Georgia’s ‘Mailman’ delivers again as Bulldogs throttle Auburn 27-6

Georgia QB Stetson Bennett finished with 240 yards passing and the touchdown to George Pickens in the victory.
Georgia QB Stetson Bennett finished with 240 yards passing and the touchdown to George Pickens in the victory.

Credit: Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

Credit: Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

ATHENS – At this point, it’s clear Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett deserves a nickname. Fortunately for the Bulldogs, he already has one.

“The Mailman,” as he was known while playing for Pierce County High, delivered a victory for the second consecutive week. After coming off the bench to lead Georgia to a comeback win over Arkansas in Game 1, Bennett was masterful in his first career start in Game 2, staking the No. 4 Bulldogs to an early 24-0 lead and letting Georgia’s vaunted defense take it from there to defeat No. 7 Auburn 27-6.

Bennett played like he was delivering the mail in Blackshear, leading Georgia on four consecutive scoring drives spanning the first and second quarters. Bennett was at his best on third down, coming through for the Bulldogs six of nine times in the first half alone. He finished with 240 yards and a touchdown on 17-of-28 passing as Georgia piled up 442 total yards, including 202 rushing.

“It was awesome,” said Bennett, who said he was told he’d start on Monday. “It’s so easy to play football when the defense plays as well as they did and we can run the ball as well as we did and the players on the outside make plays like they did. I’m sure everybody back home was enjoying that a good bit.”

Bennett and slotback Kearis Jackson were especially friendly on this night. They connected nine times for 147 yards, including a career-long 49-yard pass play for both players in the first half. Jackson led the Bulldogs with a team high six catches for 62 yards against Arkansas last week.

“Ever since I’ve been here, Stetson’s always been a baller,” Jackson said. “He’s always stood have out. Whatever they’ve thrown at him, he’s always attacked it.”

The victory was Georgia’s ninth in its past 11 games against Auburn in what’s known as the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry. Georgia coach Kirby Smart improves to 5-1 against the Tigers.

The win sets up another Top 25 showdown Saturday, when the Bulldogs (2-0) play host to No. 21 Tennessee. The Volunteers defeated Missouri 35-12 on Saturday. Asked afterward if his team could compete with No. 4 UGA, Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt told reporters, “absolutely.”

It was unclear whether Bennett would start, even though he played the hero against Arkansas. Smart left open the possibility the Bulldogs might go with D’Wan Mathis or the recently-activated JT Daniels, or play more than one. Turns out that Bennett was informed he’d be QB1 on Monday and he played the whole game until Mathis came in to relieve him with the outcome in hand with 4:48 remaining.

Smart said that will be the case for Tennessee as well.

“That’s certainly the plan,” Smart said of Bennett starting. “We think right now he’s the guy. He did a good job preparing this week.”

And why not? So inefficient at Arkansas, Georgia’s offense got on track quickly with Bennett at the controls Saturday. He led the Bulldogs to their first touchdown on their second possession of the game, a 10-play, 43-yard drive. The key play was a beauty, with the elusive Bennett spinning left and running away from heavy pressure and squaring up to fire a strike to Jackson on the Georgia sideline for 17-yard gain on third-and-10. White got all but one from there, covering the remaining 32 yards on a reception and three runs, the last one a 2-yard TD run.

After an Auburn three-and-out, the Bulldogs took over at their 37. This time they used 11 plays and another long third-down-conversion completion, from Bennett to Jackson for 18 yards, to get to the Auburn 4. Consecutive incompletions forced the Bulldogs to settle for a 21-yard field goal and a 10-0 lead.

But Bennett’s best work was ahead of him. This time he led Georgia on an 11-play, 84-yard scoring drive, with Bennett delivering third-down conversions three times along the way. The last one was the best one, as Bennett sent a high-arcing pass down the left Georgia sideline, leading George Pickens perfectly for a 21-yard touchdown and a 17-0 lead.

White would collect his second touchdown of the night with an untouched 1-yard run to cap a 72-yard drive and stake the Bulldogs to a 24-0 lead with 6:26 remaining in the half. White would lead the Bulldogs with 76 yards rushing in the first half as Georgia had rolled up 288 total yards at halftime. White, a sophomore coming off ACL surgeries to both knees, left the game in the fourth quarter with career highs of 88 yards on 19 carries, as other backs finished the day’s work.

Georgia gained 202 yards rushing on 45 attempts. RS-Sophomore Zamir White finished with 88 yards on a career-high 19 attempts. He had posted a career-high 2 TDs in the first half. Junior James Cook added 41 yards in the first half before leaving with a right shoulder injury.

The Tigers would cut Georgia’s lead to 24-3 by halftime and got within 18 in the third quarter. But the Bulldogs' nationally renowned defense made sure the margin would hold up. Auburn managed only 216 yards -- including 39 yards rushing -- and the Bulldogs are giving up just 8 points a game so far. Mark Webb had an interception and Georgia recorded three sacks and forced a fumble.

“That just goes to show how our practice is paying off with the things we work on each and every day, Monday through Thursday,” said senior linebacker Monty Rice, who led the Bulldogs with seven tackles.

There were some negatives for Georgia. The main one was losing senior safety Richard LeCounte to a targeting disqualification late in the second quarter. The All-American candidate was having a great game.

And running back James Cook, who was averaging 8.2 yards a carry at the time, had to leave the game late in the second quarter because of a hand injury. The junior did not play in the second half, and his availability next week is uncertain.

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