Penn State Meets Illinois and Its Opportunistic Coaching Staff

Penn State Meets Illinois and Its Opportunistic Coaching Staff

This is a game many inside the Penn State program have had circled on their internal calendars since the summer (Noon / ESPN), and for good reason. Seemingly hours after the NCAA announced that picking season on Penn State players was open to all other programs, a team of coaches representing Illinois made their way to State College to see if they could get any Penn State players to switch Big Ten Leaders Division allegiances.

They hung out outside apartment buildings and the football building. Some players stayed inside the football building to avoid the coaches from Illinois. The effort made by the Illini coaching staff resulted in redshirt freshman offensive tackle Ryan Nowicki deciding to transfer to Illinois.

In fairness, Illinois played by the rules allowed by the NCAA. Still, many around the Big Ten did not believe attempting to poach any Penn State players in this fashion was appropriate. And you can be sure those within the Penn State program did not take kindly to the decisions made by Illinois. Early Saturday afternoon some of those hostilities will add fuel to the fire of what will be the Big Ten opener for both schools, who enter this weekend with identical 2-2 records, though they’ve reached this point via different paths.

For Penn State, an 0-2 start could have easily been a 2-0 start but a second half rally by Ohio and a special teams meltdown at Virginia resulted in a different tale. Still, the Nittany Lions have built their confidence on a weekly basis, evening their record with wins against Navy and Temple each of the past two weeks. The defense has played very well and the offense has adapted to a scaled back running game relying more on the ground and pound style of Michael Zordich and Zack Zwinak. This week that running game could open up with the return of Bill Belton and perhaps Derek Day.

One of the positive stories for Penn State has been the continuing maturing of quarterback Matt McGloin. Still without one of the strongest arms and at times one to make some questionable decisions to force a play, McGloin has largely been dependable and has avoided turning the ball over frequently. As a result, he’s become a leading passer in the Big Ten, which can also be credited to the style of play implemented by head coach Bill O’Brien. With Illinois showing vulnerability through the air (four passing touchdowns allowed last week), this should be an area Penn State attempts to key on, with Allen Robinson starting to turn some heads around the conference with his receiving production.

Illinois enters the Big Ten opener coming off a dismal performance at home last week, being run out of the stadium by Louisiana Tech.. It was the second time it looked as though Illinois did not look as though they belonged on the same field, as a road game at Arizona State resulted in a big loss as well. New head coach Tim Beckman has his work cut out for him now, because Penn State will enter this game with a more secure sense of confidence and a bit of an axe to grind after what went down in August.

But do not expect anyone form Penn State to give in to the notion that there is extra incentive for this game because of the Illini recruiting strategy in State College. Linebacker Mike Mauti was asked about that after last weekend’s game against the Owls, but he was reluctant to suggest it serves as motivation for the team entering this weekend. As far as he publicly said, competing for a Big Ten division championship and opening Big Ten play is enough to focus on right now.

But behind his public statements, you get a good sense he has it in the back of his head. Surely he is not alone inside the Penn State locker room, whether they want to admit it or not.

Keep up with Kevin’s college football coverage on
Twitter @KevinOnCFB.

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Instant Replay: Phillies 3, Marlins 2

ap-jeremy-hellickson.jpg
AP Images

Instant Replay: Phillies 3, Marlins 2

BOX SCORE

Jeremy Hellickson gave the Phillies six more quality innings Thursday, and he and reliever Pat Neshek each struck out Giancarlo Stanton in big run-scoring situations to help the Phils to a two-game sweep and their sixth straight win.

The Phillies didn't do much hitting on the afternoon but took advantage of opportunities with runners in scoring position to claim the 3-2 win.

They are 11-9 as they hit the road for a tough, seven-game trip against the Dodgers and Cubs.

The Marlins are 10-10.

Starting pitching report
Hellickson encountered some traffic in three different innings but was able to pitch his way out of trouble. He allowed one run on seven hits over six innings with no walks and one strikeout.

It's the second straight start he hasn't walked a batter, and he's issued just three in 30 innings this season.

Hellickson continues to get outs without striking anyone out. His only K of the afternoon, though, was clutch — it came against Stanton with nobody out and runners on the corners in the fourth inning.

The fourth inning was the turning point of Hellickson's outing and really the game. Runners were on first and third with Stanton, Marcell Ozuna and J.T. Realmuto coming up. Hellickson struck out Stanton, got Ozuna to pop up and Realmuto to line out, all on changeups. 

The Marlins are 7 for 54 (.130) against Hellickson's changeup since the start of last season.

Through five starts, Hellickson is 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA and 0.80 WHIP. His trade value continues to rise, as does his importance to this pitching staff.

For the Marlins, Edinson Volquez missed the strike zone plenty but gave up only three runs (two earned) over 5⅔ innings. He walked four batters for the third straight start.

Bullpen report
Pat Neshek inherited a jam in the seventh and allowed a run to score but retired Martin Prado and Stanton to end the threat. 

Neshek is a real weapon in the bullpen because of his funky delivery and unorthodox repertoire. He's already made big bats like Yoenis Cespedes and Stanton look silly this season. It pays to have different looks out of the back end of your bullpen.

Joaquin Benoit pitched a 1-2-3 eighth with two strikeouts. He's put just two men on base in five scoreless innings since being moved back to the eighth inning.

Hector Neris needed just seven pitches to earn his third save in as many chances.

At the plate
The Phillies didn't have many hits but were able to push runs across when they had men in scoring position. Freddy Galvis tripled and scored in the third inning, and Brock Stassi tripled in an insurance run in the sixth.

Galvis enjoys himself some Volquez — lifetime, he's 6 for 10 with two doubles, a triple and a homer off him.

It was Stassi's first career triple.

Maikel Franco reached base three more times with two singles and a walk. Franco has been locked in over the last week, going 10 for 23 with a double, two homers, 10 RBIs, three walks and just one strikeout over his last six games. His batting line has crept up to .221/.291/.403. Not great, but it was .148/.217/.278 a week ago.

And this is a little thing, but Andrew Knapp, batting eighth, had two quality plate appearances his first two times up, singling and walking with nobody on and two outs to turn the lineup over twice.

Phillie-killers silenced
Prado has more hits against the Phillies than he has against any other team. And he did have a solo homer Wednesday night, but the .305 lifetime hitter off the Phils went just 2 for 8 in the series. It's key to get him out ahead of Yelich and Stanton.

Ozuna, meanwhile, went 0 for 8 in the series. He entered as a .310 hitter against the Phillies and a .272 hitter vs. the rest of the division.

In the field
Trying quickly to turn a double play on Odubel Herrera in the first inning, Marlins second baseman Dee Gordon made an errant throw to first base that trickled past Justin Bour and allowed Daniel Nava to score. It was a heads-up baserunning play by Nava, who would have just advanced from second to third if not for Gordon's throw.

Franco made a tough play on a short-hop off the bat of Ozuna in a key spot with one out and Stanton on second base in the sixth inning. It was an all-or-nothing play — had Franco not timed the hop perfectly with his backhand, it would have put Hellickson in a jam.

On the bases
On consecutive pitches to Franco in the first inning, Herrera stole second and was then thrown out at third by a pretty good margin. The Phillies challenged that Prado didn't apply the tag but there wasn't enough evidence to overturn the call on the field.

Herrera is 3 for 5 on stolen base attempts this season.

Health check
Reliever Edubray Ramos was removed in the seventh inning after taking a line drive off the elbow.

Up next
The Phillies head out West for a three-game series at Dodger Stadium and it looks like they'll avoid Clayton Kershaw after all. He was initially scheduled to pitch Sunday but here are the updated pitching probables:

Friday night at 10:10 — Jerad Eickhoff (0-1, 2.55) vs. Kenta Maeda (1-2, 8.05)

Saturday night at 9:10 — Zach Eflin (0-0, 2.25) vs. Brandon McCarthy (3-0, 2.25)

Sunday afternoon at 4:10 — Nick Pivetta (MLB debut) vs. Hyun-Jin Ryu (0-4, 4.64)

NFL Draft Experience is open and bumping with Carson Wentz the early star

NFL Draft Experience is open and bumping with Carson Wentz the early star

The fans lined up early on Thursday in Philadelphia waiting for the NFL Draft Experience to open up at noon and there was actually a pretty exciting vibe while waiting in line, complete with Eagles chants. There have been plenty of Eagles chants. Expect that to be a theme throughout the weekend.

None more so than when Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz made an appearance. I first saw him drive by on a golf cart -- or a Wentz Wagon if you will -- while he was making his way to take photos with fans. A pretty exciting scene for any Eagles fan, I must say. Probably the highlight of the day so far.

He apparently messed with a Cowboys fan as well. Nicely done, Carson.

The weather in Philly is quite warm today with temps in the 80s. You'll get a good little sweat going if you decide to wait in line and participate in the 40-yard dash like I did. Running 40 yards is exhausting. And you'll have to wait a good bit to get your turn. Early on lines were maybe 20-30 minutes to participate in a drill, but they've since grown longer. Expect long lines for all of the activities today.So expect plenty of waiting if you want to try your legs at a vertical jump test or field goal kicking opportunity. After waiting probably 30 minutes, I got my two kicks up on the goal posts and will not be drafted by the Tampa Bay Bucs. Kicking is tough.

There are water filling stations if you've got a bottle to put it in. Those come in handy on such a warm day.

The beer is flowing as well. At many concession stands and also at the Draft Tavern. There are plenty of options as long as you like Budweiser products. They've got some IPA they make, some Stella, a Vienna Lager, a Pilsner, and all the usual suspects. Expect to pay about $12 for a 25-ounce can.

There's a plethora of food options from relatively cheap $5 hot dogs to $12 cheesesteaks. I tried out the cheesesteak from Tony Luke's and have to say I was very disappointed. When the worker handed it to me, I literally asked, "is this hot?" To which she said, "The bread isn't but the steak is." It wasn't. So I paid $12 for a cold cheesesteak I'd give a grade of a 'C-.' It could have been a 'B-' if it was moderately warm. It had no seasoning. But there was cheese on it and cheese is pretty hard to mess up. And the roll was fresh at least. I only ate half of it so that'll tell you what I really thought of it.

You can get pretty close to the draft stage and "NFL Draft Theater" without actually having a ticket. Check out the view from the public area:

The zip line looks fun but again, expect a lengthy wait.

This guy wins the day.

You can get a t-shirt for 35 bucks too.

The crowd right before the gates opened. 

Inside the Draft Tavern. You can enjoy a beverage anywhere inside whole Draft Experience.