Welcome, Eagles Fans, to the Flyers Cup Run

Welcome, Eagles Fans, to the Flyers Cup Run

Good morning, and a hearty, open-armed welcome to those of you who are strictly Eagles fans. I kinda feel like the priest at mass on Easter Sunday, welcoming the parishioners who've been away all season and are now in need of some salvation from heartbreak and hang over. Not to confuse things, I've been there with you for every snap, right to the end. But if you're a regular around these parts, it's no secret I've been keeping pace with the Flyers just as closely. 

For those who don't follow hockey religiously, the season can be a bit long, but with the Birds bowing out early, you're just in time to catch up with a Flyers team that is on the rise heading into the second half. Can they win it all? I have no idea—they've been too inconsistent so far to say anything with any certainty about them. But if they even get close, it'll be based on the run they just started, and it's a great time to take a look at this team if you haven't been watching the first half of the season. 

With games on only Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday before next week, the Flyers' schedule seems lighter than it has been in a while. That may be great for the players and their families, but I really could have used a puck drop yesterday afternoon rather than having to watch the NFL proceed without us, which it will now do for the next month

The one bright side is that the timing couldn't be better to get in touch with the city's on-ice activities. Here's a look at the Flyers' season to come, including some encouraging signals we can take from our cross-state rivals. 

A quick peak at the standings will show you a Flyers team that has underachieved embarrassingly. They were supposed to have improved from last season, not be one point ahead of the Islanders and last place in the division. Yes, there was a terrible stretch, and it was fairly recent at that—so recent that it could resurface at any second. We won't lose sight of that. At some points this season, we've wondered whether '09-'10 would end up being worse than '06-'07, because at least the expectations on that team weren't nearly as high. This team was picked by many to win the Cup. This team was built to win now, perhaps even with a lien on its future holdings. 

But right now, the Flyers have won seven of their last nine games. They're suddenly one of the hottest teams in hockey, beating the cupcakes as well as a contender. It took longer than we'd hoped, but the team has the appearances of having finally picked up on new head coach Peter Laviolette's offensive systems. Not to completely overblow a relatively short winning streak, but they've been scoring at will lately, and it's been really fun to watch. 

I've never been in favor of changing the game to attract new fans, having more penalties result in more goals scored on the powerplay, or flashing red pucks, but I can honestly say that this brand of hockey suits casual fans and diehards alike—and it's the exact opposite of the limp and lifeless offensive efforts they'd been giving until this point. 

So if you're just tuning in, your timing couldn't be better. 

One of the more interesting pieces of hockey prose I've read this season comes from the desk of the Delco Times' Anthony San Filippo. It's a bit dated today, having been posted last Wednesday, but ASF does some great analysis on the Flyers' remaining schedule, which isn't all that bad, all things considered. For those who understandably think the team's recent surge is due primarily to the low level of their opponents, well... get ready for more of the same. The considerable majority of the remaining schedule will be played against teams that are currently below .500 (a stat that is a little convoluted given how the NHL awards points for some losses). San Filippo does warn that the travel involved in the schedule is considerable, but overall he paints a picture indicating that has the Flyers clearly making the playoffs. 

I'll add to that by recalling something that was going on in Pittsburgh this time last year. On January 11, 2009, the Penguins were 20-19-4. This season, exactly one year later, the Flyers are 22-19-3. I'm pretty sure I don't need to remind you what happened for the Pens last spring. I'm still scrubbing the image from my eyes with Comet cleanser. Things actually got worse for the Penguins before they got better, including the fact that their coach was fired. 

On January 13, 2009, I wrote this, just before the Flyers and Pens faced off. Pittsburgh was playing terrible, system-failure hockey, but—just like the current Flyers team—it was impossible to believe they were anywhere near as bad as their record indicated. Their roster was too talented, and so is that of the Flyers. 

Just as it was hard to believe that this roster could possibly play as badly as it did for over a month, it should be equally easy to think the same group can turn it around and play the way we always expected them to. There's depth at forward just as there was last season, with an even better amount of pressure coming from the third and fourth lines—which have been the heart of this team (particularly the fourth). The goaltending is actually a strength in most games. And the defense now features a top pairing that can play with the best in the league, as well as do its part in breaking out the offensive rush, which is even more important in Lavvy's systems. If Kimmo and Coburn can turn their fortunes around in the second pairing, the D will be downright scary. 

Every team's season has its peaks and valleys, some obviously more pronounced than others. But peaking at the right time is huge, as evidenced by the Penguins' amazing run last spring. Hopefully the Flyers are just getting started on their run. The first half of 2010 needs a successful team to help us forget the Birds, and at least hold us over until the Phillies come north. But I think the Flyers may even be capable of more than that. 

This is Philadelphia. We're used to turning the page after one season ends without a parade, hoping the next won't end the same. 

Photos courtesy of the talented Will Elliott

Penn routs Yale, 42-7, behind Alek Torgersen's four TDs


Penn routs Yale, 42-7, behind Alek Torgersen's four TDs

NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- Alek Torgersen threw four touchdown passes, three to Justin Watson, and Penn rolled to a 42-7 victory over Yale in the first night game in Yale Bowl history.

Torgersen completed 16 of 23 passes for 229 yards and rushed for 66 yards. Watson had 10 receptions for 166 yards with touchdowns covering 5, 41 and 35 yards.

Torgersen moved into a tie for second with 47 career TD passes and Watson moved into fourth in career receptions (161) and touchdowns (17) for the Quakers (4-2, 3-0 Ivy Leauge).

Tre Solomon rushed for 120 yards, seven shy of the career high he set a week earlier, on 15 carries, including a 3-yard touchdown run, for Penn, which won its fourth straight. Cameron Countryman had a 10-yard touchdown reception and Karekin Brooks had a 13-yard run for his first career touchdown.

Penn, which led 35-0 at halftime, finished with 508 yards and held the Bulldogs (1-5, 1-2) to 229.

Instant Replay: Temple 46, South Florida 30

USA Today Images

Instant Replay: Temple 46, South Florida 30


Despite some hiccups along the road this season, Temple is now right where it planned on being to start 2016: atop the American Athletic Conference East Division.

Temple turned the tables on run-oriented South Florida to gash the Bulls for 319 yards rushing (210 coming from Ryquell Armstead) in a 46-30 win at Lincoln Financial Field on Friday night.

The Owls (5-3, 3-1 AAC) avenged last season’s blowout with the win and, more importantly, moved into a first-place tie in the conference’s East Division. With back-to-back victories over South Florida and Central Florida, Temple now holds tiebreakers over the two closest teams in the East standings.

South Florida (6-2, 3-1 AAC) had its three-game winning streak snapped.

Turning point
After falling behind 23-20 on a quick three-play, 84-yard touchdown drive, the Owls’ defense looked like it might allow the floodgates to open for good.

However, Temple’s offense picked up the D by scoring in just three plays of its own. Jahad Thomas and Isaiah Wright churned out big runs before Armstead broke free around the right side for a 42-yard touchdown.

Even with South Florida getting good field position on the next possession thanks to a taunting penalty by Armstead, the Owls’ defense was able to pick up on the momentum. The unit forced a three-and-out and then blocked the ensuing punt to get the ball back at the Bulls’ 20-yard line.

Two plays later, Thomas scampered into the end zone from nine yards out to give Temple a double-digit lead.

Big men on campus
Armstead did the heavy lifting for Temple. He racked up 20 carries for 210 yards, to become the 10th back in school history to reach the 200-yard rushing plateau. He ran in scores from 76 yards and 42 yards out. The 76-yarder was TU’s eighth-longest touchdown run in school history. 

Jahad Thomas increased his streak of two-TD games to six with a pair of rushing scores in the second half.

Phillip Walker was efficient for the Owls as he completed 14 of 21 passes for 209 yards with one TD and zero interceptions.

Ventell Bryant had five catches for 115 yards to top the 100-yard receiving mark for the first time in his career.

Linebacker Stephaun Marshall led Temple with eight tackles while Delvon Randall had seven tackles and an interception. Averee Robinson had a pair of sacks for the Owls and Romond Deloatch tacked on a sack for a safety.

For USF, the dynamic duo of quarterback Quinton Flowers and tailback Marlon Mack combined for 377 total yards and four touchdowns.

Inside the box score
• Matt Rhule improved his all-time record to 23-23 with the win.

• Temple moved to 4-1 at Lincoln Financial Field this season.

• South Florida had won nine straight AAC East Division games prior to Friday night.

• USF entered the game ranked eighth in the nation in rushing yards per game (268.4). The Bulls were held to 165 against Temple.

• Praise Martin-Oguike blocked an extra point to give him an NCAA-leading five blocked kicks in his career.

Friday’s game marked the third all-time matchup between the two schools.

South Florida rolled to a 44-23 win over then-ranked No. 22 Temple last season, while TU took the first-ever meeting, 37-28, back in 2012.

Commish chats
The Big 12 Conference announced earlier this week that it would no longer be seeking teams for possible expansion.

That decision certainly wasn’t made for a lack of effort as over a dozen schools were rumored to be potential expansion candidates, including American Athletic Conference programs Houston, Connecticut, Cincinnati and Tulane.

The possibility of an AAC team defecting to a Power 5 conference didn’t bother Commissioner Mike Aresco. For him, it’s all good publicity for the up-and-coming American.

“It spoke volumes about the fact that our schools are the ones that everybody looked at in terms of being in a P5 (Power 5 conference) and we were the schools that the Big 12 looked at for the most part,” Aresco said before Friday’s Temple-South Florida game at Lincoln Financial Field. “The majority of our schools and at times it almost seemed like it was virtually all of our schools and exclusively our schools.

“The truth is, that really gave us the kind of publicity and attention and a lot of it was good. Our schools are good schools and we played well. Houston had the big win in the meantime against Oklahoma. That was priceless publicity. We probably haven’t gotten that kind of branding and recognition nationally any other way.”

What’s next?
Temple will be back at the Linc next Saturday for a 3:30 p.m. matchup against Cincinnati.

South Florida returns home next Friday for a big tilt against No. 24 Navy.