Bennett entered the game in the second quarter, on the offense’s seventh possession. He completed 20 of 29 passes for 211 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions in Georgia’s 37-10 victory. Mathis completed 8 of 17 passes for 55 yards and an interception, mostly during a sluggish first half in which Georgia ran 49 offensive plays but did not record an offensive score until a field goal as time expired.
“We thought it would give us some energy,” coach Kirby Smart said of the quarterback switch. “[Bennett is] different than D’Wan in some of his experience. He’s very decisive with the ball and makes good decisions. Getting to watch them defensively a little bit helped him. We’ll decide this week how we’re going to go forward. Not all those things that went wrong were D’Wan’s fault. Not all of those were bad decisions. But we’ve got to get better that’s for sure.”
Jamie Newman, a graduate transfer from Wake Forest whom many pegged as Georgia’s likely starter, opted out of the season earlier this month to begin preparing for the NFL draft. Smart said Bennett had not received many reps in preseason practice.
“He prepares himself the right way without taking the reps,” Smart said, “and he did a good job of that today when he went in and was able to execute the game plan.
Bennett redshirted at Georgia in 2017 before transferring to Jones County Junior College in Mississippi for the 2018 season, where he went 10-2 and passed for 1,840 yards and 16 touchdowns. Bennett then rejoined Georgia and backed up starter Jake Fromm in 2019.
“Experience at that position is a premium,” Smart said. “You see that more and more across the SEC. … Stetson has played in a lot of football games.”
Smart repeatedly noted that the offense’s struggles went beyond Mathis, and said he “still has confidence” in the redshirt freshman. Georgia was flagged for 12 penalties and saw missed assignments by wide receivers and others.
“We’ve got to do a better job as a staff, including me, of helping our quarterbacks be successful,” Smart said.