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091821 Athens: Georgia quarterback JT Daniels warms up before playing South Carolina in a NCAA college football game on Saturday, Sept 18, 2021, in Athens. “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”

Kirby Smart explains his rationale behind playing Stetson Bennett and JT Daniels

“We thought Stetson really practiced well and he and JT rolled all week,” Smart said on his decision. “We told them, I guess it was Thursday or Friday, we called them in and said, ‘Hey look, you’re both going to play. We think JT is healthy enough to go but we’re going to play you, Stetson.’”

The move wasn’t dissimilar from what Smart did a week ago, when Bennett played the first two drives for Georgia and then redshirt freshman Carson Beck entered the game on the third drive of the game.

COLUMN: Georgia at its best when Kirby leaves JT Daniels alone

That looked like the plan for Georgia. Two series for Daniels, one for Bennett.

But whereas last week when Bennett threw a touchdown pass on his first attempt, the senior quarterback instead threw the ball to the other team on his first pass of this game.

Jaylan Foster intercepted a pass that was intended for freshman Brock Bowers. Following the return, the Gamecocks had the ball on Georgia’s 12-yard line.

“It’s an unfortunate deal,” Smart said. “Brock’s route was a little shallow and he probably shouldn’t have thrown it there. He threw it a little high, it sailed on him, and it got picked. Unfortunate for Stetson but he did have a good week of practice.”

The Georgia defense held South Carolina to a field goal, thus making it a 14-6 score.

Bennett didn’t see the field again until garbage time, with Georgia quickly going back to Daniels. The ensuing drive led to a punt, but Daniels and the Georgia offense were able to cook the South Carolina defense for most of the night.

A week after missing the UAB game — in which Bennett tied a school record by throwing 5 touchdown passes — Daniels stepped right in threw for 303 yards and 3 touchdowns. He too threw an interception to Foster, but that came in the third quarter with Georgia up 40-6.

“They don’t pay me to make that decision so I don’t spend much time thinking about it,” Daniels said when asked about the move.

Bennett entered the game in the fourth quarter with the game well in hand. He finished the night 1-for-3 with just a 4-yard completion. Beck did not take a snap for the Bulldogs, indicating Bennett may now have the No. 2 quarterback role.

Like Bennett did a week ago, Daniels was able to connect with Georgia’s pass-catchers at all levels of the field. He looked like a much different quarterback compared to the one who played against Clemson.

Daniels’ first two touchdowns were passes over 35-yards. Unlike the Texas or Miami football programs, Daniels actually seemed to be back to his usual standard.

“I’ve said it all along, and I continue to say it and stand by it, I have a lot of confidence in our quarterbacks -- a lot of confidence in our quarterbacks,” Smart said. “I can’t say that I’ve ever had as much confidence in three or four guys that I’ve ever had. Stetson earned that right and it just didn’t work out.”

As the Bulldogs get deeper into their SEC slate, it’s nice to know Georgia has two quarterbacks who are capable of leading the Georgia offense. Saturday’s game made it clear though that Daniels will be that guy going forward, health permitting.

Kirby Smart explains his decision to insert Stetson Bennett

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