett reiterated multiple times he tries to ignore the outside noise. If he had listened to the pregame social media chatter, it would’ve been overwhelmingly negative.

The Georgia fan base wasn’t kind to Bennett before he took the field on Saturday, with thoughts of the losses to Florida and Alabama likely looming from the 2020 season.

But Tindall, offensive coordinator Todd Monken and Smart all had a lot of confidence in what the veteran Bennett would bring to an offense that was still without Kearis Jackson, Dominick Blaylock, Darnell Washington and George Pickens.

And he delivered time and time again for Georgia on Saturday.

“Nobody has been better to the University of Georgia than Stetson Bennett,” Smart said.

Stetson Bennett discusses how he learned he would be the starting quarterback for Georgia

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