Win a Spot on The700Level's Team for Major League Bocce's Fall League

Win a Spot on The700Level's Team for Major League Bocce's Fall League

We're excited to team up with Major League Bocce to play in their fall league in the coming weeks with games taking place right in the heart of Center City. Not only will The700Level have our own team playing in the league, but we'll also be running a photo contest for one winner and a friend to actually be our teammates and play all season for free.

We'll be kicking things off at a happy hour with Major League Bocce  a week from today -- Thursday, September 27th -- at the Fieldhouse by the Convention Center with specials from Major League Bocce's official beer sponsor, Dogfish Head Brewery -- $4 Punkin' Ale and 60 Minute IPA drafts. The Fieldhouse is where the fall league games will be played and you can get a chance to see how the indoor bocce courts inside of a bar work. Hint: they're right next to the bar. And you're encouraged to come out on Thursday and meet some of the Level contributors and buy me as many Punkin' Ales as I can drink. Seriously, come out and have a few cold ones and lament the death of the 2012 Phillies with us.

Show us Your Balls and Beers Photo Contest

Enter the contest by uploading a photo here

You obviously like sports if you're reading this and many of you probably like drinking as well. The700Level and Major League Bocce want YOU to send us your favorite photo involving Major League Bocce's two favorite things: sports and drinking.  Send us photos of you tossing back a few cold ones while engaging in an athletic activity, preferably centered around balls.  You can be watching the game or playing in the game - choice is yours!  Submit the winning photo which we'll select based on our own criteria and you and a friend will win a FREE spot on The700Level bocce team this fall with Major League Bocce!  All photos will get a posting on The700Level Facebook fan page, so keep 'em decent. PLUS everyone who enters, will automatically receive $5 off their bocce registration this fall.  Show us your inner artiste.

Here's a shot I took prior to a Union game earlier in the year that would make for a solid entry:

For those of you who are uninformed about what exactly bocce entails, it's actually a very physically grueling sport. Okay, that's a lie. It involves standing around, throwing balls close to other balls, and drinking and socializing with new people as you play.

Here are some facts about Major League Bocce and their fall league which we'll be playing in:

About Major League Bocce:

- Major League Bocce was founded
in Washington, DC in 2004 by a group of friends looking for a fun,
social activity centered around sports and drinking
- The first season in 2004 registered 50 players - today, Major League Bocce has over 7,500 members in leagues across DC, MD, VA, PA, and MA
- This isn't your grandfather's bocce - players must be 21 to play and
range in age from 21 to over 60.  However, 28 is the average age of
membership.
- While bocce and drinking are the core competencies, the League has
always maintained a strong commitment to the surrounding community and
charity.  First place teams receive a monetary donation to a charity of
their choosing.  To date, Major League Bocce has donated over $85,000 to local, national,
and international charities.
- Bocce is accessible to all types of players - athletic ability is
not a pre-requisite to play.  Men and women are completely equal in
skill when playing bocce.  This game is about finesse, not fitness and is ideally suited to play with a beverage in one hand and a ball in another.

Major League Bocce Fall 2012:

- Major League Bocce will
play at Fieldhouse on Tuesdays this fall on INDOOR courts.  These
courts were designed and constructed by Major League Bocce and are built to be set-up
on indoor surfaces.
- The balls are smaller and lighter in weight for indoor play.
- Indoor bocce is played right next to the bar, which makes it easy to drink and play at the same time.
- Major League Bocce
Philly is sponsored by Dogfish Head beer, which will be on special at
Fieldhouse exclusively for Major League Bocce players on bocce nights.
- There will also be a season-long drinking contest - the teams that drink
Dogfish Head will be automatically entered to win gift certificates
every week, and the team that drinks the most DFH during the season will
win a grand prize donated by the brewery.
- Fieldhouse will also offer food specials to members on league nights.
- Players receive a team t-shirt, 7 weeks of organized league play, and a party at the end of the season with free beer.
- EVERYONE makes the playoffs - however, once you lose, you're out.
- Teams compete for 1st and 2nd place bocce trophies (yes, they make bocce trophies) along with a donation to a charity of their choice
- The season starts 10/16 and ends 12/18 with a week off for the Thanksgiving holiday.
- The
price to register for the season costs $45.  Everyone who enters the
700level photo contest will get $5 off registration for the fall season
plus a chance to play for FREE (along with a friend) on the The700Level
bocce team.

Be sure to enter our photo contest. All it takes is uploading one photo you already have on your laptop/phone/Facebook/Instagram/etc. And if you'd like to register to play in the fall league you can do so here.

Details for Major League Bocce / The700Level Happy Hour:

When: Thursday, September 27th
Where: Fieldhouse  (Google Maps)
Time: 7:00-9:00 pm
What: Major League Bocce happy hour with The700Level.com - meet the contributors, play a little bocce (bocce court will be set-up), watch the Phillies v. Nats game
Specials: $4 Dogfish Head Punkin' Ale and 60 Minute IPA drafts (plus food specials TBD)

Penn State's Saquon Barkley staying patient with sluggish run game

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USA Today Images

Penn State's Saquon Barkley staying patient with sluggish run game

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Saquon Barkley believes he can score a touchdown every time he takes a handoff.

Don't mistake the Penn State running back's confidence for arrogance. He's put plenty of evidence on tape in just 15 games to earn a growing reputation as one of the country's most dangerous backs in space.

But with each game this season, Barkley's discovering that space isn't always there in Penn State's new zone-read rushing attack that ranks near the bottom of every major statistical category. Barkley's sure if he remains persistent, more of those highlight-reel runs will come, however.

"We've got to be patient," Barkley said Wednesday. "Stuff will open up and I've got to step up as a player and make more guys miss and break more tackles and we've really got to start getting our run game going because if we get the run game going, that can open up the passing game even more."

Barkley leads the Big Ten with six rushing touchdowns but Penn State ranks last in the conference and 122nd in the nation with just over 101 rushing yards per game. Those sagging rushing numbers can be traced to the big-play back being bottled up before he even gets going.

Usually Barkley's first step is backward in Joe Moorhead's zone-read rushing attack. A delayed handoff follows and Barkley or quarterback Trace McSorley have at times been swallowed up quickly as defenders converge on the mesh point. Although his 55-yard score against Temple came on an inside zone run, Barkley's average on such plays over the last three games falls to just 1.4 yards without it.

It's a cause for concern for Penn State's offensive staff, which is committed to finding more ways to get Barkley the ball as the team prepares to face Minnesota (3-0, 0-0 Big Ten) on Saturday.

Shovel passes and pitches have made brief appearances. Barkley's also caught 10 passes thus far and direct snaps may show up in the future.

Eliminating inside zone reads isn't an option, though.

"There's a lot of different ways," Penn State coach James Franklin said.

Penn State has had success on the outside. Even with a delayed start, Barkley's done most of his damage over the last three games when he's been able to flank defenders. He's averaging 10.8 yards per carry on those plays, further evidence of his skill on the edge.

"He's a game-changing player," center Brian Gaia said.

But one that's not comfortable lobbying his coaches for more touches or criticizing a young offensive line that will likely start two freshmen guards this weekend. Like Franklin, Barkley believes a little more early physicality coupled with his own patience will open things up in the middle.

"I would say the thing that we really need to improve the most is just coming out stronger, coming out faster and starting fast," Barkley said. "Physically, I think we're there. Mentally, we've really got a good grasp of the system but, especially in away games, we've been starting out really slow."

Temple readying for conference play, SMU's uptempo attack

Temple readying for conference play, SMU's uptempo attack

Take a look at the standings and you’ll see the Temple Owls are 2-2 so far this season with wins over Stony Brook and Charlotte and losses to Army and Penn State.

But take a peek to the right of that 2-2 mark and you’ll see a 0-0 record in AAC conference play.

While the Owls would most certainly like to have a better record than the 2-2 record they sport at this very moment, the silver lining is that none of those games were conference games. Therefore, those games don’t affect Temple’s overall goal of defending its AAC Eastern Division crown.

But, on Saturday afternoon, that title defense finally begins when Temple welcomes SMU and its uptempo offensive attack to Lincoln Financial Field in the first of eight straight AAC games that will close out the regular season.

“It sort of feels like a new start to the season,” Temple senior quarterback Phillip Walker said following Tuesday’s practice on campus at Edberg-Olsen Hall. “It’s just another great opportunity for us not to look back on anything or think about anything that happened in the past in the first four games. Now it’s an opportunity to play our next eight games and enjoy playing the conference again.”

The good news for Temple heading into conference play is that the offense has found its stride. The Owls overwhelmed Charlotte last week, 48-20, behind 268 yards and two touchdowns throws from the arm of Walker and two touchdowns runs a piece from senior Jahad Thomas and Sophomore Ryquell Armstead. After early struggles, Walker is now up to 846 yards and five touchdowns on the year.

That’s after the tough loss at Penn State two weeks ago when the offense settled itself for the first time this season and found continuity. Thomas’ return to the backfield has helped, as he’s scored four touchdowns in two games since missing the first two games of the year with a dislocated left thumb.

The Temple defense is still hurting itself with a lackluster pass rush. The Owls have only five sacks through the first four games. Last season, they had 10 sacks in the first game alone. Big plays allowed are an issue, too, as Temple has allowed 10 plays of 20 yards or more from scrimmage through four games.

But the confidence is there and the Owls believe they are getting better each week.

“I think we’re better than where we were [earlier in the year,]” said redshirt senior defensive lineman Haason Reddick, who has five tackles for loss on the year. “A lot of guys are stepping up, locking in on the small details that were hurting us the first couple of weeks. We’ve got the younger guys playing better and harder, so I think we’ve come a long way. I still think there are some things we need to get better on, but we’re close.

“Those first four games, none of those teams were conference teams. It was like preseason to work out the kinks. Now it’s time to go. It’s full-throttle now. There’s no time to make mistakes. There’s no time to beat ourselves.”

Temple head coach Matt Rhule, on the other hand, doesn’t like to talk much about the “fresh start” or “restart” that comes with the beginning of AAC play this weekend.

He preaches the importance of conference play every week, and he has proof.

“Every week, I put up the conference rankings, no matter what,” he said Tuesday “Week 1 when we lost, I put up the conference rankings. Week 2 when we won, I put up the conference rankings. Week 3, Week 4, I do that every week because I want guys to understand the importance of conference wins, conference losses and conference play.

“I will say, to be fair, I did say we were going to try and get our kids to be ready for Week 4 or 5 or 6, because we knew we were going to have to play a lot of young guys and knew we were going to have to teach them.”

All the Owls, young and old, know they need to be prepared on Saturday.

The Mustangs have already equaled their win total from last season and have the same record, overall and conference, as the Owls heading into Saturday. They hung tough with Big 12 powerhouses Baylor (6-6 at half) and TCU (6-3 TCU at half) before eventually succumbing in the second half of both games.

Defensively, SMU is tied for tops in the nation with 10 interceptions. But plenty of focus goes on the Mustangs’ uptempo offense, which break off chunks of yardage in the blink of an eye with 448 yards per game so far this year. Rhule and the Owls know that fact better than anyone. The last two times these schools have met, SMU earned a 59-49 win in 2013 and Temple came away with a 60-40 victory last season. That’s 208 points combined in the last two meetings.

SMU’s fast-paced attack is exactly the type of offensive system Rhule’s Owls have historically struggled with, too.

“They have, obviously, a lot of offense,” Rhule said of Saturday’s foe. “(SMU head coach) Coach (Chad) Morris was one of the best offensive coordinators in the country. He did it at Clemson and he’s doing it there. There’s a lot to deal with. That’s the history of this series, though.”

Quarterback Matt Davis, who hurt Temple with both his arm and his feet last season, is out for the year with a knee injury suffered in Week 1. Ben Hicks has stepped in and thrown seven interceptions compared to just two touchdowns. But big-play receiver Cortland Sutton is still there and he already has four touchdown grabs on the year.

In practice this week, speed has been the theme of the Owls' defense, which is 28th in the nation with 327.3 yards allowed per game this year.

“It’s difficult to prepare for,” Reddick said of SMU’s offense. “You’ve got to just work on it in practice, going fast and getting the defensive calls faster. You have to look and read to the offense faster to see what you have to do faster. So you have to kick it up.”