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Bennett relishes memories of 2001 win over Tech

Georgia kicker Billy Bennett understands the different perspectives which came out of last year's 31-17 win over Georgia Tech.

ATHENS, Ga. - No coach plans to depend on six field goals as a way to win a game. No kicker would turn down the opportunity.

Georgia kicker Billy Bennett understands the different perspectives which came out of last year's 31-17 win over Georgia Tech.

For Georgia coach Mark Richt, breaking a three-year losing streak against the Yellow Jackets was certainly cause for celebration, but Richt and his offensive assistant coaches worried about poor red-zone production that forced the six field-goal attempts.

For Bennett, there was no cause for regret. He set a Georgia record and tied a Southeastern Conference mark with the six field goals. Add an extra point, and his 19 points also set a school scoring record for a kicker.

"I guess the coaches aren't happy but I'm fine with it,'' said Bennett this week in recalling the mood after last year's game in Athens.

"It kind of (stinks) but it was like all right, we won,'' Bennett said. "We'll take (the field goals).''

This year, Bennett has enjoyed the high of winning SEC Special Teams Player of the Week in back-to-back weeks for his efforts against Alabama and Tennessee in October.

Against Tennessee, he kicked three field goals. Against Alabama, he drilled the game-winning field goal with 38 seconds left to play.

On Bennett's list of favorites, neither game tops last year's experience against Tech.

"Just for me, making the game-winning field goal is nice, but at the same time the Tech game was much more of a challenge,'' Bennett said. "I feel like I stepped up and played my best then. ... That was a really incredible game for me.''

More recently, however, Bennett has struggled in November, missing four of his last six attempts.

With No. 5 Georgia preparing to face rival Georgia Tech Saturday at 3:30 p.m. and then play in the Dec. 7 SEC championship game in the Georgia Dome, this is not a good time for a kicker to slip into a slump.

Bennett missed his last two attempts against Florida and was one for two against both Mississippi and Auburn. His misses in that span have been from 50, 36, 42 and 45 yards.

Overall, Bennett is a still-strong 16-for-21 in field goal attempts. The junior leads the SEC in field goal attempts and ranks second in field goal percentage. But if the recent slump continues, it could spoil the strong start he enjoyed the first two months.

"I'm still kind of disappointed with the season,'' Bennett said. "In the last few games I've missed some real key field goals for us that could have helped us win, or put us in position to win, or made it not as close as it was.''

Added Bennett: "I'm still not kicking as well as I want to, like I was at the beginning of the season. Hopefully, this (Georgia Tech) game will be the one to solidify the rest of the season.''

Coach Mark Richt was concerned when Bennett struggled in preseason practice. He finally was forced to allow kickoff specialist Brett Kirouac compete with Bennett for duty on field goals and extra points.

Bennett shook off that slump and made 14 of his first 15 field-goal attempts. Richt says he is not worried that Bennett's recent misses will become a trend.

"He's kicking well,'' Richt said Tuesday. "Early in the year he was hardly missing anything. Now he has missed a couple, but he has been hitting the ball well all year.''

Richt says he worries if a kicker misses badly, but he says Bennett's misses have been close, including one that hit the upright.

"I worry when a guy starts missing with shanks,'' Richt said. "You think he might lose his confidence. But Billy is hitting the ball well. I'm happy with the way he's kicking.''

Under Richt's method of spreading special teams assignments to several assistant coaches, there is not a kicking coach to analyze Bennett's technique. He says he is left to solve his own problems, and he says he likes it that way.

"I feel like at Georgia they expect you to know your stuff,'' Bennett said. "They kind of throw you to the dogs. I think it makes you a better kicker when you have to figure out things for yourself. I don't think anyone could really explain to me how to do something on the terms that I think about it.''

Added Bennett: "There's more than one way to kick a ball. It's a lot like golf. ... I think I'd go insane if I tried to replicate the same swing every time. That's why I'm glad we don't have a kicking coach.'' Instead, Bennett, punter Jonathan Kilgo and the rest of the kickers spend most of a practice day without coaching supervision. Assistant coaches lead the way through team drills, including kickoffs, extra points and field goals, but otherwise Bennett is his own coach.

"They kind of just leave me to myself, and I think that's the best way to handle it,'' Bennett said. "Coach Richt has total confidence in me the whole time.''


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