Stetson Bennett discusses why he took over as the starter during Georgia's 2021 National Championship season (2024)

One of the most storied postseason performers in College Football history had to overcome plenty of obstacles along the way. Former Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett discusses what led to his shot at leading the Dawgs to glory.

Kipp Adams

The storybook career of quarterback Stetson Bennett IV,a former walk-on who led Georgia to back-to-back College Football Playoff National Championships during the 2021 and 2022 seasons, was one no one saw coming, Except maybe for the Bennett household. Bennett overcame the odds to produce the greatest accomplishment of the four-team playoff era. Speaking to Onward Reserve founder and CEO JT Callaway on his Unreserved podcast, alongside fellow guest and former teammate Brett Seither, now at Georgia Tech, Bennettdiscussed a key turning point in his career.

Joining the program as a walk-on in 2017 out of Blackshear (Ga.) Pearce County, Bennett would serve as the team's scout team quarterback while taking a redshirt. He would transfer to Jones College in 2018, leading the junior college to a 10-2 record and the MACJC conference championship game. Bennett would return to Georgia on scholarship in 2019, playing in five games. In 2020, he would start five of 10 games and lead the team in attempts and completions.

During the 2021 season, JT Daniels began the season as the starter as Georgia beat Clemson 10-3 in the opener despite Daniels exacerbating an oblique injury on the team's opening drive. He sat the next week and Bennett got the start against UAB, throwing for 288 yards and five first-half touchdowns.

"The next week, it was like, Stetson played so well, we are going to let JT and Stetson compete for the job for South Carolina," Bennett said. "JT won, but we were going to go two drives him, then two drives me, andwe're just gonna figure it out after that. JT goes down, and he scores two drives, and I'm freaking sitting on the sideline like, gotta follow that.

"Like this is a good run. And then to make it worse, so I'm pressing and not really thinking about, you know, the game or the team. I'm thinking about how can Stetson do better than that, right? And so I go out and promptly throw a pick, like the first play of the next drive, and then, and they return it to, like the five. I think I made the tackle or he got pushed out and, well, he didn't score. My job's not to tackle coach. And I remember just feeling like the most, just everybody in the stadium was looking at me like this, yeah, 'we let him play again like and then he did,' and I was like, 'Well, now it's over. Now, now it's now it's over.'"

Daniels had 303 yards passing, three touchdowns, and one interception in the 40-13 win over the Gameco*cks, withBennettcompleting 1-of-3 passes for four yards and an interception. The following week, Daniels made the start against Vanderbilt and went nine of 10 passing for 129 yards and two scores in the first quarter. It would be the last start Daniels made for Georgia.

"What happened? I think...I hadn't talked to Kirby about it, but we go to Vandy and we go up with, like, 28 to nothing in the first quarter," Bennett said. "JT is lighting them up. I think Ladd catches a fade. Brock scored like four times that day. But then JT takes himself out after the first quarter and he never went back in, like the whole season. I think Kirby was like...I don't think he liked that JT kind of tapped out or was like 'hey I'm not doing it.' And then I played from then on."

Smart discussed the quarterback change following the game.

"I wouldn't say that (it being pre-planned)," Smart said. It was a situation where we felt like we could get Stetson some reps, and things kept rolling. We'll see how it is with all three of those guys. All three of those guys have done a really good job and I have a lot of confidence in all three of them."

Bennett would go on to have one of the most efficient seasons in program history, leading Georgia to its first title since 1980. His 9.97 yards per attempt was good for No. 3 in the country and second in program history behind Aaron Murray in 2012. His 176.69 passer rating was No. 4 in the country and best in program history. His 86.7 QBR was No. 3 in the country and No. 2 in program history, behind Murray (2013 - 88.1). Bennett saved his best for the College Football Playoff, going 38/57 passing (66.7%) for 564 yards, five touchdowns, and zero interceptions against Michigan and Alabama, earning Offensive MVP in both wins. In the National Championship, Bennett went 4-for-4 for 83 yards and two touchdown passes after a controversial fumble call, securing the title win for the Dawgs in Indianapolis.

Bennett decided to use his last year of NCAA eligibility and once again play for the Bulldogs in 2022. That decision proved worthwhile for Bennett, who completed 68.3% of his pass attempts for 4,127 yards with 27 touchdowns and 7 interceptions while also rushing for 10 additional scores in Georgia's first 14 games, earning a trip to New York as Georgia's first Heisman Trophy finalist since Garrison Hearst in 1992. Bennett had just over 10 more attempts per game in 2022 than he did in 2021, and his completion percentage stands as the best of his collegiate career. In Georgia's 65-7 dismantling of TCU in the 2023 College Football Playoff title game, Bennett would complete 18-of-25 passes for 304 yards, four touchdowns, and no interceptions in the game, rushing three times for 39 yards and two touchdowns. He would earn offensive game MVP in the game, giving him the honor in all four CFP games he played in. Bennett surpassed 177 passing yards in the first half against the Horned Frogs, which made the super senior the first Georgia quarterback to ever surpass 4,000 yards in a season. In the first quarter, Bennett passed Aaron Murray's program record for passing yards in a season (3,893 set in 2012).

With 8,428 career passing yards, Bennett ended his collegiate career fourth in program history. He is fifth in program history in career touchdown passes (66), finishing one behind Eric Zeier. He is fourth in program history with 8,958 yards accounted for. He is also third all-time in touchdowns responsible for, with 80. Bennett's career completion percentage of 64.9 is second-best among Georgia quarterbacks with 300 attempts or more, behind onlyHutson Mason(65%). His career of 9.13 yards per attempt is the best in program history. His 2.27 percent interception percentage is third best in program history, behindDavid Greene(2.22 percent in 1,440 attempts), andJake Fromm(1.83%). His career passer rating is No. 1 in program history.

Stetson Bennett discusses why he took over as the starter during Georgia's 2021 National Championship season (2024)
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