Monday, February 19, 2018
Colleges

Steven Bench looks sharp in USF spring game

TAMPA — When the bay area downpour subsided and the clouds above Corbett Stadium finally dispersed Saturday, every sunbeam seemed to gravitate to Bulls junior QB Steven Bench.

Working with three first-team receivers, the 6-foot-2 junior enjoyed arguably his shining moment as a Bull (19-for-24, 317 yards, three TDs) in the White team's 35-3 romp of the Green in USF's spring-ending intrasquad game.

"The White team was really crisp," coach Willie Taggart said. "Steven did a good job of getting the ball to the receivers and getting it to them on time."

Entrenched as the backup to Mike White at the end of last season, Bench led four scoring drives of at least 60 yards, including a 69-second, 60-yarder at the end of the first half that ended with a 5-yard score to Chris Dunkley.

"I'd be dumb not to give (the offensive line) all the credit," said Bench, who threw his touchdowns to three receivers. "Those guys kept me safe back there and did a great job all day long from start to finish. I couldn't be more proud of those guys."

Afterward Taggart, who insisted at the outset of spring drills that no starting job is safe, said White (20-for-34, 174 yards) and Bench have been going "back and forth" all spring.

Neither threw an interception Saturday, though White, who appeared to get most of the first-team work this spring, was sacked twice.

"About as good as I've seen Steven Bench since he's been here," said WR Andre Davis, who led all receivers with six catches for 124 yards and a TD. "He's on Mike White's tail at practice day-in and day-out. He wants to be there just like Mike White's there."

TWEAKED "D": The defense's evolution from four down linemen toward a 3-4 look, at least some of the time, continued. Redshirt freshman ILB Auggie Sanchez, who had seven tackles to lead the White, said his team was in the 3-4 most of the game.

Coordinator Chuck Bresnahan is trying to compensate for some key losses up front, including the top four defensive ends from last season.

"We've got a ton of linebackers and we've got a ton of linebackers coming in," Sanchez said. "It worked to the best of our abilities."

FAMILIAR FACES: Former QB Matt Grothe headlined an alumni flag football game at halftime, throwing for eight TDs including a 40-yarder to former teammate Louis Gachette.

"I'm tired, that's for sure," Grothe said.

The alumni on hand who are currently in the NFL, including B.J. Daniels (Seahawks) and Sam Barrington (Packers), opted not to play because of the injury risk with a wet field.

ODDS AND ENDS: USF estimated the attendance at 2,000, including a few hundred along the berms of USF's soccer stadium as the weather cleared. … As the victor, the White team won a steak dinner, to be served by the Green players later this week. … Months after finishing 122nd of 123 Division I-A teams in penalties per game (8.5), USF was whistled for only eight total in Saturday's contest, which featured two regularly timed quarters and a running clock in the second half.

Times correspondent Jeff Odom contributed to this report.

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