Georgia quarterbacks-Stetson Bennett-Todd Monken
December 4, 2021 Atlanta - Georgia's quarterback Stetson Bennett (13) reacts after Alabama beat Georgia during the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game at during the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on Saturday, December 4, 2021. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Kirby Smart speaks on Georgia football quarterback situation after SEC championship game defeat

ATLANTA — Alabama finished the game with 41 points. Bryce Young shredded the nation’s top defense all afternoon. Georgia failed to sack Young and didn’t do much better covering Alabama receiver Jameson Williams.

Yet for all the defensive shortcomings on display against Alabama, the big taking point is once again about what Kirby Smart will do at the quarterback position.

Georgia went with Stetson Bennett, as the Bulldogs had done last season when Georgia visited Tuscaloosa, Ala. And just like last time, Alabama came away with a 41-24 win. The only real difference was that the Bulldogs were actually favored this time.

Statistically speaking, Bennett was better this time around for Georgia. He threw for 340 yards and 3 touchdowns, improvements from what he did last season. Yet he was asked to throw the ball 48 times in the game, far too much for Georgia’s comfort.

“We have to be able to run the ball and have a little bit of semblance of balance,” Smart said after his fourth-straight loss to Alabama as Georgia’s coach. “I feel like there were times tonight where we were getting into a scoring contest because our defense didn’t get stops. You don’t want to have to do that.”

Bennett was also intercepted twice in the game. The first came with Georgia inside Alabama’s red zone. Bennett tried to force a ball into the hands of freshman tight end Brock Bowers. Instead, Alabama’s DeMarcco Hellams came down with the pass. Had Georgia scored a touchdown on the drive, it would’ve pulled Georgia back within in seven in the third quarter.

On the ensuing drive, Bennett once again drove into the Alabama red zone. Only this time Bennett fired incomplete passes on third and fourth down to come up empty once again.

“Can’t throw a pick down there,” Bennett said “We had opportunities. We were moving it, we were driving the ball all four times. Can’t throw picks, just have to execute better.”

Georgia’s defense at that point was able to stop the bleeding, forcing punts on back-to-back possessions.

But then Bennett came out and threw his second interception of the game right to Jordan Battle. The Alabama safety ran the pass back for a touchdown, pushing the game out of reach for Georgia.

“The first one was a bad decision. The second one I didn’t see the safety driving,” Bennett said. “You can’t have those two plays against players like this. They made us pay for it.”

Given how well Georgia played throughout the regular season, it should still make the College Football Playoff. But Saturday once again showed that against Nick Saban and Alabama, you need to be elite on the offensive side of the ball to win.

Bennett has now had two cracks at the Crimson Tide and failed to be elite both times. Georgia fans only have to look on the other sideline to see what having a true difference-maker at the quarterback position looks like. Young threw for 421 yards, ran for another 40 yards and scored a total of 4 touchdowns.

Smart was asked after the game what the quarterback position looks like going forward. Bennett was sitting right next to him. If you think Smart was publicly going to dump Bennett in that moment, you haven’t been paying attention much to Smart.

The Georgia head coach then proceeded to give an answer that would make even politicians blush.

“We have a decision to make every week at every position,” Smart said. “I have the utmost confidence in Stetson Bennett. I thought he did some really nice things tonight. We go over and re-evaluate everything all the time. He played well. I certainly have a lot of confidence in Stetson and I have a lot of confidence in JT (Daniels) too.”

The quarterback position will likely dominate the discussion around Georgia leading into its next game. That’s likely to be a College Football Playoff semifinal.

There are other areas that need to be addressed, whether it be in the secondary or with Georgia’s disappearing pass rush.

But the lack of elite play at the quarterback position still looms over this Georgia team like a storm cloud disrupting a once beautiful day.

“We just didn’t play our best game today,” Bennett said. “They did. Can’t turn the ball over. Little mental lapses, that can’t happen that we’re going to work on starting tomorrow.”

Kirby Smart, Stetson Bennett discuss quarterback play against Alabama

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