Smart seeking Georgia's most accurate quarterback for stretch run

Georgia photo by Matt Stamey / Georgia receiver Kearis Jackson (10) had a 25-yard touchdown catch in the final minute of the third quarter in Saturday's 44-28 loss to Florida, which marked the only offensive score for the Bulldogs after the game's first four minutes.

Georgia's passing performance in Jacksonville doesn't get any prettier the further Saturday's 44-28 loss to Florida gets in the rear-view mirror.

While Kyle Trask was throwing for 474 yards and four touchdowns for the Gators, the tandem of Stetson Bennett IV and D'Wan Mathis completed just 9 of 29 attempts for 112 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions. Georgia's 31% completion rate was its second lowest in a game during the past 20 years.

"The quarterbacks were a little off, and I don't know what to say," Bulldogs receiver Kearis Jackson said Monday afternoon. "It was one of those days we weren't completing many balls. We do our thing in practice, but we have to change it over to the game.

"It's something we have to work on."

Georgia coach Kirby Smart insisted after Saturday's defeat that the Bulldogs have the potential to be explosive in Todd Monken's first season as offensive coordinator regardless of whether Bennett or Mathis holds the reins. It's simply a matter of connecting with the receivers, which has been easier said than done for a program that has stumbled out of the top 10 and is No. 12 entering this week's tricky trip to Missouri.

Bennett has completed 85 of 153 passes (55.6%) overall this season for 1,167 yards with eight touchdowns and six interceptions, with his efficiency rating of 129.0 ranking just 75th nationally.

"I think the number one thing is the accuracy," Smart said. "It's not that we protect the quarterback better. It's accuracy in terms of completion percentage. We always say that you have to make your layups, and that's the most disappointing thing about the last couple games. When a guy gets the chance to catch a ball, he has to catch it, but when you have him open, you can't over throw him.

"We missed out on some opportunities there, and a lot of that can help a good run game. We have shown the ability at times to run the ball on some hard boxes, and Missouri gives you hard boxes almost every single snap. It's one of those challenges that we have to improve on."

Bennett suffered an AC sprain in his throwing shoulder on a 32-yard touchdown pass to Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint that gave the Bulldogs a 14-0 lead less than four minutes into the game. The former walk-on who has started Georgia's past five games is listed "day-to-day" this week, which could open more opportunities for Mathis or provide the first playing time this season for Southern California transfer JT Daniels or true freshman Carson Beck.

With the College Football Playoff out of the question and a fourth straight Southeastern Conference Eastern Division title now a long shot, Smart would simply like the most accurate quarterback to please stand up.

"Accuracy comes with experience, and accuracy comes with timing," Smart said. "Accuracy comes with consistency in who's out there. One receiver might be running 21 miles an hour, and another receiver might be running 22, but you've got to hit your layups. When you define the quarterback position, accuracy ranks right up there with managing it and not turning it over.

"Accuracy is probably the defining factor of that position, and we have not been very accurate in terms of completion percentage, at least not consistently. We've been there in spurts, but we weren't Saturday."

Odds and ends

Rosemy-Jacksaint suffered a season-ending fractured ankle on his first career touchdown reception and underwent surgery Monday. ... Freshman running back Kendall Milton is likely out for the rest of the regular season with an MCL sprain. ... Sophomore safety Lewis Cine, who was ejected Saturday for targeting, remains in concussion protocol. ... Smart is hopeful of having both sophomore receiver George Pickens (upper extremity) and junior defensive lineman Jordan Davis (elbow) back this week.

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