ATHENS, Ga. — One of the biggest concerns facing the Georgia Bulldogs this season is what would happen if starting quarterback Jake Fromm had to come out of a game.
Former walk-on Stetson Bennett offered the first batch of proof this past Saturday.
Entering against outmatched Murray State with the Bulldogs already up 35-7 in the second quarter, Bennett continued the onslaught as Georgia rolled to a 63-17 victory over the Ohio Valley Conference program. The 5-foot-11, 190-pound redshirt sophomore from Blackshear in the southeast corner of the Peach State completed 9 of 13 passes for 124 yards and two touchdowns, and his 1-yard touchdown run with 7:42 remaining capped the scoring.
Georgia's backup quarterbacks the past two seasons were former five-star talents Jacob Eason (2017) and Justin Fields (2018), but Bennett believes he is more than capable of taking over if needed.
"I am completely confident in myself, and it's why I walked on in the first place," Bennett said. "I didn't come here to be a frat star and be on the football team. I came here to play ball. I'm working behind Jake every day, and we compete every day to see who throws the better ball.
"Obviously I know that he is number one, and I try to learn everything I can from him, but if he goes down, I hope that I have worked hard enough and can do my job well enough to where we don't miss a beat."
Bennett served as Georgia's scout-team quarterback while redshirting as a walk-on in 2017, and he left the Bulldogs after the 2018 G-Day spring game and played last season at Jones County Junior College in Ellisville, Mississippi. After leading Jones County to a 10-2 record, Bennett received a Georgia scholarship and returned in January.
The Bulldogs also added four-star quarterback D'Wan Mathis in their 2019 class, but Bennett became the clear-cut backup in May, when Mathis underwent surgery to have a cyst on his brain removed. Bennett had the experience advantage over Mathis during the 15 spring practices, and that experience showed Saturday in his Georgia debut.
"I was happy he got to play," Georgia fourth-year coach Kirby Smart said. "We wanted him to play against Vanderbilt, because he needs all the playing experience that he can get. You can take every rep in practice you want and go through every scrimmage you want, but getting the opportunity to play in games is really important for his confidence and for him to grow.
"He is one play away at all times."
Bennett threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Demetris Robertson in the third quarter and a 25-yarder to Dominick Blaylock in the fourth, but his first scoring toss didn't go so well. That recipient was Murray State cornerback Nigel Walton, who returned Bennett's lone interception 35 yards for a touchdown that pulled the Racers within 42-14.
"I felt like I let my team down, but I knew it was the right decision," Bennett said. "I just needed to clean my feet up and not hitch on that throw. I had to take the quick read and get it out. The safety was over and the corner was back.
"I just have to get it out faster next time."
Bennett bounced back by leading the Bulldogs on an eight-play, 75-yard drive that ended with his scoring throw to Robertson.
A second opportunity for Bennett to play could come as early as this Saturday, when the No. 3 Bulldogs host Arkansas State. The Red Wolves are 1-1 this season, having opened with a 37-30 home loss to SMU before winning 43-17 at UNLV.
"I thought Stetson did some really good things," Fromm said, "and there are some things we all need to work on a little bit. It was good to see a couple of good things out of him, and I'm ready to see what he's going to do in the future."
Said Bennett: "Hopefully I will get another chance to go in. I prepare every week like I'm going to go in, so we'll see how it goes."
'I can't ... fathom'
Arkansas State coach Blake Anderson took a leave of absence last month to be with his wife, Wendy, who died of cancer several hours after his leaving. Anderson missed the opening loss but returned last week to coach at UNLV.
"I can't even begin to fathom or understand what he's gone through," Smart said during Monday's news conference. "When I first heard the news, I was just crushed for him and his kids. I could never imagine what he's having to go through.
"I've met Blake a couple of times, and I've just got a lot of respect for him as a person and a coach."
Anderson started coaching the Red Wolves in 2014 and has a 40-25 record.
Odds and ends
Smart said Monday that starting right tackle Isaiah Wilson (ankle) is no longer wearing a boot and will do some underwater running this week. Wilson has not been ruled out for Saturday. Freshman cornerback DJ Daniel didn't play against Murray State due to a hamstring injury. ... This will be the third meeting between Georgia and ASU, with the Bulldogs having won 38-7 in 1997 and 45-17 in 2001.
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.