Quarterback Stetson Bennett leads Georgia’s blowout of UAB

Georgia linebacker Jamon Dumas-Johnson (center) celebrates his interception return for a 56-0 lead over UAB with teammates in the end zone during the fourth quarter in a NCAA college football game on Saturday, Sept 11, 2021, in Atlanta.    “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Georgia linebacker Jamon Dumas-Johnson (center) celebrates his interception return for a 56-0 lead over UAB with teammates in the end zone during the fourth quarter in a NCAA college football game on Saturday, Sept 11, 2021, in Atlanta. “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”

ATHENS —All the quarterback uncertainty seemed silly in the afterlight of Georgia’s 56-7 win over Alabama-Birmingham on Saturday.

Once it was determined that quarterback JT Daniels was going to be unable to play this week, the debate over who would or should start in his absence was intense. Entering Saturday’s game, there were conflicting reports whether redshirt freshman Carson Beck or senior Stetson Bennett would start.

It was Bennett, and it took all of two offensive plays to know that was the right choice.

On the second play from scrimmage, Bennett connected with flanker Jermaine Burton on a 73-yard bomb down the hash marks nearest the Georgia bench. Thirty-eight seconds in, Georgia led 7-0.

Bennett was just getting started. He led the Bulldogs to scoring drives on six of the first seven offensive series that he oversaw. As a result, Georgia flew to a 42-0 lead in the game’s first 37 minutes. Bennett finished 10-for-12 passing for 288 yards and five touchdowns.

“It does always seem like I’m fighting for my supper,” Bennett said with a smile. “But, I’m not going to lie, I was pretty nervous. I didn’t eat our pregame meal. I guess I say I don’t care what other people think and I don’t, really, but I was nervous. I was like, ‘I need to play well today.’ So, I prepared like I had to. It helps when you’ve got Jermaine Burton running open down the field on the second play to get all the jitters out.”

Bennett led the Bulldogs on a comparatively modest 55-yard scoring drive on the second offensive possession. This one ended with his 12-yard touchdown pass to Kenny McIntosh off a play-action fake.

Beck came in on the third possession following a Lewis Cine interception. The Bulldogs went three-and-out on three running plays.

Bennett came back in on the fourth series, and this time he hit tight end Brock Bowers on a sideline route that Bowers used his speed to turn into an 89-yard TD and a 21-0 lead with 1:14 still remaining in the first quarter.

Bennett added a 61-yard touchdown when he hit Arian Smith in stride down the Georgia sideline for a 28-0 lead 51 seconds into the second quarter.

Beck came in again on the next possession, and his throw for an open Smith deep over the middle was underthrown and broken up. The Bulldogs had to punt again.

Georgia punted for the first time behind Bennett on the next possession. But on the seventh offensive series of the half, Bennett was back in after a Kearis Jackson punt return put the Bulldogs at the UAB 17. On third-and-goal from the 9, Bennett fired a strike to Bowers in the end zone for 35-0 lead.

With 1:13 left in the half, Bennett was 8-of-9 passing for 269 yards and five touchdowns. The Bulldogs outgained the Blazers 298-98 in the first half.

Georgia students pay tribute to 9-11 victims, bearing the letters "# NEVER FORGET" on Saturday, Sept 11, 2021, in Athens. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

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Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Bennett’s day was done in the third quarter after his 20-yard scramble on third down set up the seventh touchdown, a 14-yard James Cook run. That handoff with 8:43 remaining in the third quarter would be Bennett’s last play.

“You know he played really well,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “I am proud of the way he handled it well. The plan was to play both of them. ... But I am really proud of the way that Stetson has handled himself. No one has been better to the University of Georgia than Stetson Bennett.”

Beck finally got on track after that. He hit Adonai Mitchell for a 32-yard gain in the third quarter. On the same drive, he and wideout Justin Robinson each scored their first career touchdowns when Beck hit him on a 12-yard pass to make the score 49-0 with 7:11 remaining in the quarter.

Beck stayed in until late in the fourth quarter. He finished with 88 yards on 4-of-10 passing. UAB’s Keondre Swoopes turned Beck’s interception late in the game into the first touchdown scored against the Bulldogs this season on a 61-yard return.

Credit: UGA

Georgia football coach Kirby Smart comments on the team's play against UAB and the standard he hopes to achieve.

Georgia’s defense was dominant again. Heading into the Week 3 SEC opener vs. South Carolina next Saturday (7:30 p.m., ESPN), the Bulldogs still have not allowed an offensive touchdown. As for criticism, coach Kirby Smart and the Georgia defense probably weren’t happy with the Blazers going over 100 yards rushing by early in the third quarter. They finished with 127.

And while the Bulldogs had 539 total yards, only 163 of that was rushing. They were stuck at 86 through three quarters when a lot of the starters were still in the game.

But there was mostly a lot to like about this game. Quarterback play was tops among those. How in the world it might shake out next week is a wait-to-see proposition.

“It’s evaluated day-to-day,” Smart said. “And it depends on what percentage of health is JT, how does Carson practice, and how does Stetson deal with succes. It will be evaluated day-to-day. I don’t have any hypotheticals.”