Penn State's losing skid reaches 14 games


Penn State's losing skid reaches 14 games


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- D.J. Richardson started slow Thursday but finished with 18 points and hit a pair of key free throws late in Illinois' ugly 64-59 win over Penn State.

The win was the fifth straight for Illinois (20-8, 7-7 Big Ten). But facing a team that hadn't won since late December, it didn't come easy.

Jermaine Marshall's 3-pointer brought Penn State within 62-59 with 5 seconds left. Richardson then sank a pair of free throws that sealed the win.

Illinois led 29-20 at the end of a brutal first half.

The Illini's Brandon Paul entered the game a point shy of 1,500 in his career. It took him almost 17 minutes to get it. He finished with 16.

Penn State (8-18, 0-14) has lost 14 straight. The Nittany Lions committed 31 fouls and sent the Illini to the line 36 times. They made 23.

Jermaine Marshall led Penn State with 20 points.

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Penn State vs. No. 2 Ohio State: Nittany Lions host Buckeyes in primetime


Penn State vs. No. 2 Ohio State: Nittany Lions host Buckeyes in primetime

Penn State (4-2, 2-1) vs. No. 2 Ohio State (6-0, 3-0)
Beaver Stadium, State College, Pennsylvania
Saturday, 8 p.m., ABC

Scouting Penn State
The Nittany Lions were off last week, but the week before beat Maryland 38-14, in what was probably their strongest overall effort since Langhorne native James Franklin became the head coach in 2014.

Saquon Barkley ran for 202 yards in that game, which was not only a career high for the sophomore running back but the most by a Penn State player since Larry Johnson ran for 279 against Michigan State in 2002. Barkley has rushed for 582 yards (5.0 yards per carry), fourth-most in the Big Ten, and had 194 in a 38-10 loss to the Buckeyes last year in Columbus. He is also second in the conference with nine touchdowns.

Lions linebackers Jason Cabinda and Brandon Bell, out since early in the season with undisclosed injuries, are expected to return this week to the beleaguered defense, which is led by safety Marcus Allen with 57 tackles. 

Scouting Ohio State
The Buckeyes (6-0) beat Wisconsin, 30-23, in overtime last week on the road, as J.T. Barrett threw a seven-yard touchdown pass to Noah Brown in the extra period and the OSU defense staved off the Badgers’ bid for a tie.

Barrett leads the Big Ten in passing efficiency, having completed 63.2 percent of his passes for 1,207 yards and 16 touchdowns, with four interceptions. He also presides over a unit that is fourth in the FBS in scoring (49.3 ppg) and rushing (300.5 ypg), and 12th in total offense (516.5). Tailback Mike Weber and H-back Curtis Samuel are second and 10th in the conference in rushing with 612 (6.5 ypc) and 456 yards (7.4), respectively, and Barrett has added 434.

The OSU defense, which like the offense has eight new starters this season, is third in the FBS in points allowed (12.8), sixth in yardage yielded (280.3) and 20th against the rush (120.8). That unit is also fourth in pass-efficiency defense, and its 11 interceptions are fifth-most in the country; safety Malik Hooker has four of those.

The Buckeyes lead the all-time series, 18-13, and have won the last four meetings.

Storyline to watch
Can Paris Palmer hold up at left tackle? He made 11 uneven starts last season, but was chained to the bench the first five weeks this fall. Then right tackle Andrew Nelson was lost for the season to a knee injury sustained in the second quarter of the Maryland game, Brendan Mahon moved from the left side to Nelson’s spot and Palmer was inserted. Tough opponent to face in your first start of the year.

What’s at stake
The Lions are seeking a signature victory. Besides their four consecutive losses to the Buckeyes, they have dropped three straight to both Michigan and Michigan State. The average score of those 10 losses is 38-13.

The Lions are improving, but Ohio State remains a cut above.

Ohio State 35, Penn State 17

No. 16 Villanova vs. No. 23 Albany: With or without Bednarczyk, can Wildcats rebound?


No. 16 Villanova vs. No. 23 Albany: With or without Bednarczyk, can Wildcats rebound?

No. 16 Villanova (5-2, 3-1) vs. No. 23 Albany (4-2, 1-2)
Villanova Stadium, Villanova, Pa.
Saturday, 3:30 p.m.

Fresh off a rare loss, Villanova looks to get back on track during its homecoming game against another nationally ranked foe. Here’s a look at the matchup:

Scouting Villanova
The Wildcats saw their five-game winning streak snapped in resounding fashion as they were shut out for the first time since 2004 in a 23-0 loss to Richmond. Sophomore quarterback Zach Bednarczyk left the game in the second quarter with an injury, a big reason why the Wildcats finished with just 222 yards of total offense. But despite the final score, Villanova’s defense played well again with Austin Calitro and Rob Rolle each hitting double digits in tackles. The unit is ranked fifth in the FCS in scoring defense (16.3 points per game) and sixth in total defense (237.9 yards per game) and has scored four defensive touchdowns.

Scouting Albany
After winning their first four games, the Great Danes lost their next two, a 36-30 triple-overtime heartbreaker to Richmond followed by a 20-16 setback to Maine. Sophomore quarterback Neven Sussman led Albany with 187 passing yards and 75 rushing yards. But for the season, their offensive strength has been with sophomore running back Elijah Ibitokun-Hanks, who’s second in the CAA in rushing, averaging 105 yards per game. Albany’s defense is only behind Villanova in points allowed per game (19.3) in the CAA, but interestingly enough is last in total defense (420.2 yards per game). The Great Danes lead the league in turnover margin (plus-15), led by linebacker Michael Nicastro and safety Mason Gray with three interceptions apiece.

Series history
Villanova has only played Albany twice, beating the Great Danes, 48-31, in 2014 and steamrolling it, 37-0, last season. 

Storyline to watch
The big question going in is whether Bednarczyk will play with Villanova saying it will be a game-time decision after the QB suffered a concussion last week. If he can’t go, Adeyemi DaSilva will get the start in his place after replacing him in the second quarter vs. Richmond. DaSilva is a promising player but Bednarczyk was coming into his own this season and his absence would naturally be a difficult one. Of course, the Wildcats have been through this before with Bednarczyk taking over as the starter last season when star John Robertson went down with an injury of his own.

What’s at stake?
Villanova still has a chance to win the CAA but probably can’t afford a second loss in the league. And of course, there’s nothing better than winning in front of a homecoming crowd.

A lot depends on whether Bednarczyk can play … but even if he doesn’t, the Wildcats’ dominant defense may be enough to get the job done. 

Villanova 20, Albany 17