The Steven Bench era in Penn State's football history may have passed you by while you were not paying attention. Bench was a somewhat-late addition to Penn State's sanctioned recruiting class of 2013, and now a couple of weeks after news of a transfer was reported, Bench has confirmed he will transfer to South Florida.
Bench made his Penn State debut in the second week of the season, early in the second quarter of a road game at Virginia. With Penn State leading the Cavaliers 7-0, Matt McGloin was injured on a 3rd-and-4 play while throwing an incompletion.
Rather than send in the special teams unit, Bill O'Brien stayed true to his offensive approach and decided to gamble on fourth down in Virginia territory. But with McGloin needing quick medical attention, O'Brien was forced to send in a true freshman quarterback for a fourth-down play. Bench was taken down by Virgnia's Steve Greer for a loss of two yards, turning the football over to Virginia.
McGloin would return to the offense but he would once again need to be attended to on the sidelines late in the first half. It was once again up to Bench to keep the offense on course with a 7-3 lead and with Penn State taking over on offense from their 25-yard line.
The drive had promise, although it came with mixed results from Bench. Penn State ran the football five straight plays, including a five-yard run by Bench followed by three straight short gains by Derek Day. Then, on 3rd-and-2, Bench completed his first career pass with a seven-yard completion to Allen Robinson to put Penn State at midfield.
Bench and Robinson would try to connect on the next two plays, but were unable to do so. On third down, Bench ripped off a 15-yard gain on the ground with time starting to run short. A five-yard pass to Robinson put Penn State at the Virginia 30-yard line but the clock expired before Penn State had a chance to do anything else with the football.
Virginia took a 10-7 lead on the first drive of the second half, and Bench started the half leading Penn State's offense on its first possession. It was short lived, with McGloin back on the field shortly after an incomplete pass to Alex Kenney.
That was the last time Bench took a snap during the 2012 season. McGloin returned for the second half and didn't skip another offensive snap for the remainder of the season. Bench's first season saw him play a little less than one full quarter of football, with the final stats reading 2-of-8 for 12 yards.
At South Florida, Bench will have a very good chance to start. It is an opportunity Bench was not likely to receive at Penn State, with junior college transfer Tyler Ferguson and incoming 5-star freshman Christian Hackenberg set to battle for the starting job for the Nittany Lions.
Despite limited playing time, Bench did make an impact at Penn State.
When O'Brien was named head coach of Penn State in January 2012, one of the first goals he set out to establish for the program when it came o recruiting was to move south.
O'Brien, having coached in the south, is well aware of the deep talent pools in the southern states, especially in the southeast. In addition to regaining a strong footing with top recruiting talent closer to home, O'Brien set out on a mission to open up new paths to southern states. Bench was the first true southern recruit targeted and signed by O'Brien.
The plan my not have developed the way Bench would have preferred at Penn State, but his recruitment, in some respects, did open doors for Penn State in the south. Penn State may not be battling for the cream of the crop in the south now, but Bench may have been a good way to begin establishing a presence in that area.