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Ashway: Backup Bennett leads Bulldogs' swagger
Denton Ashway
DENTON ASHWAY

This team’s got swagger.

What Georgia showed in its emphatic 56-7 dismantling of UAB Saturday might have been more impressive than what Georgia showed in beating Clemson a week earlier.

This game amassed all the elements necessary for a big Georgia letdown; one of those games in which the Dawgs appear to be sleepwalking. Here came Georgia, newly anointed as the nation’s second-ranked team, after a full week of backslapping.

And here came a team from a Group of Five conference for a mid-afternoon match. Hardly a prime-time affair against a perennial playoff team with the entire nation looking in.

The Georgia defense certainly had nothing left to prove after keeping Clemson out of the end zone and holding the Tigers to a measly pair of rushing yards. The offense would be without its helmsman, JT Daniels.

It all evoked something legendary coach Vince Dooley, who turned 89 last week, was fond of saying: “It’s a short trip from the penthouse to the outhouse.”

Apparently, these Dawgs heeded that ancient message. They showed no sign of somnambulism on Saturday.

It took Georgia all of two plays to get on the scoreboard. Eternal backup Stetson Bennett delivered a perfect long pass to Jermaine Burton, hitting him in stride for a 73-yard touchdown. So much for Georgia’s inability to throw long.

Georgia decided to run some clock on its second possession. They covered 55 yards in five plays, burning 2:30 off the clock. Bennett passed to Kenny McIntosh for the 12-yard score.

Alternate backup QB Carson Beck got to play on Georgia’s third series. Apparently untrustworthy, he handed off three times, and Georgia punted.

With Bennett back, Georgia’s next possession lasted but a single play. He hit freshman sensation Brock Bowers in stride by the right sideline, and Bowers motored 89 yards to score.

Georgia’s next possession, in the first minute of the second quarter, consisted of another Bennett pass, this one to sprinter Arian Smith for 61 yards and another score.

To recap, the four possessions under Bennett’s aegis amounted to nine plays, 280 yards, and four touchdowns. Time of possession: 3:58.

All together now: Yikes!

Bennett delivered, no doubt silencing the naysayers.

“I just, well, it really didn’t matter to me what the outside people were talking about,” Bennett told georgiadogs.com after his stellar performance. “Honestly, I just got prepared like we were playing Clemson, like I did last week and like I did every game that I started and every game that I have been here.

“I just prepared the same way. I knew that UAB won their conference championship two out of the last three years, so I was prepared to go out there. And it really didn’t matter what everybody else said.”

Bennett’s play drew a rave review from the only person whose opinion matters.

“You know, he played really well!” head coach Kirby Smart told georgiadogs.com. “I am really proud of the way that Stetson handled himself. No one has been better to the University of Georgia than Stetson Bennett.”

Bennett’s play even earned the respect of teammates on the other side of the ball.

“He’s just himself,” defensive end Travon Walker told georgiadogs.com. “He’s someone that’s always going to come in and work with excitement. He walks around the locker room singing. His spirit is always up, no matter what. Everything that he’s been through, he’s still one of those players that’s going to show up and work hard every day.”

Apparently, that work ethic’s contagious.

Clearly, this Georgia team has a focus, a camaraderie, that seems unique compared to its immediate predecessors. Turning in such a tour de force performance as a three-touchdown favorite gives reason to believe that this might be a special Georgia season.

This, of course, is college football. Anything can happen any week. It’s tough for a large group of such young people to retain their focus on anything for three straight months, especially with people like Bill Connelly of ESPN.com writing, “The 56-7 win further established Georgia as ‘Bama’s most formidable challenger early in the season.”

These Dawgs would do well to follow more of Coach Dooley’s sage, timeless advice: “We’ll have to be at our best next Saturday night against a fine South Carolina team.”