WATCH: Georgia QB Stetson Bennett can’t keep up with Alabama, stumbles on road
Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett IV has proven a fast learner, but he wasn’t able to keep up with the Alabama offense on Saturday night.
The No. 2-ranked Crimson Tide rolled to a 41-24 victory over the No. 3-ranked Bulldogs at Bryant -Denny Stadium, capitalizing on two UGA turnovers in the second half.
Bennett, a redshirt junior making his first road start, was 18-of-40 passing for 269 yards with 2 touchdowns and 3 interceptions —two of the picks coming off tipped or batted balls.
“I think Stetson has gotten better, when the level of competition changes, you don’t change your evaluation,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said.
“The experience in the game tonight will be invaluable for him throughout the rest of the run on the road. He’s a work in progress, just like our team is. He’s going to grow and develop.””
Bennett helped lead the Bulldogs to a 24-20 halftime advantage with two especially impressive plays.
The fist came when Bennett connected with James Cook for an 82-yard touchdown that gave the Bulldogs their first lead of the night at 14-7 with 14:49 left in the second quarter.
Bennett recognized in his pre-snap read that Cook was being covered by a linebacker and knew immediately where he would go with the football. A well-layered pass traveled 34 yards and hit Cook in stride, enabling the speedy tailback to race the rest of the way into the end zone.
“I told Cook if they run a linebacker on you, I’m going to throw you the ball, so as soon as they did, I knew it,” Bennett said. “He (defender) was playing off, but I knew Cook was going to beat him, and it worked out.”
Bennett’s heady play was evident again late in the second quarter, when Georgia went to the line on a fourth-and-1 at the Alabama 10-yard line. It was Bennett, with a hard count, that drew the Tide offsides to get an automatic first down.
Three plays later, Bennett connected with Jermaine Burton for a 5-yard touchdown and a 24-17 lead.
It was the fourth consecutive series Bennett had led the Bulldogs on a scoring drive longer than 40 yards, three of them for touchdowns.
Alabama’s offense was gaining momentum, however, with the Georgia defense unable to get pressure on the nation’s top-rated passer, Mac Jones.
Jones finished 24-of-32 passing for 417 yards with 4 touchdowns and an interception, taking advantage of veteran future first-round NFL receiver draft picks DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle.
Alabama’s defense took away Bennett’s favorite target with double coverage much of the night, Kearis Jackson finishing with just two catches for 23 yards after averaging 100 yards receiving through the first three games.
“They were bracketing the inside guys most of the game, and so I don’t know if that was their scheme,” Bennett said of the extra attention Jackson drew. “The reads took me to Jermaine (Burton) and I have trust in him, and we’re going to get that connection dialed in in this off week.”
Burton, a true freshman, was targeted 11 times and made four catches for 58 yards and a touchdown.
Bennett’s first half interception came on the opening drive when the first of five balls batted at the line of scrimmage was intercepted by Justin Eboigbe.
Alabama adjusted to Todd Monken’s scheme in the second half and picked off two more passes, Bennett just 6 of 15 for 92, yards and the two turnovers over the final 30 minutes.
The first second-half interception was just wide of Burton, who got his fingertips on it before the ball was picked off at the 2 by Malachi Moore and retuned to the Alabama 44.
The second, Bennett admitted he was pressing, throwing back across his body after scrambling to his right and getting intercepted by Daniel Write at the Alabama 47.
Bennett, a former walk-on and junior college QB who has become one of the most impressive underdog stories in recent SEC history with wins over ranked Auburn and Tennessee teams, was particularly hard on himself.
“Yeah, don’t throw it across my body, which I’ve known that form the time I was 4 years old, so just a bone-headed play, just got to learn from it,” Bennet said. “I was frustrated with myself, because at that point, it was just stupid.”
Smart said Bennett’s biggest mistake on his third and final interception of the night was to leave the pocket and roll out toward the pressure.
“He’s not perfect, he’s learning, he’s growing up,” Smart said. “He also made some good throws and made some plays, and he even made some checks to put us in really good situations.
“But Stetson’s just got to play within himself and allow the people around him to help him, and we’ve got to help him with the run game around him,” Smart said. “We can’t throw the ball that many times and hope to be effective.”
The Bulldogs passed the ball 40 times and had 30 run plays.