Georgia's Stetson Bennett embraces chance to play 'hero' in CFP championship

6 months ago 80

INDIANAPOLIS — Georgia backmost Stetson Bennett is alert of the good enactment betwixt the disapproval and praise. It's each portion of the job.

Bennett received that disapproval aft the 41-24 nonaccomplishment to Alabama successful the SEC title game. He heard that praise aft starring Georgia to a 34-11 triumph against Michigan successful the College Football Playoff semifinal astatine the Orange Bowl connected Dec. 31. There is simply a vexation that mounts from the things Bennett can't — oregon simply won't — say.

"You're the leader oregon the zero," Bennett told reporters astatine CFP media availability connected Saturday. "I'm gladsome it was maine alternatively of anybody other due to the fact that I tin grip it due to the fact that I tin conscionable unopen it disconnected and archer radical to spell blah, blah."

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Fill successful the blanks connected what "blah, blah" mightiness mean up of Monday's College Football Playoff title crippled against No. 1 Alabama astatine Lucas Oil Stadium. Bennett could either beryllium the backmost who leads No. 3 Georgia to its archetypal nationalist title since 1980. Or helium could beryllium connected the losing extremity of a 3rd commencement successful 2 seasons against the Crimson Tide.

"Hero oregon zero," indeed. The past Georgia backmost to pb a nationalist title tally was Buck Belue, who is present a vigor expert connected Sports Radio 680 successful Atlanta. Belue interviewed Bennett up of the Orange Bowl matchup against Michigan and gained immoderate absorbing penetration connected the Bulldogs starter.

"I deliberation he's alert there's a communicative retired determination that radical privation to spot (backup quarterback) JT Daniels," Belue told Sporting News. "As champion arsenic I tin tell, he's resilient, a pugnacious dude and determined. Stetson is that. At the extremity of the day, that's going to assistance him for this challenge."

Bennett erased immoderate doubts with 313 passing yards and 3 touchdowns against the Wolverines, and teammates person continued to rally astir their quarterback. Tackle Jamaryee Salyer, an Atlanta native, said Bennett's enactment stems from that unapologetic close-to-home personality.

"Country kid, South Georgia kid," Bennett said. "He'll beryllium the 1 kid who comes into the locker country blasting state music. That's conscionable Stetson. He doesn't privation to beryllium a idiosyncratic that he's not. He's ne'er going to be. I deliberation the genuineness successful who helium is and what helium represents draws radical to him."

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"He went from Rose Bowl scout-team QB coming in, and he's conscionable grinding, working,"All-American antiaircraft tackle Jordan Davis added. "He's an highly hard worker."

Bennett, a two-star backmost successful precocious school, took the agelong roadworthy to this moment. He was a scout-team backmost erstwhile Georgia made a tally to the 2018 CFP title game, besides against Alabama. He transferred to Jones College successful Ellisville, Miss. earlier returning to Georgia. He has played the relation of starter and backup the past 2 seasons — an atypical travel for a backmost playing connected the biggest stage.

Bennett chooses his words cautiously erstwhile talking astir those roles wrong the program. He said "backup" wasn't the close connection to picture his acquisition arsenic the scout-team quarterback. He's besides "lucky and highly blessed" to beryllium the starter now. The marquee games against Alabama, Tennessee, Auburn and Michigan led to this moment. He besides pointed to his precocious gramps Buddy Bennett, who went from Stetson University to South Carolina, arsenic a existent illustration of taking the agelong road.

"He hitchhiked to South Carolina," Bennett said. "He was the ACC's starring rusher. Like I said, radical marque it specified a hoopla astir my journey. I didn't freaking hitch-hike anywhere. That's conscionable what you privation to bash if you privation to play football."

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Of course, the 2 starts against Alabama successful twin-bill 41-24 losses the past 2 seasons person travel into focus. Bennett was 18 of 40 for 269 yards and 2 touchdowns and 3 interceptions successful 2020. He finished 29 of 48 for 340 yards, 3 touchdowns and 2 interceptions successful the SEC title game. The inbox for what to bash this clip astir is full, too.

What's the attack now?

"'I guess, are you going to outsmart yourself?" Bennett said connected Monday. "Are you going to overthink everything? No. We are not. Obviously erstwhile we spell retired connected the field, would I similar for Alabama, if they're going to alteration thing up, to nonstop america an email this week? I would emotion that, but I presume they won't."

There is that interaction of state wit successful borrowing a enactment that Alabama manager Nick Saban has utilized successful the past. Bennett, for each the narratives, appears poised and acceptable for this moment, a merchandise of the upbringing from his parents Stetson and Denise. The Georgia backmost appreciates the question his parents enactment successful to marque this accidental possible, and that helps him locomotion that enactment betwixt disapproval and praise.

"I don't privation to dependable cliché and cheesy, but it does, it inspires me," Bennett said. "If they tin bash each that and beryllium successful, past what's a small spot of football?"

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