published Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

Georgia's Michael Bennett productive in return from injury

Georgia receiver Michael Bennett makes a catch during the Bulldog's win over Florida.
Georgia receiver Michael Bennett makes a catch during the Bulldog's win over Florida.

Michael Bennett rejoining Georgia's offense last Saturday did not receive the attention of Todd Gurley's return, but the junior receiver was quite productive.

Playing in his first game since tearing his meniscus on Oct. 5 at Tennessee, the 6-foot-3, 205-pounder snatched a team-high five receptions for 59 yards in Georgia's 23-20 win over Florida. All five of his catches occurred on first-half scoring drives, including two on third down that resulted in first downs.

"He played great," Bulldogs coach Mark Richt said. "We probably asked too much on some of that blocking at the end of the game. I thought he played tremendously well and caught the types of passes that you've got to be able to catch in some of our third-down situations in tight coverage.

"He knows how to run routes and gets enough separation to get the quarterback a target, and then he does such a beautiful job of reaching out to snag the ball and not let the ball get into his body. He did exactly what we thought he would do."

Georgia opened the game with Aaron Murray faking a handoff to Gurley and keeping it for a 17-yard pickup. Gurley rushed for 14 yards on the second play to Florida's 44-yard line, but then Murray threw incomplete for Rantavious Wooten.

That's when Bennett stepped in, collecting 5- and 9-yard receptions to Florida's 30, which preceded a 25-yard Gurley run and a 5-yard Gurley touchdown.

Gurley had a 73-yard scoring reception on Georgia's second possession, but he was experiencing nausea when the Bulldogs started their third drive. Georgia faced a third-and-7 from its 18 when Murray and Bennett connected for 14 yards, igniting a drive that concluded with Marshall Morgan's 49-yard field goal that made it 17-0.

"That was huge," offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. "Early in the first half, we thought we were going to put Bennett in the slot and work him in the slot, and he made several nice plays for big chunks of yardage. He's not the fastest, but that's one tough, tough football player who fights.

"If you put it near him, he usually catches the ball."

Bennett was leading the Bulldogs last year with 24 receptions for 345 yards and four touchdowns when he tore his ACL in practice before the sixth game at South Carolina. He had 14 catches for 176 yards and two scores this season before his injury during the fifth game against the Volunteers.

Georgia's trip to Knoxville was costly, as the Bulldogs lost tailback Keith Marshall and receiver Justin Scott-Wesley for the season, but Bennett knew his setback wasn't as bad by comparison.

"It wasn't the same feeling," Bennett said. "You kind of know what you've been through, and this kind of injury wasn't the same. They told me on the sideline that it wasn't my ACL and that it was my meniscus and that hopefully I would be out just two to three weeks.

"Thankfully it was that and I was back in time for this game."

Bennett entered the Florida contest hoping to contribute any way he could. He was pleased to get so involved so early before the Bulldogs turned to their running game in the second half, when they threw just four passes.

While this hasn't been the most desirable season for Bennett, at least he's still playing.

"It's never good news to go down with a knee injury," he said. "I knew it would be a few weeks, and I was hoping that we would get those couple of wins that we didn't, but it is what it is. We're still in the race for the SEC East."

Odds and ends

Gurley went through Monday's one-hour workout, but tight end Arthur Lynch sat out with a bruised rib and is questionable for Saturday's game against Appalachian State. ... Sophomore kicker Morgan was named Monday as one of 20 semifinalists for the Lou Groza Award, and he is the only representative from the SEC. ... Morgan also was named SEC special teams player of the week after making three field goals in Jacksonville, while senior tackle Garrison Smith was the league's defensive lineman of the week after tallying 2.5 sacks. ... CBS has used a six-day option for its Nov. 16 telecast, so Georgia's game at Auburn could be on CBS at 3:30, ESPN2 at 7 or ESPN at 7:45.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.

about David Paschall...

David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...

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