Aaron Murray talked about the effect Kirby Smart’s coaching has had on Stetson Bennett in key moments, days before the College Football Playoff national championship game between Georgia and TCU.

Bennett came out of the gates strong against Ohio State in the Peach Bowl semifinal on New Year’s Eve but cooled off going into halftime, with ESPN cameras showing Smart coaching up his quarterback on the way to the locker room. The Heisman Trophy finalist eventually engineered a comeback that culminated with an AD Mitchell touchdown catch with 54 seconds remaining, putting the Bulldogs up 42-41 before Noah Ruggles missed what would have been a game-winning 50-yard field goal.

Murray, on SiriusXM SEC Radio on Thursday, recalled an instance from halftime of the 2021 semifinal against Michigan when an enraged Smart unloaded on Bennett for a lack of urgency despite Georgia’s 21-3 lead. While he mentioned that he originally thought Smart was upset at Bennett over a botched play call, the former Georgia great unpacked that it was an example of Smart knowing that Bennett would be receptive to that kind of hard coaching rather than taking it personally.

“You have to know, ‘Who can I push? Who can I yell at? Who can I criticize, and who do I have to put an arm around? Who do I have to hug? Who do I have to be a little bit more gentle to?’ And Stetson’s a guy…who thrives when he gets called out, when he gets doubted.

“That’s been Stetson’s M.O. He loves being doubted. He loves when people say he’s not doing a good enough job…(Smart) knows how to push Stetson’s buttons to get the best out of him. He loves Stetson…but he knows ‘If I push this button, Stetson’s going to elevate his game to another level.'”