Even the Utah Jazz mascot was embarassing Sixers fans last night (VIDEO)

Even the Utah Jazz mascot was embarassing Sixers fans last night (VIDEO)

The Sixers lost to the Jazz on Wednesday night out in Utah. Not only were Brett Brown's bunch handed their season-worst eighth straight loss, but the Jazz's mascot -- cleverly named Bear -- even used the opportunity to take a poor Sixers fan hostage and shave his head.

Like being a Sixers fan isn't humiliating enough.

Jake Metz enjoying 'amazing' ride, ready for dream audition with Eagles

Jake Metz enjoying 'amazing' ride, ready for dream audition with Eagles

As Monday turned into Tuesday, Jake Metz laid awake in his bed. The 25-year-old Souderton Area High School graduate knew he needed a good night’s sleep before starting his new job in the morning, but he just couldn’t shut down. 

After a crazy few days, all he could do was stare at the ceiling. 

“I’m in shock,” Metz said Tuesday afternoon. “I’m just trying to do the best I can.”

On Friday night, Metz was in Glendale, Arizona, playing a key role in the Soul’s ArenaBowl XXIX championship (see story). On Monday afternoon, he and a teammate (wideout Darius Reynolds) worked out at the NovaCare Complex. Several hours later, at 9 p.m., the phone call came. 

He showed up to his new job the next morning, and was given a new uniform: a No. 74 Eagles jersey. 

It’s not hard to figure out why the 6-foot-6, 265-pound defensive end couldn’t sleep. It really has been a crazy few days. 

“It’s amazing,” said Metz, who played his college ball at Shippensburg and played for the Soul the last two seasons. “I grew up here in Philadelphia, so to win a ring with the Soul and to be able to play with the team of my dreams the next couple days is amazing. I’m on cloud nine right now. It’s awesome.”

There’s not too much time to sit in awe, though. Metz practiced Tuesday for the first time as an Eagle and expects to play “a good amount” in the team’s fourth and final preseason game on Thursday night. 

That leaves just two days to prepare for what could be the biggest and most important audition of his life. How much can he learn in a couple days? 

“We’re going to find out,” Metz said. “I’m going to do everything I can. I’m going to be first guy here, last one to leave, do everything I can to take in as much as I can to make this team.”

Making the team doesn’t seem likely. The Eagles will only get to keep 53 players on their final roster and there’s a logjam of sorts at defensive end. It’s possible Marcus Smith or Steven Means could be left off the roster, so don’t expect Metz to jump both of them in a week’s time. 

But the Eagles saw enough in the AFL’s Defensive Linemen of the Year to sign Metz and at least allow him to play in one game. 

“I tell you what: I love his length and size,” head coach Doug Pederson said. “He's got good athleticism. He's coming right off of a championship season, so he's in shape and ready to go. With Alex McCalister going down, we needed some depth there and he gives us that rotation that we're looking for up front. And it gives him an opportunity to get himself on film.”

The young defensive end said the Eagles coaches and players have been very helpful upon his arrival. A few players in particular — he named Brandon Graham, Connor Barwin and Bryan Braman — have been helping him even as plays were going on in practice. With such a short time to get ready for game action, coaches and players have told him to worry less about scheme and more about just playing to his athleticism. 

Getting some NFL film from Thursday’s game could be huge for Metz. While a roster spot isn’t going to open up along the Eagles’ defensive line anytime soon, 31 other teams will get a chance to see Metz showcase his skills in an NFL game. 

Plenty of other folks are going to be watching him too: his family and friends in the area. 

“Oh, you have no idea,” Metz said. “I have so many friends and family that have already said they’re getting tickets to the game. They’re gonna be there. You’ll see them for sure.”

Temple still searching for identity with perception changed

Temple still searching for identity with perception changed

Temple head coach Matt Rhule understands the outside perception surrounding his football team this season has changed after the Owls’ historic 2015 campaign.

That’s expected following the laundry list of accomplishments TU achieved last season, its second-ever 10-win season and its first AAC Eastern Division title among them.

From a perception point of view, Rhule hopes those outside Edberg-Olson Hall see Temple as a team that can win 10 games and could be ranked again in 2016.

“Perception’s different to me than expectations,” Rhule said last week at TU's media day. “So I think the perception is different, but our players … they understand that we can play at that level.”

With expectations higher — both on the inside and outside — Temple still faces challenges as its season kicks off Friday night against Army at Lincoln Financial Field.

“I don’t know if we’re a tough team yet,” Rhule said. “We’ll find out. We’ll found out if we understand what our identity is, but we are deep, talented.

“It’ll come down to whether or not we are going to be a physical, hard-nosed competitive team week in and week out. That’s the question that we have going forward.”

Rhule recently dismissed his first-team offense from a practice during training camp because he was displeased with its effort and it didn’t live up to the standard he sets.

That day, he didn't see what he wanted out of the group he's asking to lead his team, with seniors Phillip Walker and Jahad Thomas being elevated into the core leadership group.

Toughness was a characteristic the Temple teams before had. This is Rhule's team now, as he's heading into his fourth season as head coach. Everyone here is a Rhule recruit.

Is toughness something a team can see grow over time?

"I think you can see toughness every day, I really do," Rhule said. "I don't know if we're there yet. I don't know if we really, truly embrace being a really tough team.

"We like to win — we don't always like to compete. The really, really great competitors, when they're losing, they rally. Losing is when you see the lion inside them emerge.

"There are some guys out here that are doing that. When P.J. starts losing, he just let's go. When Jahad starts losing, Avery Williams, they want to come back and win."

By the same token, Rhule said he’s pleased with Temple’s development and attitude, but it still finds itself searching for its identity heading into its Week 1 tilt.

Army deploys a triple-option offense and an all-attack defense. It’s a unique challenge for a traditional team to get ready for, which is why Rhule’s highlighting the negatives now.

“We’re further away because we’re playing Army,” he said. “You’re trying to progress your team versus each other and then these last five days, you see a major jump usually. Well now, we have to now stop playing versus this defense and face a whole new offense and a whole new defense.

"So even when you get yourself ready for Army, then you're a little further behind the following game and then the following game and the following game. That’s just what it is. I’m not here to complain about it. That’s why I have a sense of urgency I haven’t had before because I can sense that.”

The Owls have holes to fill on defense with Matt Ioannidis, Tyler Matakevich and Tavon Young graduating to the NFL, both from production and leadership viewpoints.

Rhule doesn’t believe Temple can replace what those three brought to the table, especially Matakevich, who was the voice and face of a tough Owls defense.

Matakevich, a seventh-round pick by the Pittsburgh Steelers, left North Broad Street as the program’s all-time leading tackler at 493, among several other notable achievements.

In many ways, Matakevich represented Temple’s identity: tough, gritty and competitive. Now that he’s gone, the Owls’ identity sings a different tune, one Rhule still has to adapt to.

“We’re probably a quieter team on defense,” he said. “I was talking about that (the other day), sometimes I think practice is dead and then I turn the film on and we’re flying around.

“Last year, Ioannidis was standing right next to me, screaming at the defense. Nate D. Smith was saying off the wall things at practice like, ‘We’re going to kill you offense.’

“It was just a much different vibe. They were so competitive verbally. These kids are just quieter on defense, but on offense now, real leadership has emerged.”

One of the players Rhule expects to help shape the Owls’ identity is senior linebacker Avery Williams, who the head coach said has been a go-to guy for TU at practice.

Williams, who had a productive junior year with 49 tackles and an interception, wears No. 2, which is of significance because TU hands single digits to its toughest players.

The Baltimore native doesn't expect any more responsibility in his final season in the cherry and white because Matakevich is gone. For him, that leadership has always been here.

At Temple, Williams said, no one is on a pedestal and the players take equal responsibility. So now that Matakevich is gone …

“You got to replace a great, amazing player like him," Williams said. "You don’t replace him, but another guy just got to step up. All of us are great players. …

“We’ve never looked at one guy and been like, ‘Bro, you got to make all the plays because the rest of us suck.' If that hat on your head, you got to make a play.”

With two days until kickoff, what exactly is toughness?

“I define toughness to our kids all the time,” Rhule said. “Toughness is physical and emotional strength to handle adverse conditions and do hard tasks.

“So strength is something you develop, it’s not something you’re born with. You don’t ever see a baby and say, ‘Boy, that’s a tough baby.’

“You don’t say that’s a tough baby, you have to develop toughness, so we’re trying to develop it in the young players. It’s not an easy process.”

Best of MLB: Curtis Granderson homers twice off bench in Mets' win

Best of MLB: Curtis Granderson homers twice off bench in Mets' win

NEW YORK -- Curtis Granderson came off the bench and homered twice, Jose Reyes had four hits and the surging New York Mets beat the Miami Marlins 7-4 on Tuesday night.

Asdrubal Cabrera extended his recent tear at the plate, hitting a two-run homer in his return to the lineup after missing one start due to a sore left knee. Rookie right-hander Seth Lugo (2-2) gave up two runs in the first inning but recovered nicely as the Mets won for the eighth time in 10 games.

By winning the first two games of the four-game series, New York (68-64) moved ahead of slumping Miami for second place in the NL East. Both teams began the day 2 1/2 games behind St. Louis for the league's second wild card (see full recap).

Cardinals edge Brewers in 10 innings
MILWAUKEE -- Zach Duke stranded the bases loaded with a strikeout in the 10th inning after Randal Grichuk hit an RBI single in the top half of the inning, lifting the St. Louis Cardinals over the Milwaukee Brewers 2-1 on Tuesday night.

Seung Hwan Oh (4-2) pitched out of a jam in the ninth to get the win. Duke got his first save with the Cardinals by striking out pinch-hitter Manny Pina after Matt Bowman walked three batters.

The Cardinals' Jhonny Peralta led off the 10th with a single off Corey Knebel (0-2) and moved to third on Yadier Molina's ground-rule double. Jeremy Hazelbaker, who pinch ran for Peralta, scored the winning run on Grichuk's flare to right.

St. Louis' Adam Wainwright and Milwaukee's Wily Peralta dueled for seven innings, leaving a 1-1 game for the bullpens (see full recap).

Wieters lifts Orioles over Blue Jays
BALTIMORE -- Matt Wieters hit a go-ahead, two-run homer off Jason Grilli in the eighth inning to lead the Baltimore Orioles to a 5-3 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday night.

The Orioles pulled within three games of the first-place Blue Jays, who had a four-game winning streak snapped. After losing the opener 5-1, the Orioles will look to gain more ground in the series finale Wednesday.

Michael Saunders drilled a two-run shot off Orioles starter Ubaldo Jimenez that tied the game 3-3 in the seventh.

In the eighth, Jonathan Schoop walked and Wieters homered off Grilli (4-2), his 12th of the season.

Brad Brach (8-2) picked up the win with 1 1/3 scoreless innings. Zach Britton got his league-leading 39th save (see full recap).