Only a few minutes removed from leading Georgia to a wild comeback win in the Peach Bowl, Stetson Bennett got some harsh criticism — or maybe it was tough love — from his coach.
Bennett threw a 10-yard touchdown pass with 54 seconds left to lift the Bulldogs over Ohio State, but asked soon after what the quarterback had shown him, Georgia coach Kirby Smart didn’t sugarcoat things.
“Well he showed great competitive character,” Smart said in an on-field interview with ESPN. “But he’s gotta play within our system and he’s gotta do what he’s coached to do, or you can’t win games. He didn’t get those opportunities until the defense stopped them. We were fortunate to stop them a couple times. He must play better if we expect to win the next one.”
The next one is the national championship game against TCU.
Bennett made that possible by leading Georgia back from a 14-point deficit entering the fourth quarter. After the Bulldogs kicked a field goal with 10:54 to go, their defense got a quick three-and-out that Bennett followed by throwing a 76-yard touchdown pass to Arian Smith, with the two-point conversion pulling them within 38-35.
Then, after Ohio State settled for a field goal with 2:43 left, Bennett captained a five-play, 72-yard drive that ended with the go-ahead touchdown pass to Adonai Mitchell.
Bennett, a former walk-on, finished the night 23-for-34 passing for 398 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception while adding a rushing touchdown. That was buoyed by strong first and fourth quarters, when he combined to go 19-for-22 for 300 yards and three touchdowns. In the second and third quarters combined, he was just 4-for-12 for 98 yards and an interception.
“Got to go back and look at the tape and see what we could clean up because it felt like there was a 30-minute period there where I just played bad football,” Bennett told reporters. “So we’ve got to fix that.”
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