September 14, 2011

Bennett draws raves

The first career touchdown catch for Michael Bennett was one he'll never forget, but it was his third-down grab later in Saturday's contest against South Carolina that's had the Bulldogs talking.

Facing a third-and-4, quarterback Aaron Murray dropped back, and fired the ball in the direction of the redshirt freshman, who had to adjust in mid-air after the ball hit the helmet of a Gamecock player.

No problem.

With his body almost on the ground, Bennett somehow reached out to snare the pass giving Georgia a key first down.

"It was just a little slant route, a little hot route that Murray threw. It deflected off a guy's helmet I think, and in just a reaction, I stuck my hands out there," Bennett said. "I don't know how it happened. It was crazy, but just really blessed to have the opportunity to make plays like that."

Just how big was Bennett's grab?

On the next play, Isaiah Crowell scored from 15 yards out to give the Bulldogs a 35-31 lead, but the freshman from Carver wasn't the first player head coach Mark Richt grabbed as the offense was coming off the field.

"I said it after the game, but even after watching the film of Michael Bennett's catch, I thought that was one of the best catches I've ever seen, and especially how important it was at that moment. It's third down and if we don't make it we might be deciding to kick a field goal. He makes it, then we go score on the next play," Richt said "When everybody came off the field everybody is hugging Isaiah, and I was happy for the run Isaiah made too, but I grabbed that kid and gave him a big hug because that was a heck of a play. That helps those guys gain confidence and I think makes everybody around them better."

Murray was thoroughly impressed.

"That was an unbelievable catch, especially in that situation," the quarterback said. "It nicked off one of the defenders helmets and then just shot down. I said 'Oh no'. I don't know how he caught it. I thought it hit the ground first. When you go back and watch the film it was pretty unbelievable how he was able to adjust, then come back down and get it."

But don't think for a second that Bennett's first touchdown didn't mean something, too.

Bennett was all smiles Tuesday and didn't seem to mind a bit when different media members asked him to relive his first scoring pass, the former Alpharetta standout happily obliged.

"It's been since senior year of high school (to catch a pass), I guess the spring game kind of counted, but to get on the field for a real game, it means a lot and I feel like I did capitalize on my opportunities," Bennett said. "After we scored (Crowell's touchdown run), I realized that was a big play, but I still like that touchdown. That feeling of scoring was just unbelievable. There's no way to describe it, but that catch was pretty cool."

Bennett laughed that he watched his share of highlights showing his first touchdown grab.
"Yeah, I watched it on ESPN a few times," he said. "I wish I could have kept the ball, too, but they don't let you do that. It's not like baseball."

He figures to get plenty more opportunities.

Along with true freshman Malcolm Mitchell, Bennett has certainly earned the trust of his coaches, assuring there will be plenty more reps and opportunities for touchdowns as the season moves forward.

"Me and Malcolm are just trying to make the most of our opportunities," Bennett said. "Malcolm, he's come in right away and did some unbelievable stuff out there. I redshirted last year and I think that helped me a lot. I knew I was going to get to play a lot this year, so whenever I get on the field, I am just determined to do my best."

Anthony Dasher is the managing editor for UGASports
and he can be reached via email at [email protected]