Green Downs White In USF Spring Game

By on March 29, 2015


usfcourtesy of USF Athletics
TAMPA, FLA. – More than 3,200 fans flocked to the USF Campus on a beautiful spring day to watch the annual USF football Spring Game Saturday afternoon at Corbett Stadium.

USF’s new up-tempo offense gave senior quarterback Steven Bench (Bainbridge, Ga.) an opportunity to make a big play and the Green Team starter stepped up with a with a 62-yard touchdown run to lead the Green Team to a 10-9 victory over the White Team. Marlon Mack (Sarasota), the 2014 American Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year, added 83 yards rushing, all in the first half, and 123 all-purpose yards for the Green.

“We divided the team up. Not everybody is playing with who they’ve been playing with all spring long, so it was good,” USF Head Coach Willie Taggart said. “I like to see who really steps up when you’re playing with somebody you’re probably not playing with in the fall, but you still step up and make plays. Usually when you do that, you’re going to be a pretty good player out here for us.”

USF’s defense has shined all spring in the new 4-2-5 system under defensive coordinator Tom Allen and playmakers emerged from both sidelines on a sunny Saturday on campus. Senior linebacker and White Team member Tashon Whitehurst (Gainesville) posted a game-high 19 total tackles (11 solo) with a sack and an interception.

“I was flying around trying to make plays everywhere,” Whitehurst said.

Sophomore Devin Abraham (Tarpon Springs, Fla.) and junior Lamar Robbins (Miami) also hauled in interceptions for the White Team secondary while junior linebacker Auggie Sanchez (St. Petersburg) led the Green Team with eight total tackles. The Green Team got a great push up front from senior tackle James Hamilton, who registered four of his squad’s 10 tackles for loss, which made Allen, the Green Team’s head coach, jump up and down all afternoon.

“Enthusiasm is contagious and having Tom over there you see how it’s just filtered down throughout everyone,” Taggart said. “The players, they’re running to the football, they’re excited when they get there and they gang tackle, which we want a lot of. A lot of it comes with Tom’s personality, the way he is, and keeping it where it’s not complicated so we can play fast.”

Both defenses ruled for most of the afternoon, but the offenses produced some notable fireworks at the beginning of USF’s second consecutive spring game at Corbett Stadium.

Sophomore receiver Ryeshene Bronson (Fort Myers, Fla.) caught a one-handed, 34-yard strike from White Team starting quarterback Quinton Flowers (Miami). The White Team would go on to grab a 3-0 lead on a 31-yard field goal from Michael Hill (Tarpon Springs) with 11:51 remaining in the first quarter. Flowers completed a 49-yard pass later in the game to tight end Elkanah Dillon (Ocala, Fla.) and finished with a game-high 124 yards passing on 6-of-17 on a breezy day. Hill would go on to connect on all three of his field goal attempts while Emilio Nadelman (Miami) was two-for-two hitting from 32 and 44 yards.

The Green Team posted 164 yards on the ground with Bench finishing with 108 all-purpose yards while using his feet for the biggest play of the game. The senior found room outside and used his speed in the open field to run for a 62-yard touchdown that gave the Green Team a 7-3 lead in the first quarter.

“I think they went man and that means nobody is on the quarterback,” Bench said. “I squirted out of there and the O-line blocked it up just like they should. The receivers and tight ends ran the routes they should and it just left me alone. I play football, that’s what I do, and I took it to the end zone.”

Mack set a USF freshman rushing record with 1,041 yards last season and got a big kick out of seeing his quarterback get the job done on the ground.

“I like it. It looked like me a little bit,” Mack, who also caught four passes for 40 yards, said with a smile.

Darius Tice posted 69 yards rushing and caught two passes for 23 yards for the White Team, which was led in receiving by the freshman Dillon who grabbed three passes for 62 yards. Chase Whitehead led the Green Team catching six passes for 38 yards.

A loud crowd of 3,255 gave Bench a nice ovation after his touchdown and Taggart was pleased with the whole spring scene at Corbett Stadium. The event started with the annual alumni flag football game that featured quarterbacks B.J. Daniels and Matt Grothe with former USF star linebackers Stephen Nicholas and Sam Barrington in attendance.

“It was awesome, I thought it was a party going on out here,” Taggart said. “That was great to see all the berms filled and the stadium filled with everything going on campus. Everybody is excited about football, it was great to see.”

USF wraps up its spring next week with weight lifting and a player evaluation period before new talent from USF’s second straight top-rated recruited class in The American arrives in the summer.

“I can’t wait to get back at it already,” Taggart said. “It will be fun to see some of those (new) guys here to get with their teammates and be a part of this.”

USF returns 14 starters (6 offense, 7 defense and 1 specialist) for Taggart’s third season at the helm. The Bulls will return their top five tacklers (9 the top 12 overall) and players that accounted for 73 percent of the team’s tackles in 2014. USF returns 100 percent of its rushing and passing yardage from 2014, including 1,000-yard rusher Marlon Mack, and 50 percent of its receptions and receiving yards.

The USF Football program completed its 18th season and 15th at the FBS level. The Bulls have made six bowl appearances, including every season between 2005-10, and have four bowl game victories. USF has produced 14 All-America selections, 23 NFL Draft picks and reached the No. 2 ranking in the Associated Press Poll in 2007.

Follow @USFFootball on twitter for all the latest information concerning the USF Football program.

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