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Defense prevails in USF scrimmage

Based on the first extensive scrimmage of USF's preseason, the Bulls' breakneck-paced offense remains a work in forward progress, though some dazzle can be found amid the defects.

The offense accounted for three touchdown passes -- two by senior Steven Bench -- and five turnovers during a searing two-hour situational dress rehearsal Saturday before several dozen spectators at the Morsani Complex.

Afterward, Coach Willie Taggart acknowledged the defense (which got points for picks, turnovers on downs, etc.) won the day, but said no winner has emerged in the quarterback duel. Bench had the play of the day, a 95-yard TD pass to redshirt freshman Tyre McCants down the right sideline, but also had two interceptions.

Sophomore Quinton Flowers (one INT), who took the day's first snaps, later directed a unit of mostly second-teamers on a 90-yard drive that couldn't score despite a first-and-goal at the 3-yard line.

"Again, there are too many turnovers," Taggart said. "We know for us, if we don't turn the ball over we've got a pretty darn good chance. ... We want touchdowns, we want scores. We want guys that can lead us down there, who don't turn the ball over and do it consistently."

Employing its crisp no-huddle tempo throughout the scrimmage, the offense committed no delay-of-game infractions and appeared steadiest on the ground, with tailbacks Marlon Mack, D'Ernest Johnson and Darius Tice all consistently finding running lanes. The quarterbacks, whistled down if touched with two hands, also found regular success on sprint-option and zone-read plays.

"I think a lot of that has to do with going faster," Taggart said.

But the offense struggled mightily near the goal line, an area in which Taggart acknowledged the Bulls haven't yet installed a lot of packages, and was hamstrung by turnovers.

On the day's fifth play, Flowers found tight end Sean Price on a short pass for an apparent first down, but Price fumbled. He was 2-for-3 on the 90-yard drive, but struggled with his accuracy -- even on check-down passes -- at other times, and was picked by Devin Abraham on a seam route intended for a Bulls tight end.

"I'd say I played like an average player, an average quarterback," Flowers said. "I feel like I could have done way better and threw the ball way better. But I just have to keep working."

Bench found roommate A.J. Legree on a play-action pass over the middle for a 25-yard TD on his first possession, but later was picked twice by Hassan Childs, once while trying to throw the ball away.

His TD pass to McCants was the result of a check at the line when he noticed McCants in man coverage.

"We ran a lot of plays and we did a lot of good stuff," Bench said. "Obviously, there was some stuff that wasn't so good, but that's something we've got to get corrected and we will. And that's how a scrimmage goes; when you run 100-plus plays, there's going to be some mistakes."

Other scrimmage highlights/lowlights:

* On his second pass of the scrimmage (a third-and-9 situation) UCLA transfer Asiantii Woulard found backup FB Tye Turner over the middle for a 36-yard TD. (And no, still no word on when the NCAA might rule on Woulard's request for a hardship waiver that would make him eligible immediately.)

* Freshman LB Danny Thomas, an early enrollee, intercepted walk-on Adam Robles near the goal line.

* Johnson, battling mightily with Tice for the handoffs Mack doesn't get, had two runs of 22 yards.

* Senior DE Demetrius "Shawn" Hill, who missed all of spring drills for unspecified reasons, had a batted pass.

* Freshman CB Ronnie Hoggins and redshirt freshman LB Juwuan Brown got around the edge to stuff Johnson in the backfield.

CLERVEAUX OUT: Taggart announced redshirt freshman WR Stanley Clerveaux sustained a torn ACL during Thursday evening's practice and is out for the season. Clerveaux was sidelined most of 2014 after undergoing shoulder surgery.

"I hate it for the kid," Taggart said. "That's two years in a row where he's had surgery. ... He was having a really good camp, had a good spring...we were expecting big things from him, but unfortunately he won't be with us."

Others not participating Saturday were S Nate Godwin (hamstring), OL Reilly Gibbons (knee), DT Deadrin Senat (unspecified), MLB Nick Holman (foot) and DE Kevin Bronson (unspecified).

ODDS AND ENDS: Barring a change of plans by the coaching staff, Saturday's practice was the last public one of the preseason. ... Taggart said the Bulls will have at least one more scrimmage that will be more "game-like" and less situational. ... With Senat sidelined, Robinson High alumnus Bruce Hector continued working with the first-team defensive line.

AUDIBLE: "Again, we've just got to be consistent. We're moving the ball and we've got to finish drives. It's a great film to look at and study and make some corrections and come back. We'll make sure our guys also are a little more rested for our next scrimmage. The first scrimmage they're usually tired and make a lot of mistakes." -- Taggart

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