Penn State Figures to Bounce Back on the Road at Purdue

Penn State Figures to Bounce Back on the Road at Purdue

Penn State was all amped and ready to go last week at home in front of a buzzing Beaver Stadium, but it was Ohio State who had all of the energy going for them in the second half of a physically draining contest.

Now Penn State takes to the road to take on a Purdue team that was expected to play a little bit of a larger role in the Big Ten’s Leaders Division this season.

One of the things we have learned from Penn State this season is that it is difficult to knock them down too much. Credit senior leadership from guys like linebacker Michael Mauti, fullback Michael Zordich and quarterback Matt McGloin. When the team dropped to 0-2 to start the season Penn State came back and rattled off five straight wins to seemingly turn a lost season around. Given that precedent, how likely is it they let one loss to Ohio State, the best team in the Big Ten this season, get to them so much they falter again this weekend?

Purdue is a team that is in a bit of a free fall, having lost four straight games and sitting on the bottom of the Big Ten Leaders Division with an 0-4 conference record. Three of the losses have not even been close. The struggles of Purdue have led to some speculation head coach Danny Hope is running out of time on the sidelines, but injuries have played a role in holding the team back. This weekend’s starting quarterback, Robert Marve, suffered a torn ACL early in the season and is somehow back on the field trying to spark the offense. Marve replaced Caleb Terbush last week in the second half and gave Purdue some life late to close the gap against Minnesota, but it was too little too late for the Boilermakers. This weekend will mark his second start of the season.

If Marve is able to play at full strength, he has the ability to keep Purdue’s offense in the game with receiver Antavian Edison leading the way in the pass game. Edison leads the Boilermakers with six touchdown receptions and 432 yards. Gary Bush is also a red-zone threat to catch the football with five touchdown catches this season. Purdue’s offense entered the year expected to give some teams a good challenge on a regular basis, but Purdue has thrown 11 interceptions (second most in Big Ten behind Michigan) and lost six fumbles. So when Purdue does have something seemingly going for them, the chances they run in to some problems appears likely, although having Marve starting could help cure some of those problems.

Defensively, Penn State will need to make sure Marve is rattled early and often, and maybe force him to try and move around a little because there is little chance he will be at 100 percent with his feet. Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien is also pretty familiar with what Marve can do, having tried to recruit him to Duke when he was still an assistant for the Blue Devils before joining the New England Patriots staff.

Where Purdue has fallen exceptionally short of expectations this fall is on defense. The Boilermakers had what many called an underrated defensive unit last season, but you would not know that from watching them this season. Purdue has allowed 29.8 points per game this season, third highest in the Big Ten (Indiana, Illinois). Only Indiana has allowed more points per game at home than Purdue. Purdue ranks next to last against the run in the Big Ten, allowing 194 rushing yards per game, so expect Penn State to let Bill Belton, Zach Zwinak and Michael Zordich set the tempo on the ground. Purdue is also ninth in the 12-team Big Ten against the pass, allowing 213.9 yards per game and 12 touchdowns through the air, which would suggest O’Brien’s offensive schemes could be in for an Iowa-esque sort of game if they start on the right foot.

As you are well aware by now, Penn State is ineligible for postseason play but remember that they can still win the Leaders Division crown. Having lost to Ohio State, the Nittany Lions are one game back of a split for the division crown.

Purdue is more than capable of keeping Penn State in check if they can put it together this weekend, as evidenced by their Week 2 setback at Notre Dame. Purdue fell to the Irish 20-17 in the final seconds, as the Fighting Irish rallied late for the win. Purdue has seen the wheels come off since then, of course. A loss puts Purdue one game closer to being ineligible for postseason play, so the Boilermakers may need this game more than Penn State.

Who needs the game more though is totally irrelevant. If Penn State plays at the level they have shown against Iowa and Illinois or even in the first half against Ohio State (defensively at least), this could be another long afternoon for Purdue.

Upon arrival, newest Eagles LB Stephen Tulloch ready — but for what?

Upon arrival, newest Eagles LB Stephen Tulloch ready — but for what?

Stephen Tulloch walked out of the NovaCare Complex on Tuesday afternoon chatting with new teammate Brandon Graham, while wearing a crisp white No. 54 jersey for his first practice.

Jim Schwartz wasn’t sure if Tulloch would make it onto the field Tuesday because of all the “administration stuff” the linebacker needed to do, including putting ink to paper. But as the Eagles took the field at around 1:30 p.m., Tulloch joined them. He wouldn’t miss it.

After all, practice is where the 31-year-old feels most comfortable.

Schwartz on Tuesday morning recalled a story from training camp several years ago, when, as the head coach of the Lions, he wanted to give Tulloch a veteran day off. The coaches even told the training staff that Tulloch wouldn’t be participating that day.

“He came in my office mad as a hornet and was ready to practice,” Schwartz said.

Tulloch then told his head coach that he was ruining his streak. Forget games — dating back to high school, the linebacker hadn’t missed a practice.

Schwartz admitted he’s not one for compromising, but did make a compromise that summer day. Tulloch was allowed to practice, but his reps were cut down some.

“He knows how I am. I prepare,” said Tulloch, who remembered the story. “To me, practice is more important than that game. When you miss a rep, you miss something and you can’t make it up. I try to be present every day that I’m out here on this field. We’re playing a kid’s game. I’m 31 years old and to be able to come out here and play this game, it’s pretty fun.”

Tulloch was 28 during the 2013 training camp and went on to play and start all 16 games in the 2013 season. In 2014, he played just three before tearing his ACL, but returned to play in all 16 last year.

Tulloch told Schwartz he has been working out twice per day while unemployed this summer. “Guys like that, they know how to get themselves ready,” Schwartz said.

“I have tremendous respect for guys that get 10 years in the NFL because you can’t make 10 years on talent alone,” Schwartz said. “You can’t make 10 years by being a try-hard guy. You gotta have a great combination of things and also in 10 years, you’re going to be working with different coaching staffs in 10 years. You gotta have the ability to work in a lot of different schemes, whether you’re an offensive player or a defensive player. I’ll bow down to guys who play 10 years in this league because that’s tough business.”

Tulloch has been a starter in the NFL for years but likely won’t have that role in Philly. The Eagles have a starting linebacker group of Jordan Hicks, Mychal Kendricks and Nigel Bradham. Doug Pederson said Tulloch will compete at the middle linebacker spot, but Hicks is still the starter for now (see story).

For a long time, Tulloch was very good. He's one of just nine players in the league to have five interceptions and 12 fumble recoveries since 2006. And he’s played six of his 10 NFL seasons under Schwartz, who already has three of his former players in prominent roles this year.

Schwartz said Tulloch is “not here to replace anybody,” but added that a rotation isn’t out of the realm of possibility. The defensive coordinator, citing an analogy in which everyone brings something different to a party, said it’s important to accentuate each of his players' strengths.

Despite starting for most of his career, Tulloch in 2016 will likely be a backup, which includes playing special teams. Earlier in the week, Pederson said he wants to get Tulloch on at least one special teams unit. The veteran linebacker on Tuesday said he hasn’t played special teams since 2006 or 2007.

“Whatever’s asked of me, I’ll do,” Tulloch said.

Tulloch was informed of his release from Detroit in February, but he wasn’t officially cut by the Lions until July, after he healed completely from a minor ankle surgery. He said he felt good a long time ago, and had a couple other teams interested in him. Ultimately, though, he decided to join the Eagles and reunite with Schwartz, for whom he has great respect and whose defense he feels most comfortable in.

Even if Schwartz tries to make him take a day off.

“I just love football,” Tulloch said. “I think this is my 26th, 27th year of playing football. I started back in 1991 when I was five years old. It’s just a way of life for me. It’s something I do. I have a passion for practice, I have a passion for the game. I play hard, I work hard, I take care of my body. I do what I have to do.”

Tonight's lineup: Phillies load up with righties vs. White Sox lefty Carlos Rodon

Tonight's lineup: Phillies load up with righties vs. White Sox lefty Carlos Rodon

The Phillies are loading up with right-handed hitters for Tuesday's series opener at U.S. Cellular Field against White Sox lefty Carlos Rodon.

Odubel Herrera is out of the lineup and Aaron Altherr takes his place in center field. Peter Bourjos and Tyler Goeddel are in the outfield corners. 

Carlos Ruiz serves as the designated hitter against Rodon, who has huge platoon splits. Righties have hit .305/.365/.484 against Rodon; lefties have hit .220/.268/.286.

Rodon has a changeup to stave off right-handed hitters, but he's used it only eight percent of the time this season. He's thrown his 94 mph fastball, sinker or slider with 92 percent frequency (see game notes).

Emmanuel Burris gets a start at second base.

Ryan Howard is out of the lineup. U.S. Cellular Field is the only active stadium in which he's never played. The Phillies haven't been there since 2004.

1. Peter Bourjos, RF
2. Aaron Altherr, CF
3. Maikel Franco, 3B
4. Tommy Joseph, 1B
5. Cameron Rupp, C
6. Carlos Ruiz, DH
7. Freddy Galvis, SS
8. Tyler Goeddel, LF
9. Emmanuel Burris, 2B

Philadelphia to host 2016 U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame ceremony

Philadelphia to host 2016 U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame ceremony

Philadelphia will host the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Nov. 30.

USA Hockey on Tuesday announced that the Flyers will host the event for the first time.

The 2016 Hall of Fame class includes legendary high school coach Bill Belisle, former NHL forward Craig Janney, and the 1996 World Cup of Hockey team. 

That team featured Brett Hull, Brian Leetch and Abington native Mike Richter. It also has a special connection with Philly. The 1996 World Cup of Hockey was the first sporting event played at the CoreStates Center (now the Wells Fargo Center). The U.S. would go on to win the tournament.

“We’re excited to bring the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Induction Celebration to Philadelphia,” Dave Ogrean, executive director of USA Hockey, said in a statement. “It’s one of our nation’s very top hockey cities, thanks in large part to the decades-long efforts of the late Ed Snider, and fans in the area will enjoy being part of enshrining the Class of 2016. This is always one of the most anticipated events on the calendar each year and we’re grateful for the advance support we’ve received from the Flyers and our Atlantic Affiliate.”

Tuesday also marks 50 days until the Flyers begin their 50th anniversary season.