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

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

In advance of this weekend's
showdown in Happy Valley between Temple and Penn State (3:30 p.m. 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 picked Kevin's brain about the current state
of the Nittany Lions. They'll reverse roles in Part 2 below. And for yet more,
check out Nick's
full game preview here
.

Onto Part 2...

------------------

Kevin McGuire: I suppose I can ask you a similar question to your Navy inquiry.
Temple handled Villanova the way they should have (I would think), but
then threw an egg against Maryland. I tend to give the Owls some credit
for fighting back against the Terps to make
things interesting, but which Temple should we be expecting to see
Saturday, and do they show up for a full game or just a half?

Nick Menta: I'm also going to wimp out and call it somewhere in the middle. They're
obviously not as dominant as they were against FCS Villanova, but
nowhere near as inept as they appeared in the first half against
Maryland, when they gained just 34 yards and turned the
ball over twice.

Temple's second half against the Terps does, as you mentioned, give rise
to some optimism, but playing at home, down 26-3 at the half with
little pressure is different than going into Beaver Stadium. As Addazio
keeps reminding anyone who will listen, his team
is young, and many of them have never played in that kind of
environment.

As for how long they'll last, in 2010 they went about three quarters in a 22-13 loss
(Temple was up 13-9 at the break before losing Bernard Pierce), and did the same last year, losing 14-10
after, again, leading at the half. I'm not
optimistic about the running attack's hopes versus the Penn State front
seven, so Temple may just go as far as its defense will carry it. If
they can stymie McGloin and the revamped passing attack, we could be in
for a long, ugly affair similar to 2011.

Temple's defense has played very well against Penn State in more
recent years, helping to close the gap between the two programs on the
field. With Penn State's new-style offense, who on Temple's defense
steps up to keep that trend continuing?

That defense lost six defensive starters this offseason, and like the
team as a whole, has gotten younger and more inexperienced.

Redshirt freshman middle linebacker Nate D. Smith, the younger brother
of one L.J. Smith, has stepped into the spot vacated by Stephen Johnson,
who led the Owls in tackles with
123 last year. Smith leads the 2012 defense
with 18 total tackles (17 unassisted) and has forced a fumble in each
of his first two games.

More specific to stopping McGloin and the passing attack, senior
defensive end John Yabouty remains one of Temple's best playmakers and
will do his best to create pressure. Over the top, senior safeties
Justin Gildea (pictured above) and Vaughn Carraway will have to provide
support to corners Zamel Johnson and Anthony Robey as they contend with
wide receiver Allen Robinson and his counterparts. It was a secondary that, across the board, did not play well against Maryland.

We know that Bernard Pierce was a key player in the revitalization of
the program, but Matt Brown had a very significant role as well. How
has he now taken over the role as the go-to guy out of the backfield and
how has Montel Harris been fitting in with
his injury issues?

Well he was kind of stunning against Villanova (270 total yards), but
put the ball on the carpet vs. Maryland and continued to struggle before
spraining his ankle. With two weeks of rest, he should be fine.

How's Montel fitting in? ... So far he hasn't. He strained his hamstring late in the
preseason, and had just six touches in the first half versus Villanova,
before taking to the sidelines in sweatpants in the second half of that
game. He did not play at all versus Maryland,
though was warming up on the sidelines when Brown first went down.
Addazio indicated after the game that Harris could have played,
but that the he didn't think it would have been "right."

Two weeks later, but hamstrings are naggy. We'll see.

While Penn State has been struggling on special teams, Temple has
not. North Penn's Brandon McManus has proven to be a pretty solid
special teams player by handling place kicking and punting duties for
the Owls. Too many times we overlook special teams (until
it costs a team a game), but how important is McManus and special teams
in a game like this weekend at Penn State?

Considering the low-scoring nature of the games over the last two years, special teams will be crucial.

Flashback to before Sam Ficken, and Anthony Fera, who left Penn State
this summer for Texas, went 0 for 2 on field goal attempts versus Temple
last year. Then they called on Ficken, and he missed one himself.
They went 0 for 3 as a team. Of course, as
we discussed in Part 1, Penn State's four down territory has evidently
expanded under O'Brien.

Back to the original intent of your question, McManus is invaluable.
He's one of just eight kids in the country who handles all kicking
duties for his team. He has the leg to make the NFL as a kickoff
specialist, if not more.

Again, if this is a long, ugly, struggling game like it has been in the past, then
field position and converted field goals, and therefore McManus, will
be of the utmost importance.

I don't think it is too argumentative that the Penn State game is one
that Temple looks forward to every year, and that beating Penn State
would be a tremendous feat for the program as they continue to improve.
What will it take for this year to finally
be "the year" Temple knocks off their in-state rivals?

Just for reference, the last time Temple beat Penn State was roughly seven weeks before the bombing of Pearl Harbor. So, yeah.

Anyway, we discussed above how Temple keeps getting closer to jumping the hurdle without actually clearing it. Steve Addazio always lists a four-point plan to success for his Owls.

1. Run the football
2. Play great defense
3. Play great special teams
4. Don't turn over the ball

Well, if they run the ball with success, they control clock and shorten
the game. If they play great defense and special teams, those benefits
are obvious. As is the importance of holding onto the football.

Still, there's one component that's missing from the plan, and that's the passing game.

As I mentioned earlier this week
, Temple ran for
just 74 yards last year against Penn State during a season in which they
averaged 265.5 per game (seventh-best in the nation). The Penn State front seven
(and its safety help) that prides itself on stopping
the run.

Temple has to be able to do something to keep the Lions from loading the
box and cheating on the run. Whether its the spread-option, some unorthodoxy,
or some good old-fashioned passing plays, the Owls can't pound their
heads against the Penn State defensive wall
if the run just isn't available.

It's not a certainty, but chances are Temple will have to branch out
just a tad, even if it isn't their strong suit and even if it does open
the door for more mistakes. Conservative play calling didn't work last
year.

We'll see how Addazio and the crew have game-planned for 2012 on Saturday.

Keep up with Kevin and Nick's weekend reports from State
College on
Twitter @KevinOnCFB
and @cnmenta.

*

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Alec Asher lone bright spot as Phillies continue to limp to finish with another loss to Mets

Alec Asher lone bright spot as Phillies continue to limp to finish with another loss to Mets

The Phillies returned home from a bad road trip Friday with only three games to play and the only thing to play for being the role of spoilers.

With the New York Mets in town looking to put a stranglehold on a wildcard spot, the Phillies, as another losing season finishes out, could be a thorn in the side of their rivals.

Alec Asher looked like he was playing the part of spoiler, retiring the first 11 batters he faced, but the Mets rallied, got behind starter Robert Gsellman, and turned back any Phillies sabotaging on this night, beating the home team, 5-1.

The two teams are heading in quite opposite directions.

The Mets, with their win, clinched at least a tiebreaker in the wildcard and guaranteed their season not ending on Sunday, the league’s final regular season date.

The Phillies on the other hand… 

“We’re certainly limping home,” said manager Pete Mackanin an hour or so after being ejected for the first time this year. “Not playing well, not swinging the bats very well.”

They struck out 14 times Friday night. And after scraping a run across in the second inning, never really looked like they were in the game at the plate.

Mackanin's ejection came in the eighth inning. Mackanin wasn’t happy with first base umpire Will Little and was thrown out of a game. Reliever Michael Mariot threw a fastball in on Yoenis Cespedes and Cespedes appeared to lose control of the bat through the strike zone. When appealed to, Little ruled Cespedes did not swing, and out came Mackanin.

"I had to get thrown out there," Mackanin said.

Perhaps he just couldn't stand to watch anymore. 

Gsellman battled through some early struggles and stymied the Phillies’ offense. Gsellman turned in six innings of one-run baseball, improving to 4-2 on the year. He allowed one run on seven hits and struck out seven.

Asher, in his last start of 2016, was the lone bright spot on this night.

With two outs in the fourth, his brief perfect game bid was ended with a single from Yoenis Cespedes. That was followed by another from Curtis Granderson. 

Jay Bruce then worked a full count but Asher couldn’t put him away. On the ninth pitch of the at-bat, Bruce singled home Cespedes to tie the score. 

A fourth consecutive single, this time off the bat of T.J. Rivera, allowed Granderson to cross the plate for a 2-1 Mets lead.

Asher’s night and season ended with a Bruce home run - his third in as many games - to lead off the top of the seventh.

“I wanted to go sinker away and just kind of got it mid-thigh belt,” Asher said. “He took advantage of the mistake.”

Asher, 24, went six-plus innings Friday, throwing 104 pitches while allowing three runs on five hits. He struck out four and walked zero.

His 2016 finishes with a 2.28 ERA and 0.94 WHIP in 27 ⅔ innings pitched. He struck out 13 and walked four.

“Last year when Asher was here I recall being asked if it was a smart thing to do because he got rocked so badly,” Mackanin said. “We talked about if and when he did get back to the big leagues if he would be able to handle it. What kind of make up he had. Certainly he made an adjustment. Added a two-seam fastball which he never had. Has a plus changeup. He needs a little more work on his breaking ball, but nevertheless he’s pitched well since he’s been back. He’s done a good job.”

The Phillies bullpen hasn’t lately.

Mariot, in relief of Asher, gave up two runs in 1 ⅔ innings of relief, including Bruce’s third RBI of the night to give the Mets a 5-1 lead.

The Phillies offense then went quietly into the fall night. The Mets didn’t allow a hit from the final 12 Phillies hitters.

Their season will continue beyond Sunday.

“It’s step one of a bigger accomplishment,” said Mets manager Terry Collins. “We’re certainly pleased we get to play past Sunday.”

The Phillies are just limping.

Orthopedist on Ben Simmons' injury: 'The prognosis is good'

Orthopedist on Ben Simmons' injury: 'The prognosis is good'

On Friday, Sixers fans got some bad news when the team revealed that No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons fractured the fifth metatarsal in his right foot.

The Sixers didn't give a timetable for his return, saying that they were reviewing treatment options for the 6-foot-10 point-forward.

As a guest on CSNPhilly's Sportsnet Central, orthopedic surgeon Dr. Mark Schwartz gave a little insight into Simmons' injury. Schwartz is not treating Simmons, but has dealt with similar injuries. Schwartz believes the prognosis is good for the Sixers' rookie.

"The big question is where the exact location of this fracture is," Schwartz said. "That will dictate the prognosis and the treatment. If it's at the base of the fifth metatarsal, it's usually a non-surgical treatment. It's usually a cast/boot for six to eight weeks and return to play somewhere around eight weeks."

That would be great news considering Sixers fans didn't get to see Nerlens Noel the year he was drafted and are still awaiting the debut of 2014 draft pick Joel Embiid. 

Schwartz warns that the injury could be something known as a Jones fracture, which would likely require surgery and the recovery could be three to four months. The prognosis would still be good, according to Schwartz, but other NBA players have had lengthy recoveries with a similar injury.

"The prognosis is still good, but we know that Kevin Durant had a Jones fracture and he was out for an entire season because of it not healing," Schwartz said. "But the prognosis is good, however, the question is whether it's going to require surgery or not."

For more from Schwartz on Simmons' injury and possible timetable, check out the video above.