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Mail's Here: Bennett delivers against UAB
Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett couldn’t eat his pregame meal for Saturday’s matchup because he was so nervous.
The unsung hero of Georgia’s 2020 said he found out Thursday that he was getting the start over then-No. 2 quarterback Carson Beck. Bennett would be starting in place in JT Daniels, who was dealing with an oblique injury. The senior quarterback started five games last year for the Bulldogs last year before Daniels took over later on in the season.
Nevertheless, the Pierce County native was anxious before the matchup against the Blazers.
“I was told Thursday morning that I was going to play,” Bennett said. “They told me and Carson (Beck) before practice that morning. It really didn’t matter to me what the outside people were talking about, but I honestly just prepared like I did last week before Clemson, and those games I played since I’ve been here. I was just prepared to go out there. It didn’t matter what everybody else said.”
Bennett blocked out the pregame boo’s from fans and put on one of the best passing displays in program history. ‘The Mailman’ seemed to have come through for Georgia’s offense, who failed to score a touchdown in the season opener against No. 6 Clemson. Bennett completed 10-of-12 passes for 288 yards and five touchdowns against UAB. Those five passing scores tied for a school record with the likes of David Greene, D.J. Shockley, Joe Cox and Aaron Murray (twice). He became the fifth player in school history to accomplish that feat.
It was dubbed last season that the 5-foot-11, 190-pound signal-caller couldn’t throw the deep ball. However, he proved his critics wrong in Georgia’s home opener. He aired it out deep on the second play from scrimmage. Bennett found sophomore wide receiver Jermaine Burton on a 78-yard deep ball to put the Bulldogs up, 7-0. A few minutes later, he found running back Kenny McIntosh on a short check-down for a 12-yard score.
Bennett’s third passing score came on an 88-yard strike to freshman tight end Brock Bowers, which turned out to become the ninth longest in school history. The SEC Offensive Player of the Week also had another long ball go for a score. Bennett found sophomore wide receiver Arian Smith on a crossing route for a 61-yard touchdown pass. All five of his touchdowns came in the first half of Georgia’s 56-7 route of UAB on Saturday.
“It definitely seemed that was like an Oklahoma stat line,” Bennett joked. “Especially when they play some North, South, or West Texas school.”
Georgia head coach Kirby Smart acknowledged that Bennett’s game experience was the reason he got the nod over Beck.
“We’re really young offensively, we have a lot of guys who are injured and out,” Smart said. “We just thought it would give us a calming effect to have him in with his invaluable experience, especially his ability to play in games. He played really well against a good football team.”
Georgia senior inside linebacker Channing Tindall acknowledged that Bennett was walking around in the locker room after the game with a grin.
“It wasn’t surprising that he went out and did what he did,” Tindall said. “They call him ‘Mailman’ for a reason. I’m very proud of him.”
Bennett, who’s been in this situation before, was humble after he led Georgia to a 35-0 lead at halftime.
“It’s a little bit of innate confidence where you believe you’re good enough,” Bennett said. “It really doesn’t matter the situation thrust upon you. It seems the last two games I’ve had to come in when no one expected me to. It always helps when you have great players all over the field.”
Smart named Beck the No. 2 quarterback earlier in the week. However, he went with Bennett, who obviously had the experience and he did everything his coach asked of him.
“The plan was to play both of them, to give both of them reps,” Smart said. “I’m really proud of Stetson. Nobody has been better for the University of Georgia than Stetson in terms of his work. He doesn’t get as many reps as a lot of other guys, so I was proud of him and his success today.”
No. 2 Georgia prepares for a matchup against South Carolina on Saturday, Sept. 18 at 7:30 p.m. in Sanford Stadium.