TAMPA – USF quarterback Steven Bench wasn’t about to let his Saturday afternoon go to total waste. In his first start with the Bulls the Penn State transfer took a terrible beating from Miami’s defense all day. He made some mistakes and watched a couple of his receivers fail to reciprocate his effort when it came to catching passes.
Despite all that Bench hung in there and his 16-yard touchdown pass to Derrick Hopkins with two seconds remaining seemed like a nice reward for a hard day’s work. But the quarterback could take little positive out of a game that got so out of hand so quickly.
“The scoreboard says that it wasn’t good enough,” Bench said. “I’ve got to play better. We’ve all got to play better.”
Of course Bench is correct and now he has to hope that the team will follow as he tries to lead USF football to a respectable place. At times Saturday it appeared that the Bulls wanted to fight. The defense forced four turnovers, two of them inside their own five-yard line. They wanted to play physical. Even Miami quarterback Stephen Morris said the Bulls played dirty.
The Bulls opened strong, with a promising five-play, 75-yard drive to answer Miami’s first touchdown and they closed strong with Bench leading the offense past Miami’s backups for another score.
In between there were missed assignments, missed tackles, embarrassing penalties, poor effort and more pouting than you would expect from players in an FBS program. Losing games is one thing but having a loser’s mentality is something that head coach Willie Taggart is going to have to eliminate from the program. Win or lose these Bulls have to be willing to fight each week and hope for the best.
In Saturday’s loss Bench showed he’s willing to fight for his teammates and his program. Others like Marcus Shaw, Austin Reiter, Todd Chandler and Nigel Harris have also decided to take the punches and come back swinging.
“I was raised in a household where quitting was not an option,” said Shaw. “Regardless of the situation you don’t give up.”
Hopefully more teammates will follow their lead and decide not to quit on USF football or quit on each other.