Kirby Smart didn’t sound like a coach wasting any time second-guessing his quarterback decisions in the aftermath of Georgia’s 44-28 loss to Florida.
Gators’ quarterback Kyle Trask lit up a depleted Bulldogs’ defense to the tune of 474 yards on 30-of-43 passing with four touchdowns and an interception.
The Bulldogs’ quarterbacks, meanwhile, struggled with 9-of-29 passing for 112 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions against a Florida defense that entered the game 12th in the SEC in pass defense.
“Offensively, I think we missed a lot of open shots, and that’s the toughest thing,” Smart said, referring to half a dozen passes that fell incomplete on account of drops or inaccurate throws.
“I thought Stetson (Bennett) did some good things early and then he took a hit. He had a separated (sprained AC joint) shoulder. He wanted to keep playing. He came in and got a shot, and he was able to come back,” Smart said, referring to a hit Bennett took in the second quarter on his 32-yard TD pass to Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint at the 11:44 mark of the second quarter.
“I didn’t think he was real effective when he came back, and he was timid with it, and I didn’t think he had great accuracy, so we decided to go with D’Wan.”
Mathis relieved Bennett for one series in the second quarter while Bennett was being tended to in the locker room. But Mathis didn’t re-enter until the third quarter with Georgia down 41-21 after Bennett was picked off at the Florida 35.
“I thought D’Wan did some good things. He made some mistakes, but he did some good things, and he’s still gaining experience,” Smart said.
Bennett’s final line was 5-of-16 passing for 78 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Mathis finished 4-of-13 passing for 34 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.
Smart was asked why he didn’t play JT Daniels, and if there was still an injury concern, with Daniels not cleared until after the first game of this season.
“Right now, we feel like the other two give us a better shot because they’ve gotten more of a body of work,” said Smart, who gives Bennett the reps with the ones and Mathis reps with the twos.
“I don’t think necessarily that he has anything with his knee. He doesn’t wear a knee brace. He takes reps with the scouts. He moves around and gives us a really good look,” he said. “I think he’s still growing and getting better in the offense, but obviously right now where we are we feel those guys give us the best shot.”
Smart was also asked if Daniels, a former 5-star prospect and the USC starting quarterback in 2018 and at the start of the 2019 season before suffering a knee injury, was recruited to play this season.
“We recruit every player the same, for an opportunity to come in and get better and compete and play,” Smart said. “And he got an opportunity to do that in fall camp. He actually got a lot more reps than Stetson did. Stetson didn’t get many reps in fall camp. So (Daniels) took a ton of reps during that time, and so did D’Wan, and that’s the way we did our scrimmages all of the fall.”
Smart said the decision on when to pull Bennett in Saturday’s loss was “based on his injury,” and how he was feeling.
“Stetson did some good things early in the game when he had his starting X receiver, Marcus Rosemy and he had Jermaine Burton out there,” Smart said. “We felt like he was doing some good things on third down. He stepped up in pocket, he missed a couple of throws. He had one scramble where I thought he could have hit a guy on our sideline, and he missed him.”
Mathis, a redshirt freshman who hadn’t played since the Tennessee game on Oct. 10, was the next best option, Smart reiterated.
“We felt like D’wan was going to give us a chance to do some things, and we felt like we were going to find out what D’Wan could do,” Smart said. “Stetson wasn’t 100 percent, and D’wan is our second quarterback, so that’s who we went with.”