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Bryce Benhart got benched, but that just made his fire burn brighter

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Bryce Benhart

Bryce Benhart, No. 54, lost his starting job earlier this season. But after two weeks on the bench, he proved himself even more to his teammates. Now, due to an injury to a fellow lineman, he'll be back at right tackle against Minnesota this weekend.

Evan Bland and Jimmy Watkins give reactions after Tuesday press conference with husker football coaches, players ahead of Minnesota game

LINCOLN — Nebraska right tackle Bryce Benhart met a Michigan defender at the 40-yard line, pushed him back a yard and drove him into the turf.

Samori Touré scooted past the wreckage for a first down. Left tackle Turner Corcoran, Benhart’s roommate, watched the replay of Benhart’s block on the Jumbotron.

“There ya go, Bryce,” Corcoran said. “I was really happy for him.”

How a player responds to being demoted says a lot about their character, offensive coordinator Matt Lubick said. And with his return against Michigan, Benhart showed his coaches he refuses to quit.

Benhart earned the best run-blocking and overall grades during the two quarters he played after Teddy Prochazka left with a knee injury. Benhart allowed two hurries but no quarterback hits and committed zero penalties.

And as he proved on his third-quarter pancake, he played with the “nasty” edge coach Scott Frost said his linemen lacked two weeks ago when he shuffled the line.

Benhart will now man his usual spot at right tackle when Nebraska travels to Minnesota, where Benhart grew up. And over the past two weeks he’s earned newfound respect from teammates, even the ones who know him best.

“I was so freaking proud,” Corcoran said. “He’s my roommate, my best friend. But obviously when his number was called, he answered the door.”

Wide receiver Levi Falck, whose locker neighbors Benhart’s, has seen too many players do the opposite. He said it’s “really common” for players to lose their spot, droop their head and stop fighting for playing time.

“It’s easy to do,” Falck said. “(Being benched) is demoralizing.”

But Falck never saw Benhart’s commitment slip after he was demoted following Nebraska’s loss to Michigan State. Falck could tell Benhart was disappointed, “but on the field, you didn’t see a step down. He worked maybe even harder. And he got better.”

Defensive lineman Ty Robinson witnessed Benhart’s perseverance up close. Robinson said Benhart has blocked with more force and held each block longer. He’s played with more fire, too.

Tight end Austin Allen said Benhart “pushed” Prochazka on the depth chart despite his demotion. Prochazka started against Northwestern and Michigan, “but Bryce was right there,” Allen said, “He’s learned a lot the last two weeks.”

Adrian Martinez learned similar lessons last season when Frost benched him before Nebraska’s home opener against Penn State. Martinez called the experience “challenging,” but it also taught him he could help the team without playing. He delivered a speech to his teammates before that game against the Nittany Lions.

“No matter what happens, no matter who’s out there, we support each other,” Martinez said then. “We’re going to keep that energy today. Everyone who’s not in, who is in, we’re going to bring it.”

Martinez saw the same energy in Benhart. He said Benhart was “well-equipped” to handle his demotion because of his toughness and passion for football.

Corcoran said he and Benhart discussed playing together again. They worked out the paths that could lead to it.

The scenario at hand cost Prochazka his season, which nobody envisioned or wanted. But the Huskers trust Benhart to fill his place, and he has the fuel he needs to succeed with his second chance.

He spent two weeks on the bench. He doesn’t plan to spend any more there.

“I think he got a little bit more hungry from sitting on the bench for the past two weeks,” Robinson said. “Now that he’s coming back, I think we’ll probably get a better Bryce.”


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