Future Coug QB has up and down night

PEYTON BENDER

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Washington State quarterback recruit Peyton Bender didn't play his best game Friday night -- but he didn't have to. Bender's Cardinal Gibbons Chiefs improved to 4-0 by rolling to a 30-0 win over overmatched host Boyd Anderson (0-4).

Despite completing 18 of 26 passes for 194 yards and three touchdowns, Bender had some issues, including an interception in which he made a bad read.

"We had a dig route on the inside, and I thought I could get it in there," said Bender, who threw just his second interception of the season on the play. "I didn't see the safety. The back-side safety came in, tipped it and made a nice play.

"I just tried to force it, maybe got a bit too greedy. I need to improve on that."

Bender also had four fumbles – all of which he recovered.

There were some extenuating circumstances -- it rained lightly most of the night, and two of the fumbles were due to the wet ball, including one pass attempt that slipped out of his right hand.

Another fumble was on a botched handoff and the other two on low snaps out of shotgun formation.

As usual, though, Bender was accountable for his mistakes and handled questions like a pro.

"The first half, I think I just have to handle the ball a little better," Bender said. "The second half, it was a little wet. But no excuses - we practice wet-ball drills. Me and Trevor (Martin, the center) have to work on it – that's one thing we need to improve on in practice."

Bender also took two sacks, which is the highest number he has absorbed in any game this season. In fact, Bender had only been sacked twice in three games entering Friday.

Most alarming was Bender's poor start -- he was 2 of 7 for 23 yards and one interception before getting hot.

But then Bender rattled off 11 straight completions to end the half, helping to put Gibbons up 21-0 at intermission.

Bender finished the half 13 for 18 for 147 yards and 2 TDs and coasted from there.

Still, the 30 points – which included a defensive touchdown and a special-teams safety - were a season-low for Gibbons this season.

It will be interesting to see what happens when the competition stiffens. So far, the teams Bender and his team have beaten this year haven't been very good.

Next week comes another soft touch in Northeast (1-2), which lost its first two games by a combined score of 94-0.

After that, it's Gibbons' district opener against a Key West team that lost its first three games of the season.

The next legitimate challenge for Gibbons will come Oct. 19 in Miami when the Chiefs travel to play the 2-1 Jackson Generals. It's a district game, which makes it automatically important, but it's also got a great storyline in that Jackson has an elite QB of its own in Winky Flowers.

Some analysts consider Flowers the No. 1 QB in the state, which should give Bender extra motivation to outperform him that night.

FIVE BENDER NUGGETS:

1) Bender said he can consistently throw a football slightly over 60 yards. "On a perfect throw, maybe I can hit 65."

2) Bender played football, baseball and basketball as a freshman. But he hurt his elbow as a pitcher that summer and couldn't throw for a few months. When he returned to health, he decided to only play football from that point forward. Even though he no longer plays baseball, he obviously still has his fastball.

3) On what attracted him to Washington State: "The coaching staff, the campus, the offense, which I think is a perfect fit for me, and the facilities. They are building a new athletic complex."

4) On what Washington State coaches liked about him when they made him a scholarship offer: "Accuracy is No. 1 in (the Air Raid) offense. You have to have a quick release and be able to go no-huddle while knowing what every receiver is doing.

"Coach (Mike) Leach doesn't like it when his quarterbacks scramble around. And since I'm not a scrambler, I can sit in the pocket in this offense."

5) On his nickname: It's Juggs. A couple years ago, one of his coaches noticed him throwing the ball like a Juggs machine, and the nickname stuck.

THE BENDER BOX:
Stats for the game: 18 of 26 for 194 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT, 2 sacks

Stats for the season: 81 of 118 for 1,140 yards, 14 TDs, 2 INTs, 4 sacks

About the author: Based in Miami, Walter Villa is a free-lance writer who has written for The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, ESPN.com, Baseball America, Sports Illustrated.com and many more. He also served as an assistant sports editor at The Miami Herald for 15 years. He will be following Peyton Bender this season for Cougfan.com.

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