In Virginia, Penn State Looks to Avoid 0-2 Start

In Virginia, Penn State Looks to Avoid 0-2 Start

After opening the season with a tough loss at home to Ohio, a result once thought impossible for a program like Penn State, the question this week is: Where do the Nittany Lions go from here? Well, the answer is simple. 

Charlottesville, Virginia.

Penn State makes their first road trip of the 2012 season when they take on the Virginia Cavaliers Saturday afternoon (12pm / ABC). The blue and white will look to regroup on offense and defense, and find a way to put together a more complete effort than they presented last week in Bill O’Brien’s head coaching debut. Against a balanced team like Virginia, avoiding the program’s first 0-2 start since 2001 will be no small task.

For Penn State to pick up its first win, it needs to focus on some of the positives from last week, and ensure that they continue after halftime. Right out of the gate, Penn State put on display the type of pass-first offense fans can expect to see under O’Brien in the years to come. Matt McGloin was effective in spreading the ball around to his receivers and was accurate going left, right and over the middle in the first half. It was a far cry from the type of McGloin fans have witnessed the past two years, as he was confident, calm and not in a need to force much. 

But the youth of some of the skill positions was also on display, with Bill Belton fumbling to kill a promising drive and unable to hold on to a short pass for a first down. Receivers also started dropping some passes or were unable to stretch just enough to bring in some big gains, a recurring theme from the 2011 offense.

That developing offense will go up against a Virginia defense that held a decent Richmond team to just 28 rushing yards. With Derek Day looking to take the lead in the running game ahead of a banged up Belton, who knows what Penn State would be able to do with the ground game anyway. The depth at tailback is shallow with Belton and Day both taking some licks last week against Ohio.

Most upsetting for Penn State last week was the way the defense allowed Ohio to find some cracks they eventually broke wide open. The wind was seemingly knocked out of Penn State’s defense when a tipped pass was caught by an Ohio receiver and taken the rest of the way for a stunning touchdown. That one lucky bounce for Ohio turned the game around, but poor tackling and a breakdown in coverage by the Penn State defense did little to stop it. The linebackers were what you would expect, but the defensive line filed to record a sack on Tyler Tettleton as the Bobcats took control.

Against Virginia Penn State will hope to be able to bring more pressure on Cavaliers quarterback Michael Rocco, son of former Nittany Lion quarterback Frank Rocco. Rocco is not a top notch quarterback, but, if given protection, he has more than enough ability to have the same kind of quietly steady performance Tettleton had last week.

This game may be a grind for both teams, but if Penn State’s defense can lock down on their tackling then they should be able to at least give Penn State’s offense a chance to do something this week.

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

*

Follow The700Level on Facebook and Twitter.

Best of MLB: Trout's 16th home run guides Angels past Marlins

Best of MLB: Trout's 16th home run guides Angels past Marlins

MIAMI -- Mike Trout hit his major league-leading 16th homer, and the Los Angeles Angels reached the .500 mark for the 12th time this season by beating Miami 5-2 Saturday.

Trout's first-inning homer into the beer garden in left field was estimated at 443 feet, which pleased a fair portion of the crowd at Marlins Park.

"Hate Fish Love Trout," read a sign held by an Angels fans.

J.C. Ramirez (5-3) limited Miami to an unearned run in seven innings and benefited from excellent defense. Bud Norris, who tweaked his right knee and left Friday's game after throwing only three pitches, gave up a homer to Marcell Ozuna in the ninth (see full recap).

Strasburg K's career-high 15, Nats down Padres 3-0
WASHINGTON -- Stephen Strasburg dominated San Diego with a career-high 15 strikeouts while allowing three hits over seven innings as the Washington Nationals beat the Padres 3-0 on Saturday.

Strasburg (6-1) singled and scored Washington's first run on Bryce Harper's RBI grounder in the third inning. Michael A. Taylor hit a two-run homer for the second consecutive game.

San Diego's lineup offered little resistance against Strasburg the day after Max Scherzer dominated the Padres with 13 strikeouts in Washington's 5-1 win.

Strasburg struck out the side in the third and sixth and had at least two in the first six innings.

The right-hander previously struck out 14 batters twice including his Major League debut on June 8, 2010. He set a personal best by setting down Franchy Cordero in the seventh (see full recap).

Yankees held hitless into 6th by Cotton, but beat A's 3-2
NEW YORK -- Oakland rookie Jharel Cotton held the Yankees hitless until Matt Holliday launched a two-run homer with two outs in the sixth inning that sent resurgent CC Sabathia and New York to a 3-2 victory Saturday.

Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge was in the right spot for a pair of key catches to boost the AL East leaders, who won with just two hits.

Sabathia (5-2) has won three straight starts for the first time since April 2013. The 36-year-old lefty pitched into the seventh and struck out nine.

Dellin Betances escaped a second-and-third, one-out jam in the eighth, an inning that included the ejections of A's hitter Jed Lowrie and manager Bob Melvin for arguing strike three calls. Betances closed for his fifth save.

Cotton (3-5) was promoted from Triple-A Nashville before the game. He began the season in the Athletics' rotation but was sent down to the minors May 11 to refine his game (see full recap).

Bautista hits 3-run HR, Blue Jays beat Rangers 3-1
TORONTO -- Jose Bautista hit a three-run homer that backed Marco Estrada, and the Toronto Blue Bays beat the Texas Rangers 3-1 Saturday and matched their longest winning streak this season at five.

Shin-soo Choo homered into the center-field party deck on the first pitch of the game from Marco Estrada, but Bautista hit a two-out drive in the fifth, his eighth home run in May after one in April.

Estrada (4-2) allowed four hits in six innings to win for the third time in four starts. Aaron Loup got one out in the seventh, Ryan Tepera finished the inning and Joe Smith worked the eighth. Roberto Osuna threw a perfect ninth for his ninth save, completing a six-hitter.

Darvish (5-3) gave up three runs and five hits in six innings. He had been 4-0 with a 2.54 ERA in six starts since losing April 18 at Oakland. Texas has lost five in a row for the first time this year (see full recap).

Reliever Joaquin Benoit gives manager Mackanin a thumbs-up for calling team meeting

Reliever Joaquin Benoit gives manager Mackanin a thumbs-up for calling team meeting

Pete Mackanin gave his team an earful after it lost for the 21st time in 26 games Friday night.
 
Reliever Joaquin Benoit thought it was a good idea.
 
And he believes it had an impact.
 
The Phillies reported for work on Saturday and beat the Cincinnati Reds, 4-3, on Tommy Joseph's walk-off hit in the ninth (see game story).
 
"It always helps when the manager comes and talks about different situations and the things we need to do," said Benoit, a 39-year-old veteran in his 17th big-league season. "It always helps. It shows that everybody cares on the whole team and it's a wake-up call for everybody."
 
While Joseph was the ultimate hero for the Phillies on Saturday, Benoit and his mates in the bullpen weren't far behind. Edubray Ramos, Pat Neshek, Benoit and Hector Neris combined on 3 2/3 scoreless innings to help put Joseph in a position to win it in the ninth.
 
Not long ago, the Phillies' bullpen was having big problems, giving up big hits and posting big ERA numbers.
 
But over the last five games, the bullpen has racked up a string of scoreless innings that numbers 19 2/3. That scoreless streak has lowered the bullpen's overall ERA from 4.82 to 4.23, not great, but better and moving in the right direction.
 
"I believe that we are going good, taking advantage of the situation," Benoit said. "I think we are being more consistent in the strike zone and getting ahead. That translates to zeroes."
 
Benoit had been critical of Mackanin for not having his relievers in set roles. The manager responded by saying it was difficult to give guys set roles when they were pitching poorly.
 
Performances are improving.

And roles are now emerging.
 
"I believe everything is going well for us and I believe everyone is where they are supposed to be," Benoit said.
 
Benoit took some pride in Saturday's win. He has pitched seven straight scoreless innings.
 
"Every win is a step forward," he said.
 
No matter how many steps this Phillies team takes forward, it will not be a contender this season. It has dug itself a huge hole and it wasn't expected to contend anyway. It is a rebuilding team.
 
But Benoit will likely pitch for a contender later this season. He is expected to be dealt to a contender in July. Who knows what he will bring back, but his value will only go up if he can keep putting up zeroes.
 
Neshek, too. He has allowed just two runs in 18 2/3 innings. He has 15 strikeouts and just three walks.
 
While it's not clear how long Benoit will be here, he believes this Phillies team has weathered the worst and is ready for a turnaround.
 
"It's tough when you are losing," he said. "When you start winning and you do the little things, I believe everything can change.
 
"I'm the kind of guy who likes to start over from zero so everything that happens is in the past and you start over from scratch and let's see where everything goes from now on."