Former Pierce County alum Stetson Bennett’s performance Saturday in Georgia’s SEC opener at Arkansas may have opened some eyes.
Bennett, a redshirt junior, came on in the second quarter in relief of redshirt freshman D’Wan Mathis with 10:07 remaining and led the fourth-ranked Bulldogs to a 37-10 victory. UGA trailed 7-2 when he entered.
Bennett led struggling Georgia to a late first-half field goal to cut the deficit to 7-5 at intermission. He then led the Bulldogs on three straight second-half possessions that ended in touchdowns, breaking open the game.
Bennett finished 20-for-29 passing for 211 yards and two touchdowns and a solid quarterback rating of 152.8. He also gained 20 yards rushing on five carries, not including a beautiful, pylon-tapping two-point conversion to extend the lead in the third quarter.
“I’m proud and happy for Stetson,” said UGA head coach Kirby Smart. “I wouldn’t take that moment away from him, no way in the world. He did a great job. He rallied the guys around him, and I think they saw his competitive spirit.”
Smart was asked about the decision to change quarterbacks.
“We were struggling offensively, and we needed to change some things up,” said Smart. “There’s some things Stetson can do well. He’s different from D’Wan. He (Bennett) was the juice we needed.” In the span of 10 game minutes in the third quarter, Georgia had gone from down 10-5 to ahead 34-10, largely because of Bennett’s settling effect.
Bennett provided the spark for an offense that had none in its first six possessions. He led Georgia on a 59-yard field-goal drive in the last minute of the first half.
“The two-minute drill really boosted my confidence before the half,” Bennett said. “I felt more comfortable with the guys and went in there knowing what we were going to do.”
The offense finally started rolling in the third quarter with back-to-back scoring drives. With Bennett under center Georgia outscored the Razorbacks 32-3 leading to an unlikely hero in a game that looked devastating for a half.
Asked afterward how it felt to lead Georgia to such a victory, Bennett said, “Nice. Better than not doing that.”
The son of UGA alums, Bennett returned to Georgia from Jones County Junior College (Ellisville, Miss.) with no guarantees he’d ever get this chance. He returned as a backup to Jake Fromm last year.
“When I left I didn’t think I’d be back, but when I came back I thought I could be here,” Bennett said of playing a vital role. “It felt nice.”
Nevertheless, Smart wasn’t ready to commit to Bennett as the starter this week as the Bulldogs prepare for Auburn. Smart said Mathis will still be in consideration and the Bulldogs remain hopeful that sophomore transfer J.T. Daniels gets medical clearance for a knee injury that required surgery one year ago.
“We’ll (coaches) decide this week how we’re going to go forward,” Smart said.