ATHENS — Georgia senior team captain Jamaree Salyer often comes across as an “old soul” of sorts, wise beyond his years and able to quickly put things into perspective.
Saturday night was just such an example, as Salyer shared insight and perspective into Stetson Bennett’s historic performance in the No. 2-ranked Bulldogs 56-7 victory over UAB at Sanford Stadium.
“It was one of those things where I’ll be glad 20 years later to say I was there, and I watched him do that,” said Salyer, who contributed mightily by helping to lock down the Blazers’ pass rush from his left tackle position.
Bennett was 10-of-12 passing for 288 yards with 5 touchdowns and no interceptions in his first game action since suffering a sprained AC joint in his shoulder after staking UGA out to a 14-0 lead in Florida last season.
JT Daniels started the final four games of last season and was under center for Georgia’s 10-3 win over Clemson in Week One, apparently suffering or aggravating an upper-body core injury that was enough to sideline him this week.
Salyer explained how Bennett’s stunning performance on Saturday was just another chapter in a growing legacy.
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“Just look at his story; Stet has gone through just about everything a guy could go through that comes to college,” Salyer said. “He’s been around five years, I think he went to junior college, here for a year, and then he left, then he came back.
“Won a starting job, lost a starting job, been on the scout team, won big games …. Stet has lived the life of a college athlete to the fullest.”
Bennett has certainly earned his head coach’s trust, as the Bulldogs’ turned to Bennett despite him not getting as many repetitions in practices and being behind No. 2 quarterback Carson Beck on the depth.
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“We thought it would give us a calming effect to have him in with his experience and his ability to play in games, and he played really well,” Kirby Smart said. “Nobody has been better to the University of Georgia than Stetson Bennett.”
Bennett has stayed humble, joking about his eye-popping success, which he likened to “Oklahoma …. when they play some North or Southwest Texas.”
Salyer said Bennett is always sharing a laugh with those around him and is one of the most popular players on the team.
“He’s a good kid and he’s a good person, he’s easy to laugh with , he’s always joking and smiling,” Salyer said. “Stet is a hard person not to like. When people do good and they give their all to the team, it’s hard to not rally around a person like that.”
No doubt, Bennett earned the team’s respect last season when he came off the bench in the 2020 opener and rallied them from behind against Arkansas.
Bennett led Georgia to a 24-20 halftime lead over eventual national champion Alabama in Tuscaloosa, too, and the Bulldogs were beating Florida 14-0 when he sprained the AC joint in his shoulder.
Georgia didn’t hold on to beat the Tide or the Gators, but defensive breakdowns had as much if not more to do with those losses.
Salyer made it clear where the team stands on Bennett’s ability.
“We saw what Stet could do last year,” Salyer said. “So for us, It wasn’t like, ‘Oooh, JT’s not playing what are we going to do.’ "
What Georgia did was get off to one of the most explosive starts in recent memory, dominating a Top 10 defense from a year ago that returned nine of 11 starters.
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Bennett had everything to do with it, making things look downright easy in completing his first seven passes before throwing his first incompletion late in the second quarter.
“We believed Stet could do basically what JT could do,” Salyer said, “when it comes to managing the offense, and being a good quarterback and being a leader on the team.”