Our Tome of a Penn State-Temple Preview; LIVE BLOG Tomorrow at Noon

Our Tome of a Penn State-Temple Preview; LIVE BLOG Tomorrow at Noon

We're now less than twenty-four hours away from the biggest college football game played in the city of Philadelphia in...well, let's just call it a long time.

Though the Nittany Lions are favored by a touchdown and an extra point, and the Owls haven't had a win in this series since before Joe Paterno became head coach, many believe that Saturday's game is the best opportunity Temple has had to up-end its in-state rival in decades.

Last year, the Owls proved more than competitive against Penn State, losing by a final score 22-13, but leading from more than half the contest. So, is 2011 the year Temple finally gets the monkey off its back? Our college football guys Kevin McGuire and Nick Menta detail tomorrow's matchup below.

But, before we get to that, we'd like to announce that, for the second year in a row, we'll be hosting a LIVE BLOG here on The700Level during the game. Nick and Kevin will be chatting from inside Lincoln Financial Field with other members of our staff popping in and out throughout the game. Watch the coverage on ESPN and join us to share your thoughts, ask your questions, or just to talk your smack. And now, on to the show...

On the Penn State Nittany Lions:
From a Penn State perspective, the key will be the quarterback play. Joe Paterno is opting to go with two guys once again, Rob Bolden and Matt McGloin, and this could be the final test before a decision on a full-time signal caller is made. That means the pressure will be on to perform against what Joe Paterno has called the best Temple team he has ever seen.

The two quarterback candidates have failed to throw a touchdown pass this season, but consider that the running game dominated the week one game against Indiana State and the Alabama defense last week was a monster, it may not be all that surprising. regardless, the passing game will need to see better protection against a relentless Temple defensive front. The pass protection has been weak in the first two games and should have been a focus this week in practice. Temple will bring the pressure, so it will be interesting to see how Bolden and McGloin react. If the receivers can hold on to the ball this week, that would help out a lot as well.

The theme of the day though will remain the running game of both Penn State and Temple. Temple's Bernard Pierce gave the Nittany Lions some problems last season in State College, and if he had stayed in the game who knows how the game would have ended up? For Penn State, look for a strong showing by stud sophomore Silas Redd. He brings good speed, athleticism and field awareness to the offense and Redd should ease the pressure on the quarterbacks. —Kevin McGuire

On the Temple University Football Owls:
These two teams have more in common than any Penn State fan will feel comfortable admitting. Coming into 2011, neither head coach could decide on a starting quarterback and the success of their respective offenses is primarily driven by talented rushers both set to collapse by the end of the season as a result of exhaustion.

We'll start with the passing attack. Once redshirt-junior Mike Gerardi was named the starter against Villanova and the lead-signal caller for Week 2 against Akron, we presumed, perhaps incorrectly, that consecutive quality starts had secured him the job for the foreseeable future.

But senior QB Chester Stewart, whose preseason reps diminished over time possibly due to an anticipated suspension, has apparently re-entered the picture. From the Inquirer's Keith Pompey:

“I thought Chester [Stewart] played very well in that game against Akron last Saturday," said Temple coach Steve Addazio , who won’t name a clear-cut starter. “I think Chester is a guy that can be in that game, as could Chris Coyer."

"We will probably see Mike start the [Penn State] game. But we can see Chester play a fair amount."

At first read, this sounds like a direct contradiction of the comments made by Adazzio during the team's Media Day in late-August, when the first-year head coach insisted that he wouldn't run a two-quarterback offense, labeling the strategy "unproductive." Assuming he's still of that mindset—which he should be after the Penn State's struggles against Alabama last week—Addazio did mention the possibility of introducing a Wildcat/Spread package during the season. Both Stewart and true-freshman Clinton "Juice" Granger could prove highly effective in such a role.

As for the true leader of the Temple offense, junior rusher Bernard Pierce is tied with Pitt's Ray Graham for the most touchdowns in the nation with six. As Kevin mentioned above, when actually in last year's ballgame, Pierce carried Temple in the first half, making it seem as though the Owls were actually on the verge of upsetting the Nittany Lions in Happy Valley. Unfortunately, a third-quarter ankle injury would relegate Bernard to the sideline. From there, Chester Stewart and Matt Brown struggled to move the ball and the tide turned. What would have happened if Pierce stayed healthy? Time will tell—we hope.

Bernard and the QBs aside, the performance of the Temple offensive line is going to prove critical. Pierce, though immensely talented, is going to need the guys in front of him to generate a sufficient push. Watch a lot of the Big 10? Then you know running the ball can be difficult against an entire conference predicated on strong linebacker and D-line play. In pass protection, Gerardi, Stewart, or whoever is under center is going to need some time to breathe.

Bottom line, Pierce needs to get off to a good start early, or Penn State may be able to drop into the same coverage schemes that so crippled Temple in the second half of last year's matchup. —Nick Menta

Miscellaneous Notes Heading into Tomorrow:
--Attendance
When these team's played in 2007, they set a record for the largest reported crowd to ever watch a Temple football game at Lincoln Financial Field. The final warm body count—69,092. On that day, a small, but dedicated group clad in Cherry packed about four sections worth of seats in
southeast corner of the lower bowl. The rest of the stadium resembled, and effectively became, a Penn State home game.

Will we see a more even split in fan participation tomorrow? This from Sam Donnellon:

"Temple officials insist it won't be [like last time], that at least 30,000 tickets have been sold through the school's aggressive ticket packaging, and about 12,000 student tickets have been sold as well."

Now does anyone actually believe we're going to see 42,000 Temple fans in attendance tomorrow? It could be the case, and I'm now remembering my own experience from 2007, that a fair number of the student tickets have been given away or sold off to friends making the trip from PSU (Correction: Reader "NickIsOutOFTouch" wrote in that Temple students are now required to present legitimate school ID to enter the games and use their student tickets, unlike in years past. Chalk this one up as Nick's early vote for comment handle of the year.)

And while Temple's hard marketing of its partial season ticket package—lower level seats to Penn State and two other home games for just $90—has drawn drawn 30,000 people, it remains to be see just how many of those tickets were bought by or ultimately sold to PSU fans on the secondary market.

Still, an even split would be an awesome sight. Here's to hoping the cynicism above is rendered unwarranted.

--Aesthetics
For the first time, the field at Lincoln Financial Field has been painted Cherry and White. The south end zone bears the letters T-E-M-P-L-E while the north end zone reads O-W-L-S. Though these same letters were spray-painted on the field in '07, they were done hastily and in no way covered the traditional end zone print of the building's main tenant. Frankly, it just looked bad. Fortunately for those who want an early look at the freshly painted turf, this image, screen capped from somebody's CSN television feed, popped up on the message boards of Owlscoop.com over night.

--Odds
As cited in the introduction, Bodog lists the Nittany Lions as a -7. Thanks to vegasinsider.com, we can see that literally every single book on their site has the Lions giving that same -7. The over/under vacillates between 45 1/2 and 46. For your reference, in neither of the last two playings have the teams exceeded more than 37 combined points.

--Breakfast
Anyone camping out over night? See you bright and early tomorrow morning. Coordinate your tailgates in the comments as you will.

Trash talking starts...now.

Flyers answer Ron Hextall's plea with comeback OT win over Islanders

Flyers answer Ron Hextall's plea with comeback OT win over Islanders

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK — Shayne Gostisbehere’s fist pump was so vicious and mighty, the celebration was probably felt back in Philadelphia.

This was an exultation the entire Flyers felt, too.

When it started to look like the bye week wasn’t the break they needed, the Flyers reached down deep and got one Sunday night at the Barclays Center in the form of a 3-2 overtime victory over the Islanders (see Instant Replay).

“It allows you to take a breath,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “That’s one thing for sure.”

A sigh of relief for a team beaten and bruised — losers of three straight by a combined score of 15-4, not to mention 3-9-3 in its past 15 games. The Flyers had lost the day prior on home ice to the Devils, 4-1, with a performance not exactly inspiring confidence following five days off.

On Sunday, they trailed 2-0 in the second period.

“We've got to get better at dealing with adversity when something goes wrong,” general manager Ron Hextall said bluntly before the game. “We need to get back on the horse and get back going. Big deal, a team scored a goal. We need to react better to it.”

Finally, the Flyers reacted the way their GM had been hoping.

They flipped the deficit into a victory when Gostisbehere skated behind the net and put the puck on Claude Giroux’s stick for the game-winner with 1:40 left in the extra session. Gostisbehere whipped his arm through the air and embraced Giroux, along with Jakub Voracek, who started the play by stripping Islanders captain John Tavares.

“On a lot of different levels, it’s an important win,” Hakstol said. “It’s huge. And more importantly for us, a great effort. Thought we deserved the two points. Sometimes maybe that’s what it takes to get over the hump — a tremendous effort for 60-plus minutes. I thought we got that out of everyone tonight.”

For Giroux, it was his first goal since Dec. 21.

For Steve Mason, his first win since Dec. 21.

And for the Flyers, their first road victory since Dec. 14, as they went 0-6-3 in the previous nine games away from home.

Yeah, “it was needed,” as Wayne Simmonds said of the win.

“We’ve been fighting it lately and I thought that was a good game from start to finish,” he said. “I thought everyone played well. I think we made bounces go our way tonight instead of hoping and waiting.”

Simmonds scored what might have been the biggest goal of the game. The Flyers, down 1-0 in the second period, came up empty for 33 seconds of a 5-on-3 power play and the proceeding 5-on-4 advantage. The Islanders then padded the lead to 2-0 moments later, putting the Flyers’ backs against the wall.

But Simmonds kept his team from uncoiling with a goal at 14:10 of the period, giving the Flyers life at second intermission. If not for that score, who knows how the Flyers come out in the third period, trailing by multiple goals yet again.

"I think we were plying well,” Giroux said. “We had a lot of chances and [the puck] wasn't going in. Everybody on the bench was frustrated. When Wayne got that first goal, I think [there was] a little relief on the bench. I haven't seen a team celebrate so much just for a first goal. It was kind of a relief and we had a little boost out of that.”

Ivan Provorov scored the equalizer 1:47 into the final period when he maintained possession from the blue line to the circle, adeptly skating around two Islanders to put the puck on net. Provorov’s pass to Travis Konecny hit off the skate of New York’s Adam Pelech and into the net.

“I came off the bench and I saw [Brayden Schenn] was going into the zone, so I took a few hard strides, got the puck from him and I saw it was kind of an odd-man situation,” Provorov said. “I held on to the puck a little bit, saw T.K. going backdoor, passed it there and it went off their D skate.”

Just as important as the timely goals was the Flyers’ discipline. Against the Devils, the Flyers compiled 19 penalty minutes, forcing them on seven penalty kills. This time, the Flyers sharpened up, not allowing the Islanders a power play until midway through the third period. In total, they had just four penalty minutes and killed off both power plays faced.

That gave them a chance.

“We just kept saying it the whole time, ‘Keep going, keep going, guys,’” Simmonds said. “We just need one [goal] and from one comes two, and Mase held the fort.”

Mason made 17 of his 36 saves in the third period and overtime combined.

Now, the Flyers at least go into another important back-to-back — starting Wednesday at the Rangers before welcoming the Maple Leafs Thursday — with some confidence instead of a lost weekend.

“I thought the focus was purely on going out and playing well,” Hakstol said. “And you know, that’s harder to do than you might know — when you start to feel some of the pressure without a win in a little bit. I really liked that side of it. Even in that situation, all the guys played well. Hopefully that puts our entire team in the right direction.’’

Best of NHL: Crosby scores league-leading 28th goal in win vs. Bruins

Best of NHL: Crosby scores league-leading 28th goal in win vs. Bruins

PITTSBURGH -- Conor Sheary scored two goals, Sidney Crosby added his league-leading 28th and the Pittsburgh Penguins won their fourth straight game, 5-1 over the Boston Bruins 5-1 on Sunday.

Pittsburgh led 2-1 through two periods before breaking out in the third with three goals in a span of 2 minutes, 57 seconds.

Sheary scored his 17th and has nine goals in nine games. Bryan Rust added his 12th and Patric Hornqvist his 11th for the Penguins, who won a season-high seventh straight at home. Pittsburgh the NHL's best home team, is 13-0-1 in its last 14 home games.

Evgeni Malkin had two assists for a season-best seven-game point streak. Crosby added two assists for a three-point game. Matt Murray made 44 saves to win his fourth straight game.

David Krejci scored his 11th for the Bruins, who have lost four straight and five of their last six (see full recap).

Rangers shut out Red Wings in 1-0 OT win
DETROIT -- J.T. Miller scored at 1:56 of overtime to lift the New York Rangers to a 1-0 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday.

Henrik Lundqvist made 21 saves for his second shutout of the season and 61st of his career. The Rangers managed only 19 shots in a game that featured few memorable chances by either team.

The winner came when Mats Zuccarello and Miller swooped in alone on Detroit goalie Jared Coreau. Zuccarello made a simple pass to Miller, who lifted the puck over Coreau for his 16th goal of the season.

Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall played for the first time since Jan. 4, returning from a lower-body injury. The Red Wings put forward Drew Miller on waivers (see full recap).

Atikinson lifts Jackets over Senators in wild OT win
OTTAWA, Ontario -- Cam Atkinson's second goal of the game at 1:09 of overtime lifted the Columbus Blue Jackets a 7-6 win over the Ottawa Senators on Sunday night.

Atkinson had a breakaway after a shot by Senators captain Erik Karlsson missed the Columbus net and went around the boards out to Atkinson, who was at center-ice.

The Blue Jackets trailed 5-3 after two periods before Lukas Sedlak and Matt Calvert scored 31 seconds apart to tie it less than 2 1/2 minutes into the third. Atklnson then gave Columbus a 6-5 lead with 9:10 remaining, before Kyle Turries tied it for Ottawa on the power play less than 2 minutes later.

Nick Foligno, Scott Harrington and Zach Werenski also scored for the Blue Jackets, and Joonas Korpisalo finished with 28 saves.

Zach Smith and Mike Hoffman each had two goals and Mark Stone also scored for the Senators. Mike Condon had 22 saves (see full recap).