First, though, let's start with Peyton Bender. Something is amiss with the young quarterback. For the last couple weeks, really since he entered the Portland State game in relief of Luke Falk, Bender has struggled in practice. He had one nice showing a few weeks ago, but otherwise issues surround the Cougar’s backup.
Three plays into one drive, Bender couldn’t quite get the snap as he went to hand the ball to James Williams. The ball ended up on the turf, and the defense recovered it.
After the turnover, Bender was given another chance to lead the offense. Bender did a decent job, getting the offense inside the red zone to the 18. That drive stalled, and it ended with some defensive domination, as Treshon Broughton dropped an interception, followed by a fourth-down throw that Deion Singleton picked.
“The key for any quarterback in this offense is just getting the ball in play,” Graham Harrell said. “If things aren’t going well or you don’t feel like you’re seeing the field or whatever, hit a couple check downs. Let your running backs get a few 12-yard gains, and everyone thinks you’re killing it when all you’re doing is hitting a check down.
“For any quarterback that is struggling, just hit a couple easier routes and all of a sudden you start building some false confidence, but any confidence is good confidence,” Harrell said. “You start to feel a little better about yourself and everything clears up.”
Tyler Hilinski stepped in and also had some struggles, but bounced back by converting a pair of fourth downs. The first came in opponent territory at the 36, when Hilinski found Kyle Sweet in the middle of the field for a 10-yard gain. Later, while in the red zone, Hilinski tripped on his lineman’s foot and fell for a seven yard loss. Eventually that led to a fourth-and-11, when Sweet bailed the offense out and caught a touchdown in the back of the end zone.
Christian Jorgensen showed poise in directing the final drive. In past weeks, Jorgenson struggled to do anything productive, often forcing the ball into coverage. This time, there was a different outcome. During a 10-play drive, Jorgenson lead the offense downfield in an impressive manner. Jorgenson's patience is growing, and Thursday he was willing to take what the defense gave him.
Jorgenson had four straight passes of six yards or longer to start the drive. Later, Jorgenson faced some adversity, when Singleton made a couple of nice pass defense plays. On fourth down, Jorgenson audibled and got the ball to James Williams, who ran four yards for a first down. The next play, from the 28, Jorgenson connected with Nick Begg for a touchdown, the offense's second of the night.
The defense played well, forcing a few fumbles that went either out of bounds or back to the offense. It also several tipped balls that caused problems for the Cougar quarterbacks. One near sack of Jorgenson nearly derailed his drive, but he got rid of the ball as the defender grabbed his jersey.
Notable Notes above in the video.
Thursday Night Football
QB: Peyton Bender / Tyler Hilinski / Christian Jorgenson
RB: James Williams, Alijah Lee
LT: Andre Dillard / Cedric Bigge-Duren
LG: Cody O’Connell / Noah Osur-Myers / Chris Paz
C: Sam Flor / Carlos Freeman / Noah Osur-Myers (When Paz at C)
RG: Moritz Christ / Mack Hopkins
RT: B.J. Salmonson / Brandon Evers
X: Erik Anderson / Kaleb Fossum
Y: Kyle Sweet / Madigan Taulelei
Z: Xavius Boone / Nick Begg
H: D.J. Thompson / Kainoa Wilson
DE: Jeremiah Mitchell / Jacob Laird
NT: Ngalu Tapa / Devonte McClain
DT: Hunter Mattox / Kingston Hernandez
Rush LB: Logan Tago / Dylan Hanser / Nnamdi Oguayo
WIL LB: Frankie Luvu / Paris Taylor
MIKE LB: Chandler Leniu / Triston Brock
NICKEL CB: Treshon Broughton / Colton Teglovic / Darius Lemora
CB: Kirkland Parker / Dakota Sinchak / Kyle Torres
CB: David Bucannon / Deion Singleton / Aaron Hecker
FS: Hunter Dale / Skylar Cracraft
SS: Calvin Green / Willie Roach / Kameron Powell
QB: Luke Falk
RB: Gerard Wicks / Keith Harrington
LT: Joe Dahl
LG: Gunnar Eklund
C: Riley Sorenson
RG: Eduardo Middleton
RT: Cole Madison
X: Dom Williams
Y: River Cracraft
Z: Gabe Marks
H: Robert Lewis
DE: Darryl Paulo
NT: Daniel Ekuale / Robert Barber
DT: Destiny Vaeao
Rush LB: Ivan McLennan
WIL LB: Jeremiah Allison
MIKE LB: Peyton Pelluer
NICKEL: Parker Henry / Treshon Broughton
CB: Darrien Molton
CB: Marcellus Pippins
FS: Taylor Taliulu
SS: Shalom Luani
QB: Peyton Bender
RB: Jamal Morrow
LT: Andre Dillard
LG: Cody O’Connell
C: Sam Flor
RG: Moritz Christ
RT: B.J. Salmonson
X: Kyrin Priester
Y: John Thompson
Z: Tavares Martin Jr.
H: Tyler Baker
DE: Hercules Mata’afa
NT: Ngalu Tapa / Daniel Ekuale
DT: Reggie Coates / Kache Palacio
Rush LB: Logan Tago / Dylan Hanser
WIL LB: Frankie Luvu
MIKE LB: Chandler Leniu
NICKEL CB: Parker Henry
CB: Kirkland Parker
CB: Charleston White
FS: Hunter Dale
SS: Calvin Green