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 candid assessment.
Bennett passed 15 of 35 for 273 yards with 3 touchdowns, 2 interceptions and 4 down passes from the line of scrimmage. It’s fair to say it wasn’t his best day.
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Bennett led Team Black (first team offense) to a 26-23 win over Team Red (first team defense) with an 8 play, 60 yard drive to set up the winning field goal.
Bennett, who was the quarterback for the 2021 CFP Champion Bulldogs, shrugged off the idea of any added pressure on him.
If this sounds a lot like Coach Kirby Smart’s philosophy at work – “control what’s controllable” and “pressure is a privilege” – it’s no 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.
The head coach has great faith in Bennett, agreeing with DawgNation in his post-game press conference that there really is no choice but to start Bennett.
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For Bennett, the pressure of being Georgia’s starting quarterback isn’t just 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 it, so all that matters is that you put in the work to be ready,” Bennett said. “The pressure doesn’t really come into it.”
1. Expectations and responsibility
Bennett gets it, the offense will have to do more, and he has no problem putting more on himself.
“Do I think I have to be better than last year? Yeah. Do I think I’m going to have to go out there and win every game? No,” Bennett said. “We’re still the University of Georgia, we’re still going to have great players, great O-Lines, great backs, great backers, great D-Lines, and great DBs.
“So I’m going to be better than last year, but it won’t be the Stetson Bennett show. It will be the University of Georgia football team.
2. Missed passes
Four of Bennett’s misses on Saturday were due to passes that were knocked down at the line of scrimmage.
Bennett tends to be hard on himself when he’s not playing well, and he was quick to remind the media that battering was an issue for him in the Bulldogs’ 2020 41-24 loss to Alabama.
“It happened two years ago in Bama when they knocked down those passes, everyone hyped about it, and then nobody really blocked my passes this year,” said Bennett, who has threw three interceptions in that night game and had 5 assists. down “I’m not thinking about it.”
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But then Bennett thought about it, perhaps realizing that as the leader of the attack, 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 to knock them down, punch them in the stomach or something, I’ll leave that to them,” Bennett said.
“They did (knock down passes) and it got frustrating, and that pissed me off a bit, but we ended up going down and scoring, so I won’t be thinking about that in the offseason.”
3. Distribution of credit
Bennett was asked if anyone caught him intervening, and he clarified that there was no surprise in seeing his teammates intervening.
This is expected in Georgia.
“I can’t say I’m surprised. I think Sed (Van Pran) is stepping up, he’s doing a great job after losing Jamaree (Salyer), who’s been the rock for years and years, and (Justin) Schaffer,” Bennett said.
“So those two are gone, so you have Warren (Ericson), and Sed and Warren (McClendon).”
These three returning starters will anchor an offensive line that also includes Broderick Jones at left tackle, and Xavier Truss and others competing alongside Ericson for offensive guard duties.
But for Bennett, the game starts with his faith in central exchange and team leader Van Pran.
“So I think Sed is doing a great job stepping up, leading,” Bennett said. “We talk a lot about protections and watch a movie. He and I are on the same wavelength.
4. Distribute the ball
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 Team Black, with wide receivers catching 10 of their 24 targets, backs catching 5 of 9 passes they threw, and tight ends catching 5 of 12 targets.
Bottom line, Bennett said he wasn’t playing favorites.
“Anyone on the pitch can get the ball at any time, that’s how I play football, that’s how I grew up playing,” Bennett said.
“I didn’t grow up like some other people, I throw it out to anyone who’s open, and I think we have an awesome group of guys around us who care about winning.”
Bennett understands players’ desires to catch passes, he’s been in the squad and looked into the eyes of hungry receivers, tight ends and fullbacks his whole life.
“They obviously want to make catches and they’re all pretty good at opening play,” Bennett said. “But they care about winning, (and) if that means an AD play catches 10 balls for 160 yards and tight ends catch nothing or vice versa, then so be it. All we really care about is winning.