McGloin, Robinson Have Eyes on the Record Book As Penn State Meets Indiana

McGloin, Robinson Have Eyes on the Record Book As Penn State Meets Indiana

Anytime Penn State and Indiana get together, the culture clash is as clear as day.

Penn State is a football school and Indiana is a basketball school. Indiana is currently the top-ranked men’s basketball program in the country and Penn State will look to improve to 16-0 all-time against the Hoosiers in football this weekend. Penn State has owned the series bragging rights since starting the series up in 1993 when they joined the Big Ten.

While Penn State has taken firm control of the series, there have been many close calls and scares. Indiana just has a knack for giving Penn State the fits and has a tendency to scrap together some late scores as well, making some games appear closer in the box score than it may to the eyes. Will that be the case this weekend?

Penn State is coming off a physically demanding game at Nebraska, one that was marred by controversial officiating and saw Nebraska come from behind to send Penn State home with a tough loss. They will have to put that behind them in order to ensure they can end their regular season on a winning note. Fortunately, the numbers seem to favor Penn State this weekend.

The Hoosiers are the bottom of the Big Ten in scoring defense, allowing 32.2 points per game and a near-league worst 41 touchdowns (Illinois has allowed 42). These number were inflated a bit last week when Wisconsin racked up 62 points on Indiana, but the Hoosiers have allowed 30 points or more six times this season, and 40 points or more in four of those contests.

Indiana gives up a lot of yards on the ground, so expect Penn State to focus on the run early and often. Wisconsin gashed Indiana for 564 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns last week. Indiana has allowed 200 rushing yards or more five times this season.

Of course, Penn State has been more of a passing team under new head coach Bill O’Brien and are ranked ninth in the Big Ten in rushing. While running the football could shift the focus in the offensive game planning this week, don’t expect Penn State to stop throwing.

Quarterback Matt McGloin continues to rewrite Penn State’s record books, now 75 yards away from passing Tony Sacca for second on the school’s all-time career passing list. (He will get no higher than second place, trailing Zack Mills by 1,417 yards with just two games left in his career). McGloin is also two touchdown passes away from tying the school record, trailing Daryll Clark’s career record of 43. With one more 200-yard passing game, McGloin will also break a tie with Mills and Kerry Collins for the most career 200-yard passing games, with the next being his 17th. McGloin already owns the school mark for 300-yard passing games, with five.

The former walk-on has certainly left an interesting mark on Penn States football program, with his mouth often getting him in to some hot water. Such was the case this week, when his postgame comments about the officiating in Nebraska left Penn State to not make McGloin available to the media. Instead the media were offered third string quarterback Shane McGregor.

Penn State has lost their second leading receiver, Kyle Carter, to a season-ending injury, but Allen Robinson will still be a key target in the final two weeks. The sophomore currently leads the Big Ten in receiving with 786 yards and eight touchdowns on a Big Ten-leading 63 receptions. It has been a while since Allen Robinson has scored a touchdown though -- the most recent was almost a month ago in a road win at Iowa. Robinson has been kept out of the end zone three straight games, two of which have been losses (Ohio State, Nebraska). Could this be the week he snaps that scoreless streak?

Robinson still has a chance to become just the third player in Penn State history to record at least ten touchdown catches in a single season since joining the Big Ten in 1993. Bobby Engram did it twice (1993 and 1995). The other name may cause some readers to cringe, but Joe Jurevicius was the last Nittany Lion to do it, nabbing 10 TD  catches in 1997. Robinson’s next catch will also break a school record for most receptions in a single season, currently shared with O.J. McDuffie and Engram.

Will it be a record-setting day for Penn State? Regardless, a win will clinch a winning season for Penn State in a year some may not have expected to end that way. There are still plenty of challenges ahead for these Nittany Lions, but Indiana does not look like one of them.

Tranquillo Barnetta will not return to Union next season

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Tranquillo Barnetta will not return to Union next season

Tranquillo Barnetta is going home.

In an abrupt announcement on Tuesday, the Union declared that the skillful Swiss attacking midfielder will not renew his contract with the club and will return to Switzerland following the 2016 season to play for his hometown club, FC St. Gallen.

According to MLS Players Union, Barnetta’s exit will free the Union of $687,500 next season.

“The entire soccer community here was so welcoming and I’m so thankful to everyone at Philadelphia Union for making me feel so appreciated,” Barnetta said. “Playing in front of my friends and family and making plans for life at the end of my career where I want to live is a force I can’t resist.”

Although the timing of the announcement is a surprise, the move isn’t one. With Alejandro Bedoya now in the mix, currently playing out of position in a box-to-box midfield role, the Union will replace Barnetta with Bedoya at the center attacking midfield spot. It’s a position that Bedoya is comfortable in, playing there with his previous club, FC Nantes.

Bedoya played for the injured Barnetta in the center midfield spot last Saturday and scored his first goal of the season in a 1-1 draw with Toronto FC.

But even with Bedoya ready to take over, the Union will miss Barnetta. Since joining the Union in 2015, Barnetta, 31, has been one of the better possession playmakers in MLS, scoring six goals and seven assists in 37 games.

“Tranquillo has been a key piece in what we’re trying to build here in Philadelphia but we appreciate his decision to return to Switzerland,” said Union sporting director Earnie Stewart, whose club has three matches left in the 2016 season, and will likely make the playoffs. “We look forward to continuing to push for the postseason.”

As Eagles enter bye, Doug Pederson aims to thwart complacency

As Eagles enter bye, Doug Pederson aims to thwart complacency

The Eagles are 3-0. They’re alone atop the NFC East and have been the biggest surprise of the young NFL season.

Doug Pederson’s message to his team: You haven’t done anything yet.

Although the Eagles are riding high, Pederson doesn’t want his team to change its outlook or hard work. That’s what teams have to worry about once they’ve found some success.

“The biggest thing is complacency,” Pederson said Monday. “You think you've arrived. You think you are all that. When that creeps in, that's when you get beat. It's my job not to let that creep in. I've got to keep the guys focused and grounded. I told them this week they're going to travel and go home and people are going to pat them on the back and say how great they are.

“But next Monday, I'm going to tell them, ‘Hey, we're back to work. We're 0-0. This is Game 1 and let's go.’ That's just the way it has to be. You are building for one ultimate goal and that's a few weeks down the road. That's what you are trying to get to. But you can't get there unless you take care of the next opponent. It's my job to keep them focused that way.”

Being 3-0 (they’re one of five 3-0 teams) gives the Eagles a head start, but it certainly doesn’t guarantee them a playoff spot. This is the ninth 3-0 start in franchise history. They’ve made the playoffs just five times in the previous eight. And they recently missed the playoffs after starting 3-0 in 2014 under Chip Kelly.

In NFL history (before this season), there have been 276 teams to start with 3-0 records. Of them, 200 (72.3 percent) have made the playoffs.

“We just have to approach it the same, one day at a time,” Pederson said. “That's the way this business goes. You are on top of the world one minute, and you can be at the bottom of the heap the next. Just got to keep things even-keeled and can't get too high, can't get too low. Approach it the same. Like I mentioned earlier, you can't substitute for hard work. That pays off on Sundays. We just have to stay the course. Again, a lot of football left.”

While the Week 4 bye comes pretty early, the Eagles have a couple key players who will use the time to get healthy. And Connor Barwin pointed out that the bye is coming about closer to the halfway point between when the team started its tough training camp and the end of the season.

Pederson told his players to use the week to get away from football and free their minds. Meanwhile, Pederson and his coaches will use the extra time to self-scout and prepare for the final 13 games of the regular season.

With a first-year head coach and a rookie quarterback who was thrust into action a week before the opener, expectations outside (and perhaps inside) the building were tempered.

The Eagles aren’t an underdog anymore.

“We kind of enjoyed flying under the radar, but obviously a win like this against a team like the Steelers will open some eyes around the league,” Malcolm Jenkins said. “For us, nothing different. We’ll keep our preparation the same. We’ll stick our heads down and focus on the work day to day and understand what’s gotten us to 3-0.”

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