The two starting quarterbacks for No. 4 Georgia and No. 7 Auburn could not have more different as recruits. One was the No. 2569 overall recruit in his recruiting class. The other was the No. 33 overall player and No. 1 dual-threat quarterback in the country. A 5-star player.
One quarterback was making his first career start. The other had been named SEC Freshman of the Year and tabbed as a difference-maker in this contest between the two top-10 teams.
The first quarterback was Stetson Bennett IV. The second was Auburn’s Bo Nix.
Based on the resume, you would be inclined to think that it was Nix who went 5-of-7 for 81 yards and a touchdown on third down in the first half. And it would’ve been Bennett who completed only one of his five pass attempts for zero yards on the “money” down in the opening 30 minutes as his team fell behind 24-0.
But games aren’t decided on paper. They’re decided on third down. And Bennett was far and away superior to Nix in that aspect. That’s why the Bulldogs came away with a resounding 27-6 win over Auburn.
“My goal is always to start here, that’s why I came here in the first place,” Bennett said. “I came here to win an SEC championship and a national championship for the Georgia Bulldogs.”
Bennett first opened some eyes as to what he might be capable of on Georgia’s second third down of the game. The Auburn defense blitzed and forced Bennett to bail out of the pocket. He spun out of the pressure and was scrambling to keep the play alive. He kept his eyes up and found an open Kearis Jackson for 17-yards and a first down. It helped set-up Georgia’s first touchdown drive of the day.
— GEORGIA HEROES (@GeorgiaHeroes) October 3, 2020
The connection with Jackson was a strong one on the night, as the redshirt sophomore caught nine passes for 147 yards. Those are both new-career highs for Jackson.
Of those catches, four came on third down. He totaled 72 yards and four first downs for the Bulldogs. He also hauled in a 49-yard pass from Bennett as well.
“We knew that last year wasn’t the year we wanted to have,” Jackson said. “We want to come out and be explosive. We knew what we wanted to do and it’s just the extra work that he’s put in.”
Nix on the other hand couldn’t find that same type of connection with any of his wide receivers. Star Seth Williams had just three catches for 34 yards. Nix’s leading receiver was running back Tank Bigsby, as he caught seven passes for 68 yards. Most of those came on dump-offs as Nix was avoiding the Georgia pass rush.
The strong connection with Jackson wasn’t the only place Bennett went when he needed a third-down conversion. A player after getting lit up by Auburn linebacker ZaKoby McClain, Bennett delivered a beautiful ball to George Pickens — a one-time Auburn commitment — to put Georgia up 17-0.
— GEORGIA HEROES (@GeorgiaHeroes) October 4, 2020
“He just went up and made a heck of a play like he does,” Bennett said of the Pickens touchdown.
Nix on the ensuing drive went 3-and-out once again. Bennett then led Georgia on another scoring drive and it was 24-0.
At that point, it was all but over for the Tigers, as the Georgia defense got to pin its ears back and continue to attack Nix and the Auburn offense.
“You just have to execute the game plan,” Georgia outside linebacker Azeez Ojulari said. “Just control the quarterback. He’s got great speed and he can get out so we just had to control him tonight.”
In those first 30-minutes, when the game was in the balance, Bennett clearly outshined Nix. Georgia went 6-for-9 on third-down to that point, while Auburn was 1-for-6.
After halftime, Bennett wasn’t asked to do nearly as much as he only threw six pass attempts in the final 30 minutes. Nix on the other hand spent most of the second-half running for his life. He ended up getting sacked three times and threw an interception, his first since Oct. 26 of 2019.
Bennett threw for 240 yards on 28 pass attempts while adding the touchdown to Pickens. Nix on the other hand needed 40 pass attempts to total 177 passing yards. Bennett was just better.
No one thought Bennett was going to be the guy for Georgia this season. Even offensive coordinator Todd Monken reportedly told him “sorry we just don’t see you as the starter,” according to ESPN’s Allison Williams.
Bennett not only started for Georgia on Saturday night, he shined. He was the one who played like the 5-star quarterback and not the former walk-on and JUCO transfer that he at one-point was.
Through the ups and downs, Bennett always kept his confidence and maintained the belief in himself. Even with all the questions this week about who would start at quarterback, Bennett left no doubt he was the guy as he was the only Georgia quarterback to play meaningful snaps for against Auburn.
Since inserting Bennett into the game against Arkansas in the second quarter, the Bulldogs have outscored opponents 49-9. With Bennett at the helm, the Bulldogs have looked like one of the best teams in the country.
Looks can be deceiving. They’d tell that Nix was supposed to be the best quarterback on the field in Sanford Stadium on Saturday night.
But after Bennett’s performance on Saturday against the No. 7 team in the country, it looks like Bennett is pretty clearly the guy to lead the Georgia offense.
“He played well. He played really well,” Smart said. “And I thought he gained confidence as he played.”
Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett speaks after strong performance against Auburn
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