Drew Bench becomes key player in Falcons’ offense

Six-foot-3, 250-pound Bowling Green sophomore tight end Andrew Bench (Genoa) is getting to play the game he wants to.

At Doyt Perry Field, Bench scored the Falcons’ first offensive touchdown of the season, catching a 33-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Matt McDonald in the Falcons’ 22-19 loss to South Alabama.

Bench was wide open along the right sideline and McDonald, a Boston College transfer with NFL family pedigree, led him perfectly before Bench found his way into the end zone.

It capped a three-play, 83-yard drive that gave the Falcons a 19-12 lead with 9:08 remaining in the third quarter.

After the game, Bench was congratulated by text and social media from “most of my Genoa crew and some of my other friends.”

Bench was moved from his defensive end to tight end this season, even though in 2019 he scored a safety in a win over Morgan State. During a shortened 0-5 season in 2020, he played in four games, starting twice and he had 11 tackles, including a season-high six at Toledo. Bench earned one-half tackle for a loss in each of the Falcons’ first two contests against Toledo and Kent State and had two quarterback hurries. 

He was a standout defensive player at Genoa, too, but playing tight end and catching passes from his friend, quarterback Jacob Plantz, was also a big part of the Comets’ success. Bench was a four-year starter at tight end and three-year starter at linebacker.

“It just felt amazing to finally be able to do what I did in high school — to be able to score for a team from a tight end position,” Bench said.

It would be the Falcons’ last score of the game, falling on a 44-yard South Alabama field goal as time ran out. The Falcons dropped to 0-2, losing the season opener at Tennessee, 38-6.

McDonald said that throwing downfield was part of the game plan against South Alabama.

“Definitely, and we could have even hit some more there, but we definitely stress that, and we knew that we could go after these guys vertically. It is just a different matchup than Tennessee,” McDonald said.

It proved to BGSU coach Scot Loeffler that moving Bench to the tight end position was the right thing to do. Loeffler believes his tight ends are among the most valuable players in his offense.

“I think we made a good decision by moving him over. Our defensive line is extremely talented, and he would have played on defense, there’s no question about it, but we had a hole there to fill,” Loeffler said. 

“He’s a true ‘Y’ and his body type fits. He’s working really hard right now, just the things that we were just talking about. The details, every single thing matters, and I think, as soon as he gets that mentality and figures that out, he’s going to be a very, very good tight end in this conference. He’s a good player now. We need to get him to be really good.”

Bench loves BGSU’s tight end room, where he suits up with some of the Falcons’ best athletes.

“I like it a lot. I feel like I’m at home with it,” Bench said. “It’s a great group to be in. The (tight ends) coach (Greg Nosal) is phenomenal, which is really fun. He’s just fine tuning my skill and my technique. He helps me out with stuff I hadn’t really done before.”

It’s not only technique, but it’s eating right and gaining strength that are a big part of what Bench lives through every day.

“It’s a bunch of bigger boys out here. Everyone has been through high school, and everyone has lifted throughout their entire life. It is just that every single thing is important — having that weight and having your strength really just helps the game,” Bench said.

And the hitting at the NCAA Division I level? 

“It is pretty crazy — a lot different. It will take a couple years to get used to it,” Bench said.

Plus, Bench got game-indoctrinated to the tight end position in front of over 80,000 fans at Tennessee’s Neyland Stadium and a national television audience. There he was — his name on the back of his jersey easily readable on high-definition SEC Network television.

“It was the first game of the season, and it always hits different,” Bench said. “It’s just that being down in Tennessee — that was just amazing. The atmosphere was amazing just to have that many fans and not be able to hear your call or be able to focus because everyone is screaming at you. It was just an amazing learning experience.”

At Genoa, Bench, a first team Division V All-Ohioan and Northwest Ohio Defensive Player of the Year, and Plantz helped lead Genoa to its first No. 1 state ranking in program history and a 12-1 record in 2018.

Bench caught 35 passes for 713 yards and eight touchdowns as a senior and defensively he had 103 tackles and 11 sacks, tying a school record. He also had 19 tackles for a loss, an interception, forced fumble and fumble recovery. He owns school records for career tackles and sacks as well as career receiving TDs (16) and single game receptions (9).




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