Last night, I went over to a friend’s house to watch the game. Driving home, soothed by the dulcet tones of the Stones, I was pretty certain I’d hear a particular take from Smart in his post-game presser.
Stetson’s just got to play within himself and allow people to help him around him. We’ve got to help him with the run game around him because we can’t throw the ball that many times and hope to be effective.
Say what you will about the tenets of manball, Dude, at least it’s an ethos.
Okay, I’m being snarky here, because Smart’s comments in total were more nuanced than that. He wasn’t making a “run the damned ball, Monken” point, not that there weren’t folks on social media making that point for him. (The snarky thing to say here would be Smart had already lost playing that way in the last two games against Saban.)
Yeah, Georgia was doing a nice job running the ball. The problem was, once the ‘Bama passing attack kicked in, there was no way Georgia could keep up. Georgia averaged 4.8 yards per carry; Jones averaged 13.0 per pass attempt. The math was brutally cold and Smart knew it.
What Smart was getting at was his quarterback’s limitations. Here’s how he prefaced the quote above:
On Stetson taking chances down the middle. Catch up to him?
“I would argue that he doesn’t like to take chances. Now, he made a couple of bonehead mistakes and got away with them. Then some of it wasn’t his fault. He had a batted ball that was a pick. He had a ball I don’t know for sure but I thought Jermaine could have caught. It went through Jermaine’s hands a little high and then they picked. The bonehead was scrambling across the pocket and then throwing the ball across the field where nobody was there. That was really the poor decision. There were a couple of other poor decisions that it didn’t cost him, meaning he got away with it. That’s what happened in the Tennessee game. He threw the ball deep into Cover 2 and wasn’t supposed to do. He’s not perfect. He’s learning. He’s growing up. He also made some good throws and made some plays. He even made some checks to put us in really good situations…
The Ole Miss comparison sounds compelling, except Georgia’s offense isn’t built to perform in a footrace. That showed last night. The reality is that Smart and Monken are asking a former walk-on who entered training camp as the fourth-string quarterback to excel against the second-ranked team in the country. That’s a tall order for anybody, but it’s even harder when you’re asking that of a kid under six feet tall whose arm is average at best.
Kirby’s “we can’t throw the ball that many times and hope to be effective” observation is a little misleading, because the last eight passing attempts came in Georgia’s last two possessions, when the offense was scrambling to keep up with a game that was unraveling. As Smart said, Bennett started pressing and tried to do too much, something that very much isn’t his game.
I think what I’m getting at here is two-fold. One, I don’t get the criticism being thrown Monken’s way for the play calling. As in every other game I’ve watched this season, there were receivers open on almost every play. Bennett is still hit and miss in that regard.
Two, like it or not, the coaches have a decision to make: how much more will Bennett grow into the job? Will he remain the best option at quarterback? These are probably not questions that are going to matter in the regular season, as Georgia appears to be a more talented team than any other left on the schedule, but if you’re convinced that you can’t win a shootout behind Stetson Bennett, that’s going to require some deep thinking about where to go from here.
It’s going to make for an interesting bye week, that’s for sure.