Penn State Looks to Start New Year with Win

Penn State Looks to Start New Year with Win

Our PSU guru Kevin McGuire is back with a look toward Penn State's matchup with the University of Houston in today's Ticket City Bowl (from inside, somewhat paradoxically, the Cotton Bowl). Kick off is scheduled for 12 p.m. and can be seen on both ESPN U and ESPN 3.

We thank Kevin, as always, for his contributions during this especially difficult season on the PSU beat. Stay up to date on Kevin's activities during the off-season by checking out his work at the Examiner.com and following him @krmcguire. And now, on with the show...

Rob Bolden will look to lead the Penn State Nittany Lions to a win Monday afternoon, and get 2012 started on the right foot for a football program that has been through a rollercoaster like no other in 2011.

 
Bolden will be Penn State’s starting quarterback for the TicketCity Bowl against the Houston Cougars today in Dallas, as the Nittany Lions return to the old Cotton Bowl stadium. Matt McGloin has been ruled out for the game after continuing to fail concussion tests following an altercation with teammate and wide receiver Curtis Drake a couple weeks ago after practice. McGloin had become the full-time quarterback since Tom Bradley was named the interim head coach, although the team also utilized the wildcat offense as well, using Drake as the key wildcat quarterback. Drake, a Philadelphia native, did not make the trip to the bowl game and Bradley has not commented on how much they will actually use the wildcat offense.
 
Penn State’s offense could have a tough day ahead of them, because they will have to keep up pace against the nation’s top offense. Houston is a very pass-happy team, with sixth year senior Case Keenum looking to finish his storied college career on a high note. After losing the Conference USA championship game at home, Keenum and the Cougars dropped out of the high profile bowl scenarios, similar to the way Penn State dropped (although for much different reasons). This makes for a quality match-up in the TicketCity Bowl, and it should be one of the better match-ups when you look at Houston’s offense and Penn State’s defense.
 
“Houston is different, contrasting styles,” Tom Bradley said of the Cougars “Their tempo is different than ours, defense is different. We haven't played an offense like this in a long time.”
 
Penn State’s secondary will have to be alert all game long, because Keenum finds holes in every defense he faces. But Keenum has not gone up against a defense like Penn State’s with the likes of Devon Still bringing pressure on the defensive line. Still, a Wilmington, Delaware, native says he will play despite a case of turf toe.
 
Of course the big story surrounding the football program right now is the ongoing search for the permanent replacement for Joe Paterno, who was fired in the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky scandal that rocked the university and community a couple months ago. There have been many names to keep an eye on and it seems that every could days a new report referencing a source breaks loose, such as yesterday’s word that Penn State was leaning toward New England Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien.
 
“They haven't said anything about us regarding the coaching search,” Bradley said the other day. “As I said the other day, I had an opportunity to speak with the committee. Spent some time with them. They were very gracious. I was able to talk to them about the way I would do things. That's all that I can ask.”
 
Will the first bowl game of 2012 act as a continuing audition for Bradley, who is becoming more and more the ideal candidate for Penn State? That remains to be seen.

Phillies respond to Mackanin's verbal spanking, beat Reds on Joseph's walk-off

Phillies respond to Mackanin's verbal spanking, beat Reds on Joseph's walk-off

BOX SCORE

It's too early to tell if the worm has turned for the Phillies, but this was certainly a step in the right direction.

The Phils, who entered the day with the worst record in the majors, pulled off a 4-3, walk-off win over the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday (see Instant Replay). The Phils won it on a hit by Tommy Joseph after Aaron Altherr made a heads-up baserunning play to advance to second on a wild pitch that bounced just a few feet away from Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart.

The win was just the Phillies' sixth in the last 27 games — inching them out baseball's basement — but it was their second in the last three and both of them have been walk-off specials with Joseph delivering the winning run with a single up the middle.

"Works for me," Joseph said of his recent penchant for walk-off hits.

Works for manager Pete Mackanin, too.

On Saturday night, the Phils were beaten, 5-2, by the Reds. The Phils were held to one hit and no runs over the first eight innings by a pitcher (Tim Adleman) with an ERA of over 6.00 and after the game, Mackanin called a team meeting. The skipper was tight-lipped about the meeting, but sources say he gave the lads a verbal spanking that belied his mild-mannered personality.

Time will tell if the meeting creates lasting impact and the intensity Mackanin would like to see, but he saw a response Saturday.

"I'd like to think it did (have an impact)," Mackanin said. "I was hoping they would. They played well. They put together a few hits. The home runs were nice to see, but I would like to see us bunch four or five base hits."

For the record, Joseph did not think the meeting had a huge impact on the team. He believes the Phils are better than they have shown and did not need a manager's scolding to play better.

"No, no," he said when asked if the meeting led to more intensity. "We know what we're capable of. We have a great team in here. It's a matter of playing great as a team. We were able to show that today."

There were a lot of contributors in this win.

Cesar Hernandez, Michael Saunders and Joseph all smacked solo homers off 40-year old Cincinnati starter Bronson Arroyo.

Phillies starter Jerad Eickhoff was not at his best, but he did manage to stop the bleeding after allowing a two-run homer in the first. He pitched 5 1/3 innings and gave up only one more run before handing a tie game off to the bullpen.

That bullpen was outstanding, running its scoreless streak to 19 2/3 innings. Edubray Ramos, Pat Neshek, Joaquin Benoit and Hector Neris combined on 3 2/3 scoreless innings to keep the game tied until Joseph could work his walk-off magic in the ninth.

But that magic started when Aaron Altherr led off the bottom of the ninth with a single off Michael Lorenzen and alertly took second on an 0-2 wild pitch that didn't bounce very far away from Barnhart. Altherr's getting into scoring position for Joseph was huge.

"Tommy Joseph has been coming up big in big situations and coming through for us," Mackanin said. "That wouldn't have happened if it wasn't for Altherr coming up and advancing on that ball in the dirt. So it's a good day.

"Maybe I should have a meeting every night."

After batting just .179 with one homer and seven RBIs in April, Joseph has hit .321 (25 for 78) with seven homers and 17 RBIs in 24 games this month. He is the first Phillie with two walk-off hits in a three-game span since Juan Samuel in June 1985 and first in the majors since Starlin Castro, then of the Cubs, did it in June 2015.

"If he continues like this, he’s going to have a heck of a good year and help us win a lot of games," Mackanin said.

Joseph nearly had his career ended by a series of concussions. A month-long slump was nothing he couldn't handle.

"At the beginning of April, I didn't think I'd have an April like I did," he said. "So it was just a matter of making adjustments with (hitting coach) Matt Stairs, making sure that we stay a little more consistent with what's going on, and it's all about really sticking to the adjustments that we make."

The Phillies have not won two games in a row in exactly a month — since April 26-27.

Can they do it Sunday?

Is the worm turning for this team?

Instant Replay: Phillies 4, Reds 3

Instant Replay: Phillies 4, Reds 3

BOX SCORE

The Phillies rallied for a 4-3 walk-off win over the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday.

Tommy Joseph won it with a single up the middle with no outs in the bottom of the ninth. The hit scored Aaron Altherr, who had singled and moved to second on a wild pitch.

The Phils have won just six of their last 27 games. Joseph has had a walk-off, game-winning hit in the last two wins.

In addition to Joseph, who also homered, the star of the game was the Phillies' bullpen. Four Phils' relievers combined on 3 2/3 scoreless innings after starter Jerad Eickhoff exited. The Phillies' bullpen is riding a 19 2/3-innings scoreless streak.

Starting pitching report
Eickhoff allowed eight hits and three runs over 5 1/3 innings. He gave up a bunt hit and a two-run homer to the first two batters of the game but took a 3-2 lead into the sixth inning. He allowed a leadoff single and a one-out RBI double in that inning as the Reds tied the game at 3-3.

Veteran Bronson Arroyo, back in action at age 40 after recovering from surgery the last two seasons, gave up three runs — all on solo homers — over five innings.

Bullpen report
Good work by Edubray Ramos to get two outs in the sixth to strand a runner in scoring position and preserve a 3-3 tie. Pat Neshek, Joaquin Benoit and Hector Neris each followed with a scoreless inning. Neris struck out dangerous Joey Votto on a splitter with a man on base to end the top of the ninth. He got the win.

Austin Brice pitched two scoreless innings for the Reds. Michael Lorenzen took the loss. He gave up two hits in the ninth. Joseph's game-winning hit came on a 97 mph heater.

At the plate
Cesar Hernandez, Michael Saunders and Joseph all clouted solo homers for the Phillies. Joseph has six homers in his last 21 games.

Zack Cozart smacked a two-run homer against Eickhoff in the first inning. The Reds tied the game on a one-out double by Scooter Gennett in the sixth.

Remembering Bunning
Jim Bunning died Friday night. Larry Bowa recalled the impact that the Hall of Famer had on his career (see story).

Up next
The series concludes Sunday afternoon. Zach Eflin (0-2, 5.36) and Scott Feldman (3-4, 3.99) are the pitchers.