INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP) — Stetson Bennett waved his cigar like a conductor's baton as he made his way through the confetti and cameras to the SoFi Stadium stage to celebrate his second straight national championship at Georgia.
The top player in Bennett's orchestra Monday night was Brock Bowers, and the California-born tight end made sweet music with his oh-so-Georgia quarterback to seize another title for these magnificent Bulldogs.
Bennett's remarkable connection with Bowers was on display throughout the Dawgs' 65-7 demolition of TCU, and that chemistry played a major role in making sure the Bulldogs became champions again.
“It’s special,” Bennett said. “It seems like for the past three or four months we’ve been looking to see if somebody could beat us, and we just ran out of games. Nobody could.”
Bowers finished with seven catches for 152 yards and a touchdown from Bennett, including a 22-yard TD catch that firmly shut the door on the Horned Frogs in the third quarter of this epic blowout. Bennett passed for 304 yards and four touchdowns while running for two more scores.
Bennett walked on at Georgia nearly six years ago at the beginning of its growth into college football’s most dominant program. He walked away early in the fourth quarter to a standing ovation from thousands of grateful Bulldogs fans during a timeout.
“Probably had the best game of his career, in my opinion,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “With some of the checks he made, some of the decisions he made, just really elite.”
While Bennett’s unlikely journey traces the path of the Bulldogs’ recent past, Bowers epitomizes Georgia’s present and future as a powerhouse team stacked with superb talents who have known nothing but championships for two incredible years.
Bennett is more than five years older than Bowers, but the quarterback has bridged that modest generation gap to form a partnership that got one last national showcase in Inglewood.
In the first half, Bennett became the first player in Georgia’s lengthy history to rack up 4,000 total yards of offense over his career with plenty of help from Bowers. He also broke Aaron Murray’s single-season yards passing record for the Bulldogs in the first half, an appropriate punctuation to a season in which the Bulldogs broke open offenses early with passing before running their way to victories.
“For Stetson, for it to be his second year and people are still doubting him? For people to be doubting the Mailman? I don’t see why,” Georgia defensive lineman Zion Logue said. “He’s a hell of a quarterback. He’s going down in Georgia history as one of the best quarterbacks to ever do it.”
Bennett is older than five starting quarterbacks for current NFL playoff teams and he finished 29-3 as a starter at Georgia. Bennett joined Matt Leinart and A.J. McCarron as the only quarterbacks to lead their teams to back-to-back national championships in the 21st century when Georgia became just the fourth team to repeat since 1980.
Bennett's teammates and coaches were already weighing his place in Georgia's history moments after the final whistle.
“I think he goes down as the top,” said receiver Ladd McConkey, who had five catches for 88 yards and two TDs. “Two national championships back to back. Showed up in every way possible. Yeah, he’s done so much for this program. I think he should go out on top.”
Bowers' decision to move from Northern California to Athens and his subsequent growth into a football juggernaut inspiring comparisons to Travis Kelce is a prime illustration of what Georgia has become in the past few seasons — a national powerhouse that can snare players from every corner of the map and turn them all into stars.
Bowers, a 6-foot-4 multi-sport athlete with freakish speed for his size, has been a spectacular success since arriving at Georgia in 2021. He has led the Bulldogs in receiving for two straight years, playing multiple roles and causing innumerable headaches for opposing defenses with his strength, speed and versatility.
Until late in the third quarter of the title game, Bowers had more yards receiving than TCU's offense had total yards.
AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25