ATHENS — Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett summed up his Georgia G-Day Scrimmage by saying “there was a lot of good, and there was a lot of bad.”
It was a fair and forthright assessment.
Bennett was 15-of-35 passing for 273 yards with 3 touchdowns, 2 interceptions and 4 passes batted down at the line of scrimmage. It’s fair to say it wasn’t his best day.
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Bennett led the Black Team (first-team offense) to a 26-23 win over the Red Team (first-team defense) with an 8-play, 60-yard drive to set up the game-winning field goal.
Bennett, who was the quarterback for the 2021 CFP Champion Bulldogs, shrugged off the notion of any added pressure on him.
If that sounds a lot like Coach Kirby Smart’s philosophy at work — “Control the controllable,” and, “pressure is a privilege” — it’s not by accident.
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The 2022 season will be the 24-year-old Bennett’s sixth in college football and his fifth under Smart’s direction.
The head coach has great trust in Bennett, agreeing with DawgNation in his postgame press conference that there’s really no other choice but to start Bennett.
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To Bennett’s point, the pressure of being Georgia’s starting quarterback isn’t only what you make of it, but it’s also part of the job description.
“I signed up for this, I’m good enough to do this, so really all it comes down to is will you put the work in to be prepared,” Bennett said. “Pressure doesn’t really factor into it.”
1. Expectations and accountability
Bennett gets it, the offense is going to have to do more, and he has no problem putting more of that on himself.
“Do I think I need to be better than last year? yeah. Do I think I’m going to need to go out there and win every single game? No,” Bennett said. “We’re still the University of Georgia, we’re still going to have great players, great O-Line, great backs, great backers, a great D-Line and great DBs.
“So, I’m going to be better than last year, but this isn’t going to be the Stetson Bennett show. It’s going to be the University of Georgia football team.”
2. Batted Down Passes
Four of Bennett’s incompletions on Saturday were on account of passes that were batted down at the line of scrimmage.
Bennett has a tendency to be hard on himself when he doesn’t play well, and he quickly reminded the media that batted-down passes were an issue for him in the Bulldogs’ 41-24 loss at Alabama in 2020.
“That happened two years ago at Bama when they knocked down those passes, everybody made a big hoopla about it, and then nobody really blocked my passes this year,” said Bennett, who threw three interceptions in that night game and had 5 passes batted down “I don’t think about it.”
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But then Bennett did think about it, perhaps realizing that as the leader of the offense, it was his place and his right to say something about it.
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“Maybe there’s something the O-Line can do about it to bring them down, punch them in the stomach or something like that, I’ll leave that to them,” Bennett said.
“They did (knock down passes) and it kind of did get frustrating, and it pissed me off a little bit, but we ended up going down and scoring so I won’t be thinking about that this offseason.”
3. Dishing out credit
Bennett was asked if anyone surprised him by stepping up, and he made it clear there was no surprise in seeing his teammates step up.
That’s what’s expected at Georgia.
“I can’t say I’m surprised. I think Sed (Van Pran) is really stepping up, he’s doing a great job taking over after we lost Jamaree (Salyer), who was the rock for years, and years, and (Justin) Schaffer,” Bennett said.
“So those two are gone, so you’ve got Warren (Ericson), and Sed and Warren (McClendon).”
Those three returning starters will anchor an offensive line that also includes Broderick Jones at left tackle, and Xavier Truss along with others competing alongside Ericson for offensive guard duties.
But for Bennett, the play starts with his trust in the center exchange and team leader Van Pran.
“So I think Sed is doing a great job stepping up, leading,” Bennett said. “We talk a ton about protections and watch film. Me and him are on the same page.”
4. Spreading the ball around
All-American tight end Brock Bowers became a bit of a go-to guy for Bennett last season, catching nearly as many passes as the top two wide receivers combined.
Eight different players caught passes for the Black Team, with wide receivers catching 10 of their 24 targets, backs catching 5 of the 9 passes they were thrown and tight ends catching 5 of 12 targets.
Bottom line, Bennett said he doesn’t play favorites.
“Everybody on the field can get the ball at any time, that’s how I play football, it’s how I grew up playing it,” Bennett said.
“I didn’t grow up like some other people, I throw it to everybody who is open, and I think we’ve got an awesome group of guys around us who care about winning.”
Bennett does understand the players’ desires to catch passes, he has been in the huddle and looked into the eyes of hungry receivers, tight ends and backs his whole life.
“They obviously want to make catches and they are all good enough to break the game open,” Bennett said. “But they care about winning, (and) if that means one game AD catches 10 balls for 160 yards and tight ends don’t catch anything or vice versa, then so be it. All we really care about is winning.”