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.

Rays 7, Phillies 2: Mackanin calls Eickhoff 'a pretty darn good pitcher'

Rays 7, Phillies 2: Mackanin calls Eickhoff 'a pretty darn good pitcher'

BOX SCORE

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Phillies right-hander Jerad Eickhoff pitched two innings, allowed a hit, a run, walked one and struck out two in his spring debut on Monday.

Afterward, manager Pete Mackanin was asked what he believed Eickhoff's ceiling was.

"He's a pretty darn good pitcher right now," Mackanin said.

Indeed, he is.

In his first full season in the majors last year, the 26-year-old right-hander led the Phillies' starting staff in ERA (3.65), starts (33) and innings pitched (197 1/3).

He delivered 20 quality starts and became just the fourth Phillie in the last 20 years to make 33 starts and record a 3.65 ERA or better, joining three pretty good pitchers named Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay and Curt Schilling. He walked just 1.92 batters per nine innings and that was fourth-best among NL starters.

"Eickhoff is the kind of guy you can count on," Mackanin said. "He throws strikes. He knows what he's doing."

Eickhoff is intent on building on last year's success in 2017. The guy has a Halladay-like work ethic. He arrived in Clearwater on Feb. 1 and got right to work. After his two innings of work on Monday, he put in a couple of hours in the weight room and on a back field running.

"I just have to continue working," he said. "I have a very high standard for myself as a lot of us in here do. We want to be the best players that we can be."

Eickhoff is working on improving his changeup this spring and his overall goal is to make every start -- as he did last season.

"That's the priority -- make every start," he said. "That's always a priority for me.

"I'd also like to incorporate the changeup a little more and use my slider and curveball and not get heavily reliant on one or the other, which happened several times last year and I think got me into trouble at times. So incorporating both for the duration of the season and just being more crisp with execution and location is my goal.

"I'm always looking to get better. I think the sky is the limit. I'm going to continue working, whether it's being Greg Maddux-esque with command or having a good breaking ball, or throwing a changeup like Maddux and guys like that did. There's always something I'm working on and trying to develop and sharpen up."

Eickhoff lines up to start the second game of the regular season behind projected opening day starter Jeremy Hellickson.

The game
The Phillies lost to the Tampa Bay Rays, 7-2. The Phils are 2-2 on the spring.

Maikel Franco had two hits, including his third homer of the spring. It was a long drive to left field on a 1-2 fastball. He also had a single to right field.

"The thing I like early in the spring from him is he's going deeper into counts," Mackanin said. "I think he's working toward a good year this year."

Stassi impresses
Non-roster player Brock Stassi, a candidate to win a job as a reserve first baseman and outfielder (see story), did not play in the game. He, however, has a single, double and homer in the first three games.

Mackanin gushed about Stassi’s defense when asked about it Monday.

"He's one of the best first basemen I've seen in a real long time," Mackanin said. "He has no need to improve on his defense and I like the way he swings the bat. He's a real solid baseball player so he's a guy I really want to get a good look at."

Pitching matters
Starting pitchers Jake Thompson and Zach Eflin are both projected to pitch at Triple A. Both have been slowed early in camp because of health reasons, but are progressing well. Thompson has a sore right wrist and Eflin is recovering from a pair of surgeries to address tendinitis in both knees.

Both pitchers will continue to throw in the bullpen this week and ramp up to live batting practice next week. There is plenty of time for both pitchers to get their arms ready to open the season. However, the Phillies may decide to take a cautious approach with Eflin and let him build some more strength in his knees before they turn him loose. He could stay in Florida for a couple of extra weeks before joining the Triple A club.

Up next
The Phillies host the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday. Clay Buchholz will make his first start of the spring. Here is the Phillies' posted starting lineup for the game:

1. Freddy Galvis, SS
2. Howie Kendrick, LF
3. Odubel Herrera, CF
4. Maikel Franco, 3B
5. Michael Saunders, DH
6. Tommy Joseph, 1B
7. Chris Coghlan, RF
8. Cameron Rupp, C
9. Scott Kingery, 2B

Sixers waive big man Andrew Bogut

Sixers waive big man Andrew Bogut

To no surprise, Andrew Bogut is not part of the process.

The veteran big man, acquired in the Nerlens Noel trade last week, was waived by the Sixers on Monday night.

The Vertical's Shams Charania and ESPN's Marc Stein first reported the news of both parties agreeing to a contract buyout.

Bogut was included in the Sixers-Mavericks deal that sent Noel to Dallas in exchange for the 32-year-old center, Justin Anderson and a top-18 protected first-round pick (which will likely turn into two second-round picks).

Bogut will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason. Per a report Sunday by ESPN's Tim MacMahon, Bogut was set on joining Clevelend once a contract buyout with the Sixers was finalized. Bogut will have discussions with the Cavaliers, Spurs, Celtics and Rockets before making his decision, according to Stein's report.

Bogut played 26 games for the Mavericks this season, averaging 3.0 points and 8.3 rebounds per game.