Penn State football: Quarterbacks remain neck-and-neck as defense beats offense in Blue-White Game

tjohnson@centredaily.comApril 20, 2013 

— Now, it’s back to the film room for Bill O’Brien.

After watching the blue-clad defense beat a white-wearing offense 67-47 in Saturday’s Blue-White Game at Beaver Stadium, O’Brien said he’ll spend the next few weeks poring over clips of Steven Bench and Tyler Ferguson in order to prepare for the next phase of their ongoing competition to become Penn State’s starting quarterback.

That’ll come when preseason camp begins in August. For now, O’Brien will work with tape from the 15 spring practices that concluded with Saturday’s intrasquad scrimmage. Sharing snaps with first and second teamers on Saturday, both Bench and Ferguson completed nine of 15 passing attempts. Both players found the end zone with passes. Neither turned the ball over.

“I thought they both produced,” O’Brien said of the two sophomores. “I think they both had some nice throws. Just like everybody, coaches and players included, in every game that you play you wish you had some plays back. I’m sure they do too, but I thought they both did some decent things out there today.”

Bench got the opening nod and led the first-team offense on a nine-play, 80-yard scoring drive capped by a one-yard plunge into the end zone from redshirt freshman Akeel Lynch. Bench, who hails from Bainbridge, Ga., went 2-for-3 for 32 yards on the scoring march against the second-team defense. His lone misfire came on the game’s first play when he overthrew Allen Robinson deep.

Ferguson took over shortly thereafter and managed the second offense against the starting defense. Ferguson completed his first pass but fumbled the next down. The ensuing third-down play was blown dead, and defensive end Deion Barnes was credited with a sack. Ferguson, who spent last season at College of the Sequoias in California, had his next drive end with a three-and-out when linebacker Nyeem Wartman hammered running back Deron Thompson to break up a screen pass.

Bench finished with 99 passing yards to Ferguson’s 90 while both players hooked up on scoring plays to keep the score close early. Bench tossed a six-yard touchdown pass to tight end Brent Wilkerson and Ferguson scored twice, floating with Jesse James for a 27-yard score and Richy Anderson from five yards out.

“What I’ll do now is I’m going to go back, just by myself and I’m going to watch all the film from the spring over the next week,” O’Brien said. “And I think think that both guys did some really good things. I’ve said that all spring. And honestly, no, I’m not any closer as I sit here.”

O’Brien said he and defensive coordinator John Butler kept play calls simple for the scrimmage. The Nittany Lion defense stayed in its base 4-3 formation the entire game.

It worked.

First-year coordinator John Butler’s defense racked up points on nine sacks, 12 tackles for losses and two interceptions. With defensive tackle DaQuan Jones sitting out for precautionary reasons with a back injury, tackle Austin Johnson, defensive end Charles Idemudia and Barnes led the defense with a combined 12 tackles — two for losses — and three sacks.

Butler, who took over for Ted Roof when the latter took a job at Georgia Tech in the offseason, said he’s kept things pretty similar.

“What I tell our guys is, this is the third semester they’ve taken this class,” Butler said. “They took it last spring. They took it last fall. Now they’re taking it this spring. It’s all the same stuff.”

Starting linebackers Mike Hull and Glenn Carson played sparingly. While Carson didn’t find his way into the final statistical readouts, Hull added one tackle for a loss. Meanwhile, sophomore Jordan Lucas and true freshman Anthony Smith got the starts at the two cornerback spots while junior Adrian Amos started at safety next to Malcolm Willis.

“We’ve got to get better in summer workouts,” Hull said. “We’ve got to get our assignments down. We lost (Michael) Mauti, we lost (Gerald) Hodges, we lost (Jordan) Hill, we’re going to have to make up for that.”

Travis Johnson can be reached at tjohnson@centredaily.com. Follow him on Twitter @traviswjohnson_.

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