Wind, pressure spell trouble for future Coug

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Autumn finally arrived Friday night in South Florida, complete with 20 mph winds that circulated Dr. Bud Tight Field. Coupled with fierce pressure up front that led to six sacks, it was too much to overcome for future Washington State quarterback Peyton Bender, who had his worst passing night of the season.

His Cardinal Gibbons Chiefs, unbeaten in the season's first seven games, lost 16-10 to Blanche Ely on a 1-yard touchdown run by senior running Terrance Blands as time expired.

"Pretty windy out tonight," Bender told Cougfan.com. "I don't like making excuses, but I think that had a factor in how I was throwing the ball. I just wasn't following through all the way and the ball was just sailing on me a little early."

Cardinal Gibbons runs the same Air Raid offense as Washington State.

Bender struggled from the onset, and finished 14 of 35 for 133 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions.

Though his team led 7-3 at halftime, Bender was just 6 of 16 with 61 yards at the break, including incompletions on eight of his final nine throws. He did, however, spread the ball around, connecting with five receivers.

Even some of completions sailed or made his targets adjust. A couple of times, his wideouts seemed to be on a different page when it came to routes.

Most of his passes were designed quick strikes of short distances -- either near the line of scrimmage or inside 10 yards.

Sacked just six times all season coming into the game, the Tigers took down Bender six times over four quarters.

During the opening drive of the fourth quarter when senior offensive lineman Matt Knick came out with an injury, Blanche Ely sacked Bender on consecutive plays to kill the possession.

"I hadn't been sacked that much," Bender said. "I don't think we've seen that much pressure this year. Their d-ends were pretty good, flying up the field. I think we had trouble blocking them on the edges, and they were bringing their two inside backers almost every other play.

"A lot of times we had the back go out of the backfield, and he's usually my extra blocker. A lot of times they were just bringing more people than blockers."

On several occasions, Bender moved around in the pocket and no one could get open. A couple of other times the defensive end came in untouched.

His go-to target on the night was Trevon Lee, who caught five passes for 47 yards. Running back Deon McIntosh caught three passes for 32 yards.

"I thought I threw the ball better in the second half," Bender said. "We just didn't have an answer to their blitzes. They got a lot of pressure, and I wasn't able to get through my reads before they were on me. That's on my part. I have to make checks at the line so we can cover those."

Added head coach Michael Morrill: "They just played hard and got to us. Their DBs were playing well, so we had to go through progressions, which take time, and then the pressure caught up to us."

Cardinal Gibbons, which entered the game averaging 42 points per game, scored just one touchdown -- McIntosh's 2-yard run in the first quarter.

McIntosh and the ground game had some success, collecting 156 yards on several big runs. The offense, however, couldn't capitalize on them.

"We actually checked most of our runs tonight," Bender said. "They actually gave us a lot of running lanes. We just couldn't do anything in the passing game. It's unfortunate."

The Chiefs will host Plantation American Heritage next Friday night in a battle for the District 16-5A championship.

"This is really the first time we've ever been down and had to fight this game," Bender said. "Now we know we're not as good as we think we are. I think this will put us in our place and realize we have to prepare hard for a tough game next Friday."

Bender's stats on Friday: 14 of 35 for 133 yards, 0 TDs, 0 INTs, 6 sacks
Bender's stats for the season: 158 of 238 for 2,081 yards, 27 TDs, 4 INTs, 12 sacks

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