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.

Wayne Simmonds stars as Flyers top Predators, push win streak to 5 games

Wayne Simmonds stars as Flyers top Predators, push win streak to 5 games

BOX SCORE

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Dave Hakstol likes Wayne Simmonds’ net-front play more than that of any player in the league.

The Flyers' power forward showed on Sunday why his coach thinks that way.

Simmonds’ two power-play goals in front of the crease helped extend the Flyers’ win streak to five, their longest of the season, in a 4-2 win over the Nashville Predators on Sunday night (see Instant Replay).

“If there’s a better guy in the league at net front, whether it’s on power play or 5 on 5, I don’t know who that is,” said Hakstol said after Sunday's victory. “He did a great job there tonight.”

Simmonds’ first goal came when he deflected Jake Voracek’s shot past Juuse Saros, giving the Flyers a 1-0 lead at 18:12 of the first period.

“They had great movement around the top of the box and Jake told me to go back door if he was going to get it for a one-timer,” Simmonds said. “So I stuck my stick out back door and he hit it, and it went in the net.”

Then Simmonds batted a puck through Saros' legs for a 2-1 advantage at 6:47 of the second period for his team-leading 13th goal of the season.

“It was kind of a little bit of a cluster and the puck comes to me, and I’m alone in front of the net so I just put it five-hole and it worked,” Simmonds said.

The right wing’s father was watching in the sellout crowd of 17,113 at Bridgestone Arena during the Flyers' annual father-son trip.

“It was nice, obviously,” Simmonds said. “I just went outside and saw him. He didn’t really say much to me, but I know he’s glowing on the inside.”

Simmonds has now scored 10 career goals in 20 games against Nashville.

“What I really like about Simmer is he’s at net-front, he’s scoring goals, he’s on the power play, but he’s a great, hard-nosed, 200-foot player,” Hakstol said.

Simmonds’ goals gave the Flyers an early spark on Sunday.

“It was huge,” said Flyers left wing Michael Raffl, who scored the winning goal at 16:37 of the second period when made a power move on a rush and tucked the puck past Saros. “That gives us all the momentum.”

The Flyers improved to 7-3-1 in their last 11 games.

“We’re just trying to take care of pucks and maintain the pressure that we have,” Simmonds said. “The next shift up every game is the most important shift and that’s how we’re trying to play it here.”

Predators coach Peter Laviolette, a former Flyers coach, wasn’t surprised by his former team’s power-play success. The Flyers entered the game tied for the third best power play in the league cashed in twice on seven chances on Sunday.

“We knew going in that their power play was really good,” Laviolette said. “Their players have a lot of time together and cohesiveness and they’re pretty set in what they do. They bring pucks to the net and when they do that, things can happen. That was a difference in the game tonight.”

Winning goalie Steve Mason has started 10 of the last 11 games. He made 30 saves Sunday to improve his record to 8-8-3.

“This is the situation I want to be in, so it’s a workload that all summer you prepare for even when I was not getting the work load I wanted,” Mason said. “You prepare for it and now that it’s here I’m making the most of it.”

Sources: Phillies close to signing reliever Joaquin Benoit

Sources: Phillies close to signing reliever Joaquin Benoit

WASHINGTON – It looks as if the Phillies will have some action at the winter meetings.

The team is close to signing veteran reliever Joaquin Benoit, sources tell CSNPhilly.com. The winter meetings officially begin on Monday. The signing is expected to be announced before the meetings end on Thursday.

Benoit, 39, is a veteran of 15 seasons in the majors. He is coming off a strong 2016 season in which he pitched in 51 games for Seattle and Toronto and recorded a 2.81 ERA.

Benoit began the 2016 season with the Mariners and had a 5.18 ERA in 26 games. He was traded to Toronto in July and gave up just one run in 23 2/3 innings over 25 games, but did not pitch in the postseason after suffering a torn calf muscle in late September.

The right-hander has pitched for six teams in his career and has a lifetime 3.79 ERA in 712 games.

Entering the offseason, Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said he wanted to improve the bullpen. He opened the offseason by trading for veteran right-hander Pat Neshek and last week claimed lefty David Rollins off waivers from Texas. Now, Klentak is poised to add Benoit.

Benoit has mostly pitched in a setup role in his career, but he does have closer experience. It is unclear what role he’d pitch in for the Phillies. The Phils have Jeanmar Gomez and Hector Neris returning to the back of their bullpen in 2017. Benoit could complement that pair or the Phillies could choose to trade Gomez or Neris.

Neris pitched in 79 games in 2016 and had a 2.58 ERA, so the Phillies would only deal him if they were to get a strong package of talent in return.