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Stetson Bennett Had a Game for the Ages

Brock Bowers (left) caught two touchdown passes from Stetson Bennett IV on Saturday. Credit: Tony Walsh

If you remember anything about Georgia’s 56-7 walloping of UAB years down the line, it will be that it was the Stetson Bennett IV game.

Returning to the starting lineup for the injured JT Daniels, Bennett put in one of the best performances under center in the history of the program. The Mailman completed 10 of 12 passing attempts for 288 yards and five touchdowns. And we’re not talking simple dink-and-dunk touchdowns. Against a UAB defense that is weaker than Clemson’s, the Dawgs found the explosive plays they’ve been looking for.

It took less than a minute for Bennett and the Dawgs to get on the board with a 73-yarder over the top to Jermaine Burton. His second touchdown capped off a 40-yard drive with a 12-yard pass to Kenny McIntosh. But things got really impressive a few drives later, toward the tail end of the first quarter.

On the first play of the drive, backed up to the Georgia 11-yard line, Bennett found freshman tight end Brock Bowers on a wheel route for an 89-yard touchdown pass. It was Georgia’s longest scoring play from scrimmage since 2013. On the first play of the next drive following a three-and-out from UAB, Bennett connected with speedster Arian Smith for a 61-yard touchdown strike. Two plays, 150 yards, two touchdowns. Bennett added a fifth touchdown pass with a 9-yarder to Bowers in the second quarter to tie for most passing touchdowns in a game in UGA history.

As impressive as Bennett’s performance was, I do need to make one thing clear: There is no QB controversy. Daniels is still No. 1 and will continue to be all season, barring injury or a Space Jam-esque loss of talent. Bennett made good throws and good decisions against UAB, but based on what we’ve seen of Daniels, he would have made those same throws and decisions. Daniels’ absence was more precautionary than anything, so expect him to be starting again next week when South Carolina rolls into Athens.

But while Bennett could not usurp Daniels as the starter, he almost certainly replaced Carson Beck as No. 2 on the depth chart. Reports out of camp earlier this year had Beck penciled in as the backup, and many expected him to start against UAB. Beck still saw plenty of action, but Georgia coach Kirby Smart made clear in his postgame presser that Bennett got the nod because he wanted an experienced head under center to go along with a group of inexperienced wide receivers.

It was the right call. While Bennett put up an all-time day, Beck completed four of 10 passes for 88 yards, a touchdown and an interception. The redshirt freshman also gets a special demerit for throwing a fourth-quarter pick-six that ended a shutout and failing to even attempt to track down the ball. Bennett is a better player than Beck right now, plain and simple, and he’s who I want to see running in from the sideline if, God forbid, something serious happens to Daniels.

At this point, we all know about Bennett’s winding road to and from and back to Georgia. He went from a walk-on to a scout-team standout back in 2017. He transferred to Jones County Junior College to try to earn a scholarship at an FBS school. He was all set to sign with Louisiana-Lafayette before a last-minute call from the Georgia staff brought him back to Athens, this time with a scholarship in hand. He sat behind Jake Fromm for a season before unexpectedly earning the starting job in 2021 despite coming into camp third or fourth on the depth chart. He won a few games, lost some important ones, too, and was benched for Daniels. Now he has one of the best single-game performances by a QB in program history.

“I am really proud of the way that Stetson has handled himself,” Smart said in his postgame presser. “No one has been better to the University of Georgia than Stetson Bennett.”

I don’t want him to be our starter or even play any important minutes the rest of the way. But I’m happy that he got his moment in the sun. Stetson Bennett IV, DGD.