INDIANAPOLIS – Stetson Bennett could be the answer to a trivial question for the wrong reasons.
Who was the quarterback Georgie who came across one of the most controversial calls in College Football Playoff history?
That almost happened to Bennett, when he had 11:35 left in the fourth quarter of the College Football Playoff 2022 match between No. 1 Alabama and No. 3 Georgia at Lucas Oil Stadium on Monday.
Bennett was under pressure from Alabama defender Christian Harris, who wrapped himself in a bag. Bennett seemed to prefer attacking in the middle.
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Fumble? Yes, the game was declared a mess. After checking the cabin, the call stopped and Crimson Tide recorded a positive touchdown. It seemed like another bloody chapter in a 41-year-old horror story since the last Bulldogs National Championship. It could be the college football equivalent of “Tuck Rule.” Only Bennett didn’t feel that way.
“I knew that once I stepped on the ball, I wouldn’t be the reason we lost this match,” Bennett said. “That groping wasn’t cathartic. That groping, it was just football. I bowed my head and said, ‘We’re not going to lose this match like this.'”
The walk-on quarterback, who transferred to high school but found his way back to Georgia, again led the back-to-back touchdown drive. Bennett is now answering a trivial question for the right reasons.
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Who was the offensive player of the match for Georgia in the victory 33-18 against Alabama in the CFP Championship?
Bennett will forever be the folk hero in Georgia (14-1). A native of Blackshear, Georgia, he grew up to be a Bulldogs fan. He heard legends about Buck Belue, Lindsay Scott, Herschel Walker and 1980. He listened to the highlights of the legendary Georgian announcer Larry Munson, albeit on YouTube. With media availability on Saturday, Bennett said he switched from a fan to a player.
Georgia coach Kirby Smart was asked if he believed five years ago that Bennett, who was the scout’s quarterback when the Bulldogs played with Alabama in the CFP, could lead the national championship.
“I thought so, we won the national championship,” Smart said. “I’d be pumped up. Five years ago, he was handing out passes like Baker Mayfield against the scout team. A lot of the guys saw him on that scout team playing with his feet, whip, and making decisions, and we were very impressed.”
In two fumble races, Bennett hit 4 of 4 passes at 83 yards and two TDs against Alabama (13-2), who won seven in a row against the Bulldogs.
After the fumble, Bennett marched down Georgia to the 32-yard line in three games before taking a bag from Christian Harris. In the next game, Bennett stuck a 40-yard TD pass to Adonai Mitchell via Alabama defensive back Khyree Jackson, who gave Georgia a 19-18 lead.
After a triple elimination, Bennett led the closing time drive. The Bulldogs stayed on the ground in six of the seven games, creating a third and first pass in which Bennett pretended to hand to the right and hit Brock Bowers’ wide-open 15-yard touchdown on the other. That left Zami White in amazement.
“One thing that intrigued me was Stetson,” White said. “As if I saw him, as if I had all the pressure, all the crowd noise, and how he was going through and fighting it, and I just saw him cry, just tears of joy, man. It was really priceless.”
Kelee Ringo captured Bryce Young with 54 seconds and returned 79 yards for TD. That was the end of a remarkable 20-point swing after what could have been a disaster of all time.
Bennett finished 17 of 26 at 224 yards and a pair of TDs. Young finished 35 of 57 at 369 yards, TD and two captures. Young finished the season with the Heisman Trophy and led Alabama to a 41-24 victory against Georgia in the SEC championship game.
But Bennett won revenge. When it turned out, he could go back to being a fan. Bennett, like no doubt so many Georgia fans in the stands and in his living rooms, wept on the sidelines.
“I don’t know, I haven’t cried in years, but it just occurred to me,” Bennett said. “That’s what – when you devote as much time to it as we do, blood, sweat, tears, something means.”
Bennett was smoking a cigar. He was asked what the first thing he would do when he returned to Athens.
“Well, I think we could celebrate a little bit here in Indy tonight,” Bennett said.
“If we ever get out of here,” Smart followed.
It’s a celebration in Georgia forever, and Smart’s belief in Bennett made it possible.
No doubt about it.