ATLANTA — Stetson Bennett admitted he was seeing ghosts at first. Not Casper, Nearly Headless Nick or the Ghost of Christmas Past, but just expecting to see defenders in situations and them not being there.

That was life before he started cooking with Todd Monken. The Georgia quarterback admitted he didn’t understand football until the two linked up starting in the 2020 season.

“Maybe I’m a slow learner, but finally it did start clicking whenever he would tell me the same thing for the 20th time and look at me like I was, you know, like why do you not do what I just tell you to do,” Bennett said. “I’m your coach. And so just repetitive, just doing that. I think honestly, the most important thing that he’s done is just stay consistent.”

Bennett admitted he was nervous when he was thrust into the Arkansas game to save a flailing Georgia offense in Monken’s first game as offensive coordinator. The Georgia quarterback’s hands were shaking and Bennett told reporters he couldn’t grip the football.

He has come a long way with Monken in that time. Bennett was benched later during the 2020 season, only to return and lead Georgia to a national championship last season. Bennett was a Heisman Trophy finalist this year, the first Georgia quarterback to ever achieve such a feat.

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“It’s a complete credit to him, and really nothing to do with me,” Monken said. “All we did was try to bury him for the couple of years he was here, and all he did was continue to fight and compete and had every reason to say, you know what, I’m gone in today’s day and age in the portal and guys leaving. He didn’t do that. He wanted to be a Georgia Bulldog, wanted to be the quarterback for the Georgia Bulldogs.”

It mattered to Bennett that he find success at Georgia. His journey is unlike that of anyone in college football, something the sixth-year quarterback has learned to take pride in.

The individual accolades and championships are nice, but the life experience he’s learned is what he appreciates the most about his football journey.

For all that Bennett is not, he’s unquestionably become a big-game player for the Bulldogs. In games against ranked teams this season, Bennett has thrown 13 touchdowns to just two interceptions. He’s also run for four touchdowns.

Most importantly, all of those games have resulted in Georgia wins.

“He’s very confident about his game, confident about the game plan and what Coach Monken has implemented,” offensive tackle Broderick Jones said. “You know, just being able to showcase what he can do being at the size he is, you know, just being that way on and off the field, like his calmness throughout the storm, you know, he never lacks.”

Running back Kenny McIntosh compared Bennett to former NFL great Drew Brees, with how he’s able to move in the pocket and make big plays in spite his size.

Georgia will ask Bennett to do that again against a talented Ohio State defense. Bennett is well aware of the long history of great Ohio State pass rushers and how Ohio State defensive coordinator Jim Knowles plans to attack Georgia.

“They try to cause havoc. They can come from a lot of different places,” Bennett said. “They do their assignment, and in order for us to be successful, we have to do ours.

“We’ve got a really good football team, and it’s going to come down to who executes better on Saturday.”

Bennett knows his time at Georgia is coming to an end. Whether outside critics want to believe it or not, he’s played himself into being a draftable NFL quarterback. He is also officially out college eligibility once this season ends.

He’s come a long way from that first game against Arkansas. From getting benched. From beating Alabama in the national championship game.

To getting ready to lead Georgia into a second College Football Playoff, with the hopes of winning it again.

“You know, I’d always make these throws like one or two and I’d be like ‘man, there’s no way that’s not good.’ I keep hearing people tell me that I’m not good but that looked good. And I’d look at it and be, ‘am I dumb?’ I didn’t think so. If I can do it once, I can do it all the time. It’s just a motion. I don’t want to sound like a nerd or smarter than I am but gravity works. Physics work and blah, blah, blah.

“If I can do it once and figure how to do it multiple times, I might be good.”

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