Ronnie Banks has found himself in the most unenviable of positions in each of USF’s last two games. As the backup quarterback for the Bulls, Banks has been called upon to enter the game with USF trailing big in the fourth quarter.
Yet, Banks has turned in a pair of rousing performances, leading USF’s second team to scores in each of the last two games to keep the Bulls from being shut out in their 59-game history.
“I’m trying to show the players and the coaches that I can do this,” Banks said.
Staring at a 31-0 hole vs. Oklahoma Saturday, Banks terrorized the Sooners’ second stringers. Not only did the redshirt sophomore erase the Bulls’ empty scoreboard, but Banks produced a pair of touchdown passes inside the final two minutes to bring the final score to 31-14.
“The first one I was not surprised by because we could do something if we were determined,” Banks said. “But the second one with 29 seconds left, I couldn’t believe it. I was just shocked we went 49 yards (in 24 seconds).”
Banks’ tenacity in practice is finally paying off. Usually one of the last to leave practice and one of the first on the field Saturday, Banks always seems to have a ball in his hands, working on his timing with receivers like Joe Bain and Ryan Hearn. Banks and Hearn hooked up with five seconds remaining against Oklahoma for a 37-yard score.
On the day, Banks was 5-for-7 with 100 yards passing and two touchdowns.
“It’s the little things that are going to help get me where I can be successful,” Banks said. “The guys put in hard hours to perform well on Saturday. This is how I’m going to get better by getting more in routine with my receivers.
“I heard Johnny Unitas say that, as a quarterback, if his receivers didn’t play catch with him after practice, he didn’t throw to them in the game.”
Against Arkansas, Banks again flashed his efficiency, directing the Bulls on a 10-play, 65-yard scoring march to make the final score 42-3 to avert the shutout. Banks was 2-of-3 on the series for 22 yards.
After losing his grip on the No. 2 quarterback to freshman David Mullins prior to the season opener, Banks’ redemption has been especially sweet.
“It bothered me, but I didn’t worry about it,” Banks said. “I know that the coaches are trying to push me and get the best out of me. They expect a lot, so that’s why I wasn’t surprised when coach (Jim) Leavitt came up to me after the game and said, ‘Good job.’
“He has high expectations for me, and I just want to play well for him and coach (Rod) Smith, (USF’s quarterback coach and passing game coordinator) because they’ve done so much for me.”
Anthony Gagliano covers USF football and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org