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Bench, Shaw questionable for UConn after injuries

 

USF coach Willie Taggart said he and the Bulls (1-4, 1-0) would party like rock stars for 24-hours after their 26-20 conference win over Cincinnati on Saturday night. 

The 24-hour party session is over and now reality is settling in as the Bulls look ahead to their second road game of the season.

USF heads to Connecticut to take on the Huskies (0-4, 0-0) on Saturday with two of its offensive weapons listed as questionable for the matchup.

Sophomore quarterback Steven Bench, who went down toward the end of the first quarter against the Bearcats, is still sporting a knee injury, along with senior running back Marcus Shaw, who went down in the second quarter with a hamstring injury. 

After the game Saturday, players said it felt as though USF won the Super Bowl. 

Redshirt junior kicker Marvin Kloss said players were chest bumping and crying in the locker room. 

Even the atmosphere at practice has changed going into this week. 

Junior running back Michael Pierre, who filled in for Shaw against Cincinnati, said players had been running around and laughing – most players that is. 

Bench came onto the practice field Tuesday in full pads, his injured leg with a noticeably heavy limp.

All USF quarterbacks took snaps and practiced their drop backs, including senior Bobby Eveld, who backed Bench up Saturday, and redshirt sophomore Matt Floyd. Bench didn’t participate.

Shaw wasn’t seen practicing either. While the offense ran some plays to start off practice, redshirt sophomore Willie Davis was seen taking handoffs from Eveld

If Shaw is unable to suit up Saturday, which USF appears to be preparing for, offensive coordinator Walt Wells isn’t opposed to a triple-back system if need be, including Pierre, Davis and freshman Darius Tice.

“I think Tice has a lot of skills,” Wells said. “He has to continue to understand the protection of the game and that he’s not in high school anymore. Willie Davis will come into the fold and compete there also and Mike (Pierre), of course. It can be a three-headed monster if we need it to be, but we usually give it to the guy that has the hot hand.”

Pierre has the most experience of the group and took the bulk of the carries in Shaw’s absence with 64 yards on 16 carries Saturday. 

The redshirt junior may fill in for the NCAA’s 21st leading rusher.

“Shaw is a great back,” Pierre said. “I got some big shoes to fill, but I think I can do it.”

Among other injuries, Eveld was also seen walking with a slight limp, but the senior played through it at practice and Wells, who said it was a lower leg injury, said it wasn’t severe. 

As with Saturday, USF could be looking to some of its backups for offensive help this weekend. That seemed to work out fine for the Bulls last weekend with the win, and Wells said that’s how they prepare the team throughout practice. 

“Well, I think that’s a credit to our guys that are backups,” Wells said. “We tell them every day that they’re one snap away from being starters and being the man, so you have to prepare that way. When they got the opportunity, they seized it.”

The Bulls will travel to Connecticut for a noon kickoff against the Huskies on Saturday before they head into a bye week.