Part One of Our Two-Part Temple-Penn State Primer: On Penn State

Part One of Our Two-Part Temple-Penn State Primer: On Penn State

In advance of this weekend's showdown in Happy Valley between Temple and Penn State (3:30 p.n. on ABC/ESPN 2), Nick Menta and our friend and guest-spotter from Examiner.com Kevin McGuire have gotten together for a two-part preview of this weekend's matchup.

In Part 1, Nick picks Kevin's brain about the current state of the Nittany Lions. They'll reverse roles in Part 2. And for yet more, check out Nick's full game preview here.

On with the show...

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Nick: Alright, let's get the injury report out the way up front. How are the banged up running backs?

Kevin McGuire: It looks as though Bill Belton’s status is still not good, as he was
not seen in practice late this week while media were allowed to watch
(could be a decoy, who knows), but Derek Day was in full pads and
O’Brien suggested he is ahead of Belton right now.

Last week Penn State
relied on Michaekl Zordich to pound the football, and he is comfortable
doing so when asked. Don’t expect to see true freshman Akeel Lynch
unless absolutely necessary. O’Brien is trying to keep freshman from
playing as much as possible in some spots to preserve their eligibility
moving forward.

This is one of those inevitable "what really was it?" questions. Was Penn State's thrashing of Navy a product of the team settling in and finding itself, or of Navy being sort of horrendous by comparison. (No wimping out and picking both! Okay, you can if you want.)

It had to be a little from Column A and a little from Column B to be honest, but I think there are signs that Penn State is continuing to improve in some aspects in the early going under O’Brien.

The defense has forced eight turnovers in the past two games and that doesn't happen by accident. The defense has played better week-to-week after three games.

The offense seems to have found at least one player to take over a key role with sophomore Allen Robinson at wide receiver. The offense in general is still finding itself, but Matt McGloin has shown some good things early on with his decision-making, for the most part. As a team I think there are some positive trends unfolding for Penn State on both sides of the football that suggest they could be OK this season.

Speaking of McGloin, his progression isn't staggering, but it's certainly
substantial. Is it because it's O'Brien, because it's not Paterno,or because he doesn't have Bolden over his shoulder any longer? Which of those
three is most responsible for his improvement?

There is no question in my mind that McGloin has benefited from new
coaching, and he has made some subtle and not so subtle comments
supporting that idea. But, as you pointed out, I think the fact that
McGloin was named the starter early by O’Brien has the biggest impact on
everything.

Last season the switching back-and-forth of quarterbacks prevented Penn
State from finding their offensive identity and establishing any sort of
rhythm. We know that McGloin is not the most talented or skilled
quarterback, but right now at Penn State he has been the best available
option. Now McGloin gets to take all of the first team snaps and feel
more comfortable leading the offense.

What do you make of the number of attempts to go for it on fourth down? Specifically, O'Brien's decision not use Ficken for a chip shot last week and coming away with no points right after the kid has missed an extra point. The right move? Too aggressive? Is he unconcerned with Ficken's psyche?

I thought O’Brien should have gone for what should have been an easy field goal just to give Sam Ficken a chance to boost his confidence and let him know that he will be trusted. I felt kicking a chip-shot field goal (or at least not hesitating to attempt it) would have done Ficken some good as a young player who felt awful about the way the previous week had gone.

That said, I’m not Bill O’Brien.

It’s a new way of thinking when it comes to Penn State’s offense, and that means taking more risks and gambling on fourth down a lot more than usual. Penn State has already converted six fourth down attempts for a first down this season, compared to ten all of last season. This may be the way it is going to be under O’Brien but there may be something else to consider here. What does Penn State ultimately have to lose by going for it on fourth down rather than kicking field goals? We all know Penn State has no postseason to play for, so there is nothing to lose by playing with an extra risk.

Do you get the sense that as this season goes on, key guys in that locker room will grow committed enough not to leave the program, or is Penn State treading water until the next transfer period?

There is no question that the biggest challenge Bill O’Brien has this season is keeping this team together, and establishing and maintaining team chemistry is a huge part of that. The ability for this program to stay afloat, metaphorically speaking, will rely heavily on O’Brien keeping players on the roster now from transferring elsewhere after the season at a time when he will also need to focus on recruiting for the Class of 2013.

What's the most key matchup in this weekend's game that Penn State needs to get the better of to win?

Penn State’s biggest weak point this season has been third down defense. Penn State ranks 115th in the nation in third down conversions allowed, giving up first downs 50.98 percent of the time (Temple is getting off the field 60 percent of the time by comparison). If the Owls can get in to some manageable third down situations, with the running game they should have to rely on the odds could be very good that Temple continues to crack Penn State’s third-down defense.

And since I anticipate this being a tight game, that could become a huge factor as the game unfolds.

Click here for Part 2: On the Temple Owls and keep up with Kevin and Nick's weekend reports from State College on
Twitter @KevinOnCFB and @cnmenta.

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Watch: Eagles fan wearing Donald Trump mask gets roll thrown at him

Watch: Eagles fan wearing Donald Trump mask gets roll thrown at him

Philadelphia sports fans have a storied history of throwing things.

They threw snowballs at Santa Claus back in 1968 and bracelets onto the ice at the Wells Fargo Center during a Flyers home playoff game last April.

On Sunday, one fan took that long-standing reputation to new heights.

At a tailgate outside the Linc leading up to the Eagles-Steelers game, a dancing Birds fan wearing a Donald Trump mask had an Amoroso roll thrown at his face.

(h/t Deadspin)

Instant Replay: Mets 17, Phillies 0

usa-jay-bruce-mets-phillies.jpg
USA Today Images

Instant Replay: Mets 17, Phillies 0

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK — This time, there was no lead for the Phillies’ bullpen to blow.

Sunday, the Mets tagged five Phillies relievers for 14 runs in a 17-0 demolition and won the four-game series. 

The Phillies only recorded three hits against Robert Gsellman, a rookie righthanded starter who stands to play a large role in the Mets’ injury-ravaged rotation down the stretch.

The Mets — for now — regained control of the first wild card spot in the NL. They had entered Sunday tied in the standings with the Giants. The Giants’ game against the Padres had no score when the Mets’ game concluded. The Cardinals sit a half-game back of both teams. Their game against the Cubs does not begin until 8:08 p.m.

The Phillies fell to 70-86.

Players from the Mets and Phillies both poured out of the dugouts for a pregame moment of silence in honor of Marlins ace Jose Fernandez, who died early Sunday morning in a boating accident at 24 years old.

Starting pitching report
Jake Thompson showed life on his changeup, a pitch he has struggled to wield effectively since his August arrival in the majors. He ran into trouble in the second inning when he surrendered a double to Jay Bruce on a middle-in fastball and a single to T.J. Rivera, but escaped with only one run in damage after inducing James Loney into an easy double play.

He nearly imploded in the fourth, surrendering a solo homer to Curtis Granderson to lead off the inning and then walking Jose Reyes with the bases loaded and two out to force in a run. Thompson elicited a popout to left from Asdrubal Cabrera to end the bases-loaded scenario, but that was the end of his afternoon.

Gsellman erased the rough memories of his first major league start, a 5-1 defeat to the Phillies at Citi Field on Aug. 28 in which he surrendered four runs on five hits and was pulled in the seventh inning.

He struck out eight batters in seven shutout innings. Gsellman only ran into trouble in the first inning when he faced a runners-on-the-corners, two-out situation in the top of the first. He promptly got Ryan Howard to ground out to first base.

Gsellman even managed to reach base with a bunt single in the third despite not being able to swing a bat because of a labrum tear in his non-throwing shoulder.

Bullpen report
Phil Klein made his first appearance since being called up for the second time on Sept. 10. He had been dealing with elbow soreness. Klein retired just one batter in the fifth and surrendered two runs on two walks, two singles and a pitch that hit Rene Rivera in the left hand. He departed with the bases still loaded.

Colton Murray entered to clean up the mess in the fifth and allowed an inherited runner to score on a wild pitch. He added a scoreless sixth but loaded the bases with one out in the seventh and got pulled.

Frank Herrmann inherited the bases-loaded situation and promptly walked the first batter he faced, Jose Reyes, to force in a run. It was all downhill from there, as Asdrubal Cabrera took him deep to right for a grand slam.

Patrick Schuster gave up four runs in the eighth on a Jose Reyes double with the bases loaded and a two-run single by Eric Campbell.

Luis Garcia allowed two runners to score in the eighth on a Michael Conforto double, one of which was assigned to Schuster.

At the plate
Cesar Hernandez’s 29-game streak of reaching base safely came to an end.

Freddy Galvis was the only Phillies player to advance past second base, singling in the first and then advancing on a wild pitch and steal of third. He was stranded by Howard’s grandout.

In the field
Hernandez and Freddy Galvis turned a 4-6-3 double play in the second inning in a runners-on-the-corners, no out situation.

Health check
Tyler Goeddel did not play as he recuperates from his concussion. Relievers Luis Garcia and Severino Gonzalez were unavailable last night because of ankle issues. Garcia pitched the end of the eighth in mop-up duty.

Up next
The Phillies will have a day off before they start their final homestand of the season against the Braves on Tuesday. Jerad Eickhoff (11-14, 3.75 ERA) will start for the Phillies. He has a 1.75 ERA against Atlanta in four starts against them this season.

The Braves’ scheduled starter has yet to be determined and their game against the Marlins scheduled for Sunday was cancelled once news emerged of Fernandez’s death.

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