INDIANAPOLIS – Stetson Bennett could have been the answer to a trivial question for the wrong reasons.
Who was the Georgia quarterback who dabbled in one of the most controversial calls in college football playoff history?
It almost happened to Bennett with 11:35 left in the fourth quarter of the 2022 College Football Playoff Championship game between the No.1 Alabama and No.3 Georgia at Lucas Oil Stadium on Monday.
Bennett came under pressure from Alabama linebacker Christian Harris, who ran for the sack. Bennett appeared to pass the ball forward, and Crimson Tide defensive back Brian Branch casually picked up the ball as it bounced off the turf.
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To grope? Yes, the game was judged as a fumble. The call was held after a pit review, and the Crimson Tide marked the green light touchdown. It was like the next bloody chapter in the 41-year-old horror story since the last Bulldogs National Championship. It could have been the college football equivalent of the ‘fallback rule’. Only Bennett didn’t feel that way.
“I knew that once I missed the ball I wasn’t going to be the reason we lost this game,” Bennett said. “The fumble was not cathartic. The fumble was just football. I bowed my head and said, ‘That won’t be how we lose this game. “”
The walk-in quarterback who transferred to college but found his way back to Georgia led back-to-back touchdowns again. Bennett is now the answer to a trivial question for the right reasons.
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Who was Georgia’s offensive player of the game in a 33-18 win over Alabama in the CFP Championship game?
Bennett will forever be that Georgia folk hero (13-1) now. The Blackshear, Ga. Native grew up as a Bulldogs fan. He has heard legends on Buck Belue, Lindsay Scott, Herschel Walker and 1980. He has listened to highlights from legendary Georgian announcer Larry Munson, although on YouTube. During media availability on Saturday, Bennett said he has gone from fan to player.
Georgia coach Kirby Smart was asked if he would have believed five years ago Bennett, who was a quarterback on the scouting squad when the Bulldogs faced Alabama in the Championship game. of the CFP, could lead a race to the national championship.
“I would have thought, damn it, we won a national championship,” said Smart. “I would have been excited. Five years ago he was delivering assists like Baker Mayfield against the Boy Scout team. There are a lot of guys who saw him on this Boy Scout team playing with his feet, his whip. and his decision making, and we were very impressed. ”
On two drives after the fumble, Bennett had 4 of 4 passes for 83 yards and two touchdowns against Alabama (12-2), who had won seven in a row against the Bulldogs.
After the fumble, Bennett brought Georgia down to the 32-yard line in three games before taking a sack from Christian Harris. On the next play, Bennett landed a 40-yard touchdown pass to Adonai Mitchell over Alabama defensive back Khyree Jackson to give Georgia a 19-18 lead.
After a three-and-out, Bennett led the closing race. The Bulldogs stayed with the ground game for six of the seven games, and that set up a third and pass in which Bennett rigged his hand to the right and hit a wide open Brock Bowers on the other side for a 15- yard landing.
Kelee Ringo intercepted Bryce Young with 54 seconds left and returned 79 yards for a touchdown. It was the end of a remarkable 20-point swing after what could have been an all-time disaster.
Bennett finished 17 of 26 for 224 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Young finished 35 of 57 for 369 yards, one touchdown 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 become a fan again. Bennett, undoubtedly like so many Georgia fans in the stands and in their living rooms, wept on the sidelines.
“I hadn’t cried for, I don’t know, years, but it came to me,” Bennett said. “That’s what – when you spend as much time on this thing as we do, blood, sweat, tears, it means something.”
Bennett smoked a cigar. He was asked what would be the first thing he would do when he returned to Athens.
“Well I think we could celebrate a bit tonight here at Indy First,” Bennett said.
“If we can ever get out of here,” Smart followed.
It’s a celebration in Georgia for the ages, and Smart’s faith in Bennett made it possible.
there is no doubt.