INDIANAPOLIS – Stetson Bennett could be the answer to a trivia question for the wrong reasons.
Who was the Georgia quarterback who made one of the most controversial calls in College Football Qualifier history?
That almost happened to Bennett when 11:35 was left in the fourth round of the 2022 College Football League championship game between No.1 Alabama and No. 3 Georgia at Lucas Oil Stadium on Monday.
Bennett was pressured by Alabama defender Christian Harris, who wrapped himself in a sack. Bennett appeared to pass the ball forward, and Crimson Tide defender Brian Branch stumbled upon the ball as it bounced off the field.
Search? Yes, the play was considered a clumsy. The call came after a booth review, and the Crimson Tide scored first. It feels like the next bloody chapter in the 41-year-old horror story since the Bulldogs’ last national championship. This could be the soccer equivalent of the “Rules of the Set”. Only Bennett didn’t feel the same way.
“I knew that once I fumbled for the ball it wouldn’t be the reason we lost this game,” Bennett said. “The scandal isn’t emotional. The mess, it’s just football. I put my head down and said, ‘That’s not going to be how we lose this game.'”
The quarterback walked into junior college but found his way back to Georgia once again leading to back-to-back hits. Bennett is now the answer to a trivia question for the right reasons.
Who was the game’s offensive player for Georgia in its 33-18 win over Alabama in the CFP championship game?
Bennett will forever be a folk hero in Georgia (14-1) now. Blackshear, Ga., Native grew up a Bulldogs fan. He listened to legends about Buck Belue, Lindsay Scott, Herschel Walker and 1980. He listened to the highlights of legendary Georgia broadcaster Larry Munson, albeit on YouTube. At media availability on Saturday, Bennett said he’s gone from fan to player.
Georgia coach Kirby Smart was asked five years ago if he believed Bennett, who was a scout linebacker when the Bulldogs played Alabama in the CFP championship game, could lead one. national championship or not.
“I thought, yeah, we’ve won the national championship,” Smart said. “I was pumped with life. Five years ago he made passes like Baker Mayfield in front of the scouts. There were a lot of people who saw him on that scouting team making plays. with feet, whips and decision making, and we were impressed.”
In two drives after the mess, Bennett hit four of four passes for 83 yards and twice TD against Alabama (13-2), which won seven straight games against the Bulldogs.
After the mess, Bennett marched to Georgia’s field for 32 yards for three innings before taking a bag from Christian Harris. In the next play, Bennett made a 40-yard TD pass for Adonai Mitchell past Alabama defensive lineback Khyree Jackson, giving Georgia a 19-18 lead.
After hitting a treble, Bennett led in closing time. The Bulldogs stuck to the ground game for six of seven innings, and that set up a third and 1st pass, in which Bennett tricked the backhand to the right and hit an open Brock Bowers on the other side for 15- touch the pitch. That scared Zamir White.
“What stood out for me was Stetson,” White said. “It’s like just seeing him as if there’s just all the pressure on him, all the crowd noise and him getting over that and fighting it and just seeing him just cry, just happy tears, man. It’s truly priceless.”
Kelee Ringo intercepts Bryce Young with 54 seconds left and returns 79 yards for a TD. It was the end of a remarkable 20-point hit after what could have been an all-time disaster.
Bennett completed 17/26 224 yards and a TD pair. Young completed 35 of 57 369 yards, one TD and two interceptions. Young finished the season with the Heisman Trophy and led Alabama to a 41-24 victory over Georgia in the SEC championship game.
Bennett, however, won the rematch. When that became clear, he may have gone back to being a fan. Bennett, without a doubt, a lot of Georgia fans in the stands and in their living rooms, crying on the sidelines.
“I haven’t cried in years, but it just happened to me,” Bennett said. “That’s the thing – when you spend as much time as we do on this, blood, sweat, tears, it makes sense.”
Bennett smokes a cigar. He was asked what was the first thing he would do when he returned to Athens.
“Well, I think we can celebrate a little bit tonight in Indy first,” Bennett said.
“If we can get out of here,” Smart continued.
It’s a celebration in Georgia for the ages, and Smart’s faith in Bennett made it possible.
No question about that.