Super Sub: Bennett 5 TD passes, No. 2 Georgia routs UAB 56-7

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ATHENS, Ga. – Stetson Bennett did his best to create a quarterback controversy at Georgia.

Stepping in for injured starter JT Daniels, Bennett tied a school record with five touchdown passes in the first half to lead No. 2 Georgia to a 56-7 rout of UAB on Saturday.

The senior completed his first five passes – four of them going all the way to the end zone for the Bulldogs (2-0), who didn’t show any signs of a letdown after a 10-3 victory over Clemson in the opener.

Bennett, a former walk-on, started five games last season before Daniels claimed the job.

It looks as if Bennett hasn’t given up on winning it back.

“I guess it’s just an innate confidence,” he said. “If you believe you’re good enough, it really doesn’t matter the situation that is thrust upon you.”

Jermaine Burton set the tone by slipping behind the secondary to haul in a 73-yard TD from Bennett on Georgia’s second offensive play, thrilling the raucous crowd of nearly 93,000 at Sanford Stadium.

It was the first full house between the hedges since the 2019 season. Crowds were limited to about 20,000 last season because of the pandemic.

By the opening minute of the second quarter, Bennett had scoring passes of 12 yards to Kenny McIntosh, 89 yards to Brock Bowers and 61 yards to Arian Smith.

At that point, Bennett’s passer rating was a staggering 775.6. The Blazers’ secondary didn’t put up much resistance, leaving Burton, Bowers and Smith wide open with blown coverages.

“It always helps when you’ve got great players all over the field,” Bennett said.

Bennett tacked on his fifth TD pass of the game with another to Bowers, the freshman tight end finding a seam in the zone to grab a 9-yard throw that sent the Bulldogs to the locker room with a 35-0 halftime lead.

Bennett played only one more series in the second half and, yes, led the Bulldogs to another TD. He set it up with a 20-yard scramble – Georgia’s longest run of the day – before James Cook took it in from the 14.

Bennett finished 10 of 12 passing for 288 yards and became the sixth Georgia quarterback to pass for five touchdowns in a game. The most recent was Aaron Murray vs. New Mexico State in 2011.

“He’s always had great composure, great athletic ability and a great understanding of the game,” coach Kirby Smart said. “He’s meant a lot to this program. All he does is do his job each and every day.”

Daniels was sidelined by an oblique injury, which is not believed to be a long-term problem. He was in uniform on the sideline, but the Bulldogs had no reason to risk a more serious issue by playing him against a team that was a 25 1/2-point underdog.

Once Daniels was ruled out, Smart made a bit of a surprising call on the starter. Redshirt freshman Carson Beck was listed as No. 2 on the depth chart, but the Bulldogs went with the more experienced signal-caller.

Great call.

While some fans groaned when Bennett was introduced as the starter, remembering his up-and-down results in 2020, there were nothing but cheers after he lit up the Blazers (1-1).

Georgia scored touchdowns on six of seven possessions with Bennett in the game.

So, what’s the quarterback situation going forward?

“It depends on JT’s injury, it depends on how we practice during the week,” Smart said. “It’s a day-to-day evaluation. I don’t get into hypotheticals.”

The Bulldogs’ defense wasn’t too shabby, either. The unit has yet to allow a touchdown this season while scoring two itself, following up a pick-six against Clemson with another on Jamon Dumas-Johnson‘s 21-yard interception return for a score.

UAB was held to 174 yards overall on a miserable day for quarterback Tyler Johnston III, who completed just 6 of 14 for 39 yards with three interceptions.

“Give Georgia all the credit. They are super talented,” UAB coach Bill Clark said. “They have a great defense and their special teams are unreal. There is no doubt that they are deserving of that No. 2 ranking.”

The Blazers avoided a shutout when Keondre Swoopes picked off a pass from Beck and returned it 61 yards for a score.

Beck did throw the first TD pass of his college career, a 12-yarder to Justin Robinson.

THE TAKEAWAY

UAB: The Blazers have won two of the past three Conference USA titles, but they’re not ready to compete with a team at Georgia’s level.

Georgia: If nothing else, the Bulldogs feel great about their quarterback depth. It’s a far cry from 2020, when Georgia spent much of the season trying to settle on a starter.

INJURY REPORT

After his touchdown catch, Smith was ruled out for the rest of the game with contusion to his lower right leg.

BIG-PLAY BOWERS

Bowers has quickly become a key player in the Georgia offense, providing the sort of big-play ability that Smart wants from his tight ends.

“We just felt like he was a special player,” the coach said. “We need tight ends like him to be elite.”

POLL IMPLICATIONS

None at all. Georgia will surely remain a solid No. 2 pick in The Associated Press poll behind top-ranked Alabama.

UP NEXT

UAB: Travels to North Texas next Saturday for its first C-USA game of the season. The Blazers play their first four contests away from home before their new stadium in downtown Birmingham opens on Oct. 2 against Liberty.

Georgia: Begin a stretch of eight straight Southeastern Conference games when they host South Carolina next Saturday.

No. 2 Michigan beats Purdue 43-22 for Big Ten crown

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
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INDIANAPOLIS – Donovan Edwards ran for 185 yards and a score, J.J. McCarthy threw three touchdown passes and No. 2 Michigan beat Purdue 43-22 on Saturday night for its second straight Big Ten title and a likely No. 2 playoff seed.

College football’s winningest program has the first 13-win season in school history. Two more victories would give the Wolverines (13-0, No. 2 CFP) their first national championship since 1997.

And with injured star Blake Corum sidelined by a season-ending left knee injury, Edwards stole the show for the second straight week.

After shredding rival Ohio State for 216 yards and two scores last week, Edwards broke open this game with a 60-yard on the first play of the second half to set up one score. He added a 27-yard TD sprint on Michigan’s next series to make it 28-13.

Purdue (8-5) never recovered from Michigan’s quick, seven-play onslaught after it trailed 14-13 at halftime.

But quarterback Aidan O'Connell and receiver Charlie Jones helped the Boilermakers make it interesting for a while.

O’Connell was 32 of 47 with 366 yards and two interceptions after missing some practice time early this week to mourn the death of his oldest brother. Jones, who lost to Michigan in last year’s game while playing for Iowa, had 13 receptions for 162 yards.

It just wasn’t enough.

Michigan showed no signs of a hangover after last week’s rout over the Buckeyes, taking a 7-0 lead on its opening possession with a 25-yard TD pass from J.J. McCarthy to Colston Loveland.

Purdue answered with Devin Mockobee’s 1-yard scoring run to tie the score then took the lead on Mitchell Fineran’s 33-yard field goal.

Michigan answered by taking advantage of an offside call on fourth-and-6 by going for the first down, picking it up and eventually converting the drive into a 7-yard TD pass from McCarthy to Luke Schoonmaker. They never trailed again.

Edwards big run set up Kalel Mullings‘ 1-yard TD plunge before Edwards celebrated his own scoring run.

All Purdue could muster was three more field goals.

McCarthy was 11 of 17 with 161 yards and one interception.

Corum posted a message on Twitter on Saturday morning to say his knee surgery went well.

THE TAKEAWAY

Purdue: The Boilermakers’ magical season ended with a solid showing in the championship game where they played better than most expected. Still, they won the Big Ten’s wild, wild West, both trophy games and should be bound for a warm-weather bowl game.

Michigan: Yes, the Wolverines may have already locked up a top-two seed thanks to losses by Southern Cal and TCU. Michigan now has back-to-back conference crowns for the first time since 2003-04 though the hard part remains – ending its national title drought.

DIALING UP TRICKERY

Brohm played one season in the now defunct XFL and has acknowledged that experience helped him understand how to inject personality and creativity into play calling. It was on full display Saturday.

A surprise end around set up Purdue’s first score, a fake punt helped keep its second scoring drive alive and then Mockobee sprinted 25 yards on a fake flea-flicker in the third quarter.

UP NEXT

Purdue: Will find out its bowl game, destination and opponent Sunday.

Michigan: Waiting to see where its headed and who it will face in the national semifinals.

Klubnik, No. 10 Clemson rout No. 24 UNC 39-10 for ACC title

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Backup quarterback Cade Klubnik completed 20 of 24 passes for 279 yards and a touchdown and ran for another score and No. 10 Clemson reclaimed the Atlantic Coast Conference championship with a 39-10 victory over No. 24 North Carolina on Saturday night.

Cornerback Nate Wiggins broke up two passes in the end zone, blocked a field goal and returned an interception 98 yards for a touchdown to help the Tigers win their seventh ACC title in eight seasons.

Clemson (11-2, No. 9 CFP) won six straight ACC championships from 2015 to 2020 before failing to reach the title game last season. But coach Dabo Swinney‘s Tigers rebounded in a big way, going 9-0 against ACC foes this season to reach the Orange Bowl.

They have Klubnik to thank for that.

With Clemson down 7-0, Swinney benched two-year starter D.J. Uiagalelei after the Tigers failed to pick up a first down on their first two possessions, Swinney turned to Klubnik, a 5-star recruit from Austin, Texas. He responded by leading the Tigers to four straight scores and a 24-10 lead at halftime.

Clemson stretched it to 39-10 heading into the fourth quarter.

It wasn’t the first time Swinney has turned to Klubnik.

He benched Uiagalelei in the second half against Syracuse and Klubnik responded by leading the Tigers to a come-from-behind 27-21 victory. Swinney also turned to Klubnik against Notre Dame, although the results were the opposite with the freshman throwing a Pick 6 in a 35-14 loss.

Swinney has never been shy about replacing veteran QBs with less experienced players. He did it in 2014, sitting Cole Stoudt for Deshaun Watson, and again in 2018 replacing Kelly Bryant with Trevor Lawrence.

ACC player of the year Drake Maye was limited to 268 yards passing and turned the ball over three times for North Carolina (9-4, No. 23 CFP), which was seeking its first ACC championship since 1980 when Lawrence Taylor was wreaking havoc on quarterbacks.

Maye got things started on the right foot for the Tar Heels, capping an 11-play, 78-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 lead on UNC’s first possession.

But the Tar Heels repeatedly sputtered on offense inside the red zone after that, the biggest blow coming when Maye misfired near the goal line and Wiggins – who had struggled in Clemson’s 51-45 win over Wake Forest – returned his pass for a touchdown to give Clemson a 32-10 lead with 5:05 left in the third quarter.

Klubnik provided an immediate spark for Clemson.

He led the Tigers on a nine-play, 71-yard drive, culminating in a 1-yard TD pass to Davis Allen. After Maye’s fumble, Klubnik caught a 19-yard pass from Phil Mafah to set up Mafah’s 4-yard touchdown run – Clemson’s second TD in a span of 40 seconds.

Klubnik then showed off his arm strength with a 68-yard pass to fellow freshman Cole Turner to set up his own 1-yard TD run for a 21-7 lead.

END OF AN ERA

This is the final year the ACC will feature its two division winners playing for a championship. In future years, all ACC teams will be lumped together and the two teams with the best records will advance to the title game.

THE TAKEAWAY

North Carolina: Maye garnered plenty of Heisman Trophy talk during the season, but the Tar Heels offense has stalled resulting in a three-game losing streak. But as long as Maye doesn’t transfer – and there are no indications he will given his family history at North Carolina – the Tar Heels have a good chance to get back to the ACC title game next season.

Clemson: The Tigers have set a high bar by winning national championships, so as much as they will enjoy getting back atop the ACC mountain there will be plenty of talk over whether Swinney cost his team a chance at a spot in the College Football Playoff by not turning to Klubnik at quarterback earlier in the season. It seems Uiagalelei might be a logical transfer portal candidate.

UP NEXT

Clemson will play in the Orange Bowl, while North Carolina awaits a bowl bid.