Billy Bennett missed three field goals and Jennings was burned for the game-winning touchdown in Georgia's 17-10 loss to LSU 11 weeks ago. However, instead of being blamed and ostracized by their teammates, they have been uniformly embraced.
"I talked to (Jennings) after that play," Jones said. "I
told him to
get over it. That happens in football. There was no fault or blame put
on him. We took the loss as a team. We don't blame anybody at Georgia.
"It's the same way (with Bennett). Billy has bailed us out a lot of
times. If it wasn't for Billy we probably wouldn't be in the SEC
Championship game last year and this year. There's no finger pointing or
anything going on around here. That was always disrupting the team.
That's all gone, we're so successful now."
The No. 5 Bulldogs (10-2) have been successful despite that loss in
Baton Rouge and on Saturday they get a rematch with the No. 3 Tigers
(11-1) in SEC Championship game in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. For
Bennett and Jennings, it's a chance at redemption, not that they seem to
need any in the eyes of their teammates.
"Until you said that, I had forgotten that was the game Billy
struggled in," Coach Mark Richt said earlier this week. "Billy's a
kicker. He's made many, many clutch kicks for us."
Outside the locker room, it's a different story, and Bennett and
Jennings realize all eyes will be on them to see if they can erase those
blemishes on their record.
"People like to look at certain players and certain plays,"
said. "That's something you have to deal with at this level. I don't
think it bothers me, and I don't think it bothers Tim."
Bennett hit his first field goal in the first game, a 33-yarder that
gave Georgia a 3-0 lead. He then hit a 43-yarder but that play was
erased by offsetting penalties. His next attempt sailed wide right and
his day never got any better. Early in the second quarter, he missed
another one narrowly to the right, and then he hit the left upright on
an attempt with 44 seconds left in the first half.
"I just laughed because it couldn't get any worse," he said.
going to say I wasn't down and out about it. It was a big part of my
life that went down the drain for a while."
Bennett quickly got back on track, hitting three of four the next week
against Alabama, and, overall, he is having a standout senior season. He
leads the nation in field goals per game (2.25) and is second in the SEC
in field goal percentage (79.4). He has hit nine in a row and 19 of 22
since the first LSU game.
"I'm definitely more confident going into this game because I've
kicking well lately," he said. "I'm a little more focused."
Bennett's teammates defended him then and continued to do it this
"I might mess up five or six times in a game, but you don't see
defensive end David Pollack said. "Billy has won so many games for us
over his career, it's incredible. End of the line, I'd definitely want
Billy kicking. There's no doubt. I'd rather Billy kick than any kicker
in the country."
Jennings, who let Skyler Green get behind him for a 34-yard touchdown
with 1:22 left in the first game, got the same kind of support from his
teammates, but it was a different story when he returned home to
Although Jennings was crushed after the play, his high school friends
took great delight in an ESPN The Magazine picture showing Green's
"I was behind him, in the background," Jennings said. "I
just took all
that and laughed at it. I can't show them it really hurt me because
they'll stay on me about it."
Since that game, Jennings has been moved into the starting lineup due
to the season-ending injury to Decory Bryant. He was the third corner
the last time and was matched up man-to-man against Green when Georgia
defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder called a blitz. The Tigers picked
up the blitz and gave quarterback Matt Mauck time to roll out and extend
the play, leaving Jennings on Green for an unusually long amount of
"The time clock in (Jennings) head went off and said, 'This play
be over by now,'" Richt said. "He peeked when he shouldn't have, and
got hurt. It's something that small."
Jennings was inconsolable. He called secondary coach Willie Martinez
the next week promising to rededicate himself and not let that happen to
"After the play I took it very personal," he said. "I felt
about myself because I let my team down. I was down on myself the whole
His teammates in the secondary, who realize they are only just a play
away from being in the background of a touchdown photo, have been his
"None of us got down on him because it could have been
any of us,"
safety Thomas Davis said. "I feel like Tim is really eager to go out
against LSU because of what happened. He wants to redeem himself."
Jennings and Bennett both get that opportunity.
"I didn't think I'd get a second chance," Jennings said.
if the last play comes down to it, it'll come down to me making the play
this time. It's not so much getting revenge but just coming out with a
ATHENS - The impact of Georgia's special teams hasn't diminished this year, kicker Billy Bennett…