The Associated Press
Even before his first game as Georgia Tech’s full-time starting quarterback, Taylor Bennett was praised by his teammates for his dedication to film work.
"He’s a student of the game," said tailback Tashard Choice in August. Other teammates chose the same phrase to compliment Bennett’s work ethic off the field.
After six games, Bennett is starting to wonder if all the extra studying, including countless hours of video he takes back to his dorm room, is paying off.
Bennett doesn’t believe it’s possible to study too much. But he says he has been slowed at times as he tried to process all the information instead of reacting instinctively.
"I think that’s one of my flaws, I think way too much instead of just playing," Bennett said. "I pride myself on knowledge of the defense and I need to slow my cerebral play down to my physical play.
"You can definitely think too much. I don’t think you can know too much."
The student of the game says it’s time to graduate to a higher grade of performance.
Bennett says he was encouraged by his play in the second half last week against Maryland, when Georgia Tech scored 16 points in a comeback attempt before losing 28-26.
Tech gained 484 yards in the game and Bennett passed for a season-high 309 yards, most in the second half when he was 13-of-16 passing for 202 yards and a touchdown.
Bennett said Maryland’s defense wasn’t playing soft with a 21-10 halftime lead.
"No, there was a big difference in the way I played in the first half," he said. "We had opportunities that I kind of took us out of. In the second half we came out and I made most of my throws and got us going. It was there the whole time, I just didn’t find my rhythm until the second half."
Bennett will be looking to build on the momentum from that strong second half when the Yellow Jackets play at Miami on Saturday.
"Watch film and replicate it, I guess," Bennett said when asked how he’ll try to follow the strong second half. "Just remember what I did and how I did it. Throw the ball to the playmakers.
"We’ve got to do that all game this week."
But how does a player avoid thinking too much?
"I don’t know," Bennett said. "I wish I could tell you. Just play like you practice, I guess. We have great practices. We just have to take that into a game."
Tech coach Chan Gailey said he’s looking for consistency from Bennett. The left-hander was only 7-of-15 passing for 67 yards with an interception two weeks ago in a 13-3 win over Clemson, and he was only 17-of-40 passing for 230 yards in a loss at Virginia on Sept. 22.
"You’ve got to do it in more than just one half," Gailey said Sunday. "One half doesn’t make you a juggernaut by any stretch of the imagination."
Bennett has extra motivation this week as he will try to impress his former position coach. Patrick Nix was Tech’s offensive coordinator before moving to Miami to head the Hurricanes’ offense.
Bennett said he and Nix have remained close, sending each other frequent text messages including a recent note from the quarterback congratulating Nix on the birth of his second daughter.
"We talk pretty good," Bennett said. "He’ll send a text here or there or we’ll talk every now and then. As much as we can, I guess, considering how busy we both are."
There is much concern this week about Nix’s familiarity with Tech’s players. There is speculation about how Nix will attack Tech’s defense, but Bennett says his old coach also will keep an eye on the Yellow Jackets’ offense from his perch in the Orange Bowl press box.
"It’ll be just like old times, I guess, except he’ll be in a different box," Bennett said. "But it’ll be interesting. I’m anxious to see what happens, how he plays our defense. We finally get the chance to actually play against him instead of just scrimmaging and stuff like that.
"It’ll be good to see him."
Bennett says Nix "really honed in on not turning the ball over and not taking sacks. I think that’s helped out a lot."
Bennett has thrown only two interceptions in 160 pass attempts, and Tech has allowed only four sacks.
Bennett seeks better consistency, but he is only in his second year as a full-time starter — high school and college. He played behind current Northwest Missouri State starter Josh Mathews until his senior season at Lafayette High in St. Louis.
"I still am kind of fresh to all of this," Bennett said. "I’m not using this as an excuse at all, but I’m still kind of new to this whole thing. Even in high school I only had one year.
"I’m still trying to find my groove in playing in a game."