INDIANAPOLIS – All it took for the Georgia Bulldogs to claim their first national title in 41 years was a little Smart football.
Sixth-year head coach Kirby Smart stuck to his guns, keeping one-time walk-on quarterback Stetson Bennett in Monday night’s College Football Playoff National Championship Game when seemingly everyone was calling for him to make a change after a lackluster first half; Bennett responded a massive fourth quarter, recovering from a very controversial fumble call to respond with a 4-for-4 showing when it mattered the most, throwing for 83 yards and two touchdowns as part of an unanswered 20-point run to close out the 33-18 upset of No. 1 Alabama.
There was perhaps no greater story to come out of the past few weeks of college football than that of Bennett, a fifth-year senior who had been overlooked time and time again and wasn’t even the starter heading into this season – highly touted J.T. Daniels ultimately lost the job due to injuries – before taking the reins of the program he grew up as a huge fan of.
Few, perhaps Smart himself, who was a standout player at Georgia in the late 90’s, knew what it meant to bring the trophy home more than Bennett.
“We all feel the weight of the state of Georgia on our shoulders,” Bennett said at Tuesday morning’s press conference. “But when you look back in February, January, March, April, May, when people are focusing on basketball or baseball and we’re running in the stadium at 6 a.m., and it sucks, and you’re kind of, like, why do we do this?
“And the reason is for when I fumble on the 10-yard line and we give up a touchdown and we go back and we score two straight drives, that’s the reason. The toughness, the resiliency, the connection, all that stuff, you know, you kind of wonder why. But there’s a method to the madness that Coach Smart and all the coaches, (Strength and Conditioning) Coach (Scott) Sinclair and everybody who spent years and years in this industry and that stuff, they know how to mold young men. What me and everybody else, all of the players in this program have went through in the past since the natty has gotten us to this point. And you always wonder why are we doing this. And this is why.”
From a pro prospect standpoint, however, the majority of the focus heading into the game at quarterback was on Bryce Young – and rightfully so, as the reigning Heisman Trophy winner had 46 touchdowns compared to just five interceptions heading into Monday night, before delivering an uneven performance that likely won’t have much of an impact on his status as a potential top pick in the 2023 NFL Draft – but Bennett, a fifth-year senior who has the option to return to play one more year in college, could potentially cash in his chips and turn pro while interest is at its peak.
“We’ll wait a second on that one for me,” he said. “I don’t want to spill all my personal stuff out here on the table. So, we’ll keep that between me and Coach Smart.”
Smart was asked after the game what he would have thought if, five years ago, someone told him that Bennett would be leading them to a national title one day.
“I’d have thought, hell yeah, we won a National Championship,” he cracked. “I’d have been pumped. Five years ago, he was delivering passes like Baker Mayfield against the scout team. There’s a lot of guys that saw him on that scout team make plays with his feet, his arm whip and decision making, and we were very impressed. But again, to think that it would come this far from that National Championship he was a part of there to this one, man, what a story.”
Source : https://www.trentonian.com/2022/01/11/georgia-are-top-dogs-thanks-to-some-smart-football/821