ATHENS – Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett summed up his fight at Georgia J Day by saying, “There was a lot of good, and there was a lot of bad.”
It was a fair and honest assessment.
Bennett was 15 of 35 passes for 273 yards with 3 touchdowns, 2 interceptions and 4 passes in the line of scrimmage. It’s fair to say it wasn’t his best day.
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Bennett led the black team (offensive first team) to a 26-23 victory over the red team (first team defense) with 8 plays, 60 drive-in yards for the game-winning field goal setting.
Bennett, who was the midfielder for the 2021 AFC Champions League Bulldogs, shrugged off the idea of any additional pressure on him.
If this sounds a lot like Coach Kirby Smart’s business philosophy – “control is what’s manageable” and “pressure is a privilege” – it’s no accident.
Griffiths: Of course there is no resignation at Stetson Bennett, no doubt back
The 2022 season will be 24-year-old Bennett’s sixth and fifth under Smart’s direction.
The head coach has great faith in Bennett, agreeing with DawgNation in his post-match press conference that there was no other choice but to start Bennett.
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To Bennett’s view, the pressure of being a Georgia quarterback isn’t just about what you do, but it’s also part of the job description.
“I’ve been involved in this, I’m good enough to do it, so it’s really all about it being put in the work to be prepared,” Bennett said. “Stress doesn’t really affect that.”
1. Expectations and Accountability
Bennett realized that, the offense had to do more, he had no problem putting more of that on himself.
“Do I think I need to be better than last year? Yes. Do I think I will need to go out there and win every game? No,” Bennett said. “We’re still the University of Georgia, and we still have great players, great O-Line, great backs, great supporters, great D-Line and great DBs.
“So, I’ll be better than last year, but that won’t be Stetson Bennett’s show. It will be the University of Georgia football team.”
2. Hitting passes
Four of Bennett’s incompletes on Saturday were due to passes that were hit in the line of scrimmage.
Bennett tends to be tough on himself when he doesn’t play well, and quickly reminded the media that hitting passes were an issue for him in the Bulldogs’ 41-24 loss at Alabama in 2020.
“I don’t think about that,” said Bennett, who threw three interceptions in that night’s game and hit 5 passes down.
FLASHBACK: Alabama capitalizes on Georgia’s turnarounds, rolls to win 41-24 in Tuscaloosa
But then Bennett thought about it, and perhaps realized that as the crime leader, he had a right to say something about it.
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“Maybe there’s something O-Line can do about it to bring them down, punch them in the stomach or something, I’ll leave that to them,” Bennett said.
“They did (flight passes) and it was kind of frustrating, that bothered me a little bit, but we ended up going down and scoring so I’m not going to think about that this season.”
3. Get rid of credit
Bennett was asked if anyone had surprised him with the lead, and he explained that there was no surprise seeing his teammates advance.
This is what is expected in Georgia.
“I can’t say I’m surprised. I think Sed (Van Pran) is really progressing, he’s doing an amazing job after we lost Jamaree (Salyer), who has been The Rock for years and years, and (Justin) Schaffer,” Bennett said.
“So these two are gone, so you have Warren (Ericson), Mr. Warren (McLendon).”
These three starters will establish an offensive line that also includes Broderick Jones on the left tackle, and Xavier Truss along with the others who compete alongside Ericson in offensive guard duties.
But for Bennett, the play begins with his confidence in the hub and captain Van Bran.
“So I think Sed is doing a great job as he’s getting ahead and leading,” Bennett said. “We talk a lot about protection and watch movies. He and I are on the same page.”
4. Scattering the ball around
Totally tight American ‘Brock Powers’ became somewhat of a go-to for Bennett last season, earning nearly as many assists as the two best wide receivers combined.
Eight different players had passes for the Black Team, wide receivers caught 10 out of 24 goals, backs caught 5 of 9 passes thrown and tight ends caught 5 of 12 goals.
Bottom line, Bennett said he doesn’t play the favorites.
“Everyone on the field can have the ball at any time, and that’s the way I play football, and that’s the way I grew up playing it,” Bennett said.
“I haven’t grown like some other people, I’m throwing it to every extrovert, and I think we have a great group of guys around us who care about winning.”
Bennett understands the players’ desires for passes, he’s been in the pool and has looked into the hungry eyes of receivers, tight ends and backs all his life.
“Obviously they want to take the shots and they’re all good enough to break the match,” Bennett said. “But they care about winning, (and) if that means AD one game catches 10 balls for 160 yards and the tight ends don’t catch anything or vice versa, so be it. All we really care about is winning.”