CFB: Illinois Stuns #7 Penn State in Nine Overtimes

Image 1Photo: Illinois Football Twitter/@IlliniFootball

By Michael Lipinski, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

Illinois, a 24-point underdog, used a classic Big Ten ground and pound style to upset No. 7 Penn State in a nine-overtime slog on homecoming in Happy Valley.  The Illini’s two back combo of Chase Brown and Joshua McCray rushed for 365-yards and a touchdown in the upset.   The winning play came in the bottom of the ninth overtime period, Brandon Peters, who replaced the injured Art Sitkowski in the previous period, connected with wide receiver Casey Washington to seal the Illini victory.  The loss ends Penn State’s college football playoff hopes and most likely eliminates them from Big Ten championship contention.

Sean Clifford, who was injured in the Iowa loss, played the whole game for the Nittany Lions however it was evident early on that he was not 100% healthy.  Penn State offensive coordinator Mike Yurich’s play calls were run heavy and see little movement from the otherwise mobile quarterback. There was a glimmer of hope for the Penn State passing game when Clifford connected with KeAndre Lambert-Smith for a 42-yard touchdown in the first quarter. 

The Nittany Lions were never able to duplicate that success through the air and were held to measly 62-yards on 29 rushing attempts.  It’s worth asking whether the offensive would’ve been run more effectively by Ta’Quan Roberson or Christian Veilleux who split reps this week in practice.

A week after being called out by head coach Bret Bielema, the Illini offensive line came out and handled the more seasoned Penn State defensive line.  Penn State’s depth, which was pointed out as a major plus in the preview, was never a factor in the game. Penn State had no answer for the run heavy Illini attack. 

On paper this game should not have been close but that’s the beauty of football, the game isn’t played on paper.  Perhaps Penn State was looking past the Illini and focusing on their marquee matchup against Ohio State. Maybe the Illini came into this game knowing it was their “bowl” game.  Whatever the reasons, Illinois was the team that had the chip on their shoulder and the desire to win. 

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Weel 31 Preview: Union vs. Nashville SC

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By Siobhan Nolan, Contributing Writer

It will be a battle for second place as Nashville SC come to Subaru Park on Saturday, as just three points separate the two teams in the Eastern Conference standings. The Union will be looking to redeem themselves after a disappointing loss against Minnesota United earlier in the week, and continue their push for a playoff spot.

Jim Curtin further emphasized the importance of this game, acknowledging that playing Nashville won’t be a walk in the park.

“You see the table and you know what is on the line,” Curtin said. “They are all big at this stage, but it’s a really tough matchup against a really organized, tough team to break down that doesn’t give up a lot of chances or goals.”

It was also confirmed that Sergio Santos is healthy enough to be available for selection, although it wasn’t specified whether he would return to the Starting XI or ease into the game off of the bench.

“It’s great to get another striker back, especially with the speed that Sergio provides,” Curtin said of Santos’ availability. “Sergio was in really good form and then picked up a little bit of an injury and that hurt us a great deal. We manufactured some results along the way and have tried some different things; some worked really well and some we can improve on. To get another striker back certainly helps us now, especially with the unique skill set that he has to run in behind and stretch the field for us, which is very important.”

The Union will enjoy the absence of Nashville’s top offensive player, Hany Mukhtar, who will miss the match due to yellow card accumulation.

The Boys in Blue will also enjoy the newfound form of Daniel Gazdag, whose brace against Minnesota cemented his hot streak, and furthermore, his place in Curtin’s team.

“Goals always give confidence, but he’s been doing a lot of those things in training, so we know it’s in him,” Curtin told media. “I cannot stress enough that he has 50+ games in his legs, so he’s still getting acclimated to his team, but you saw the quality, especially on his first goal, that is in him. I’ve also played him out of position and asked him to play as a second striker a lot. He’s best suited to be a true number 10 and we’ve tinkered and played with two 10s, and I thought they complimented each other well. We are asking him to do a lot of things, whether it’s in his comfort zone or not, but those two goals give confidence and will propel him down the stretch of the season. I say it to the guys all the time, people remember the end of the season the most, so let’s have a really strong finish in our last four games because we can finish from second toward the bottom, so it’s all to play for.”

The Union have been experiencing a solid stint of chemistry within the team, especially the midfield, as Curtin has gotten more comfortable trying out new formations and putting players in different roles. While trying players out in positions other than their natural ones has, for the most part, worked out in the Union’s favor and shown the versatility of the team, the formation changes have not. Nearly every time Curtin has strayed away from the 4-4-2 setup, things have gone awry (case and point: the Minnesota game earlier this week). At this point, it’s not so much the players and their positions that matter, rather it’s the way they’re arranged that will make all the difference. With a prime opportunity to grab the second place spot, this game is not one for experimentation.

Predicted Lineup: Andre Blake, Kai Wagner, Jakob Glesnes, Jack Elliott, Olivier Mbaizo, Jose Martinez, Leon Flach, Alejandro Bedoya, Jamiro Monteiro, Kacper Przybyłko, Daniel Gazdag

  • With Santos’ fitness still tentative, Gazdag will likely be called upon to fill that second striker position. This lineup has served the Union the best this season, and as stated before, this game isn’t the right time to make significant changes to the Starting XI. Curtin can make substitutions if legs start to get tired (ones prior to the 80th minute would be preferable), but this is going to put the Union’s best foot forward against Nashville.

Score Prediction: It’s going to be a hard-fought battle, but the Union’s performance quality has been on the upturn. They have a point to prove, and the playoffs are close enough to taste. A simple 2-1 win is all that’s needed to bring them one step closer to a playoff spot.


Flyers-Panthers: Game 4 Preview

By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor 

The Flyers had an early-season test against Boston on Wednesday and came away victorious with a three-goal third period. With one game remaining on a season-opening four-game homestand, the Flyers face another test against another team of to an incredibly hot start.

The undefeated Florida Panthers bring their 4-0-0 record into Wells Fargo Center on Saturday night, as the Flyers look to make it three wins in a row.

Game time is at 7 p.m.

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CFB: Temple-South Florida Preview

Image 1Photo: Temple Football Twitter/@Temple_FB

By Michael Lipinski, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

Temple (3-3, 1-1 AAC) returns to action on Saturday night, the Owls travel to Tampa to take on AAC conference foe South Florida (1-5, 0-2 AAC).  The Owls were soundly defeated 52-3 by then No. 5 Cincinnati before enjoying a bye last week. The Bulls are coming off a heartbreaking 32-31 loss to Tulsa. 

This game is expected to be closer than the records may indicate.  South Florida is currently a 2-point home favorite according to William Hill sportsbook.

Date: October 23, 2021

Where: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, FL

When: 7:00 PM/Eastern

TV: ESPN+

Radio: 97.5 The Fanatic

Series History

Temple and South Florida have met seven times.  The Owls lead the series five to two.

Last Match Up

2020: Temple edged USF 39-37 in Philadelphia

This Game at a Glance

Throw the records out on this one, Temple and USF are as close as it comes on the field of play. 

Both teams struggle with consistent offensive output, the Owls average 23.7 PPG while the Bulls average 22.2 PPG.  Total offense for both teams is similar, 343.2 YPG for Temple compared to 322.7 YPG for USF.  Both teams lack explosive play or a consistent run game.

It’s the same story defensively.  Temple is allowing 33.8 PPG and the Bulls are allowing 35.3 PPG, both are in the bottom twenty of the FBS.  The best way to describe this game might be to use the below meme.

Image 1

 

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CFB: #7 Penn State Hosts Illinois for Homecoming

By Michael Lipinski, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

After a much-needed bye week, No. 7 Penn State (5-1, 2-1 Big Ten) returns to the gridiron for a homecoming affair against Illinois (2-3, 1-3 Big Ten). The Nittany Lions are coming off a heartbreaking 23-20 loss to Iowa where they lost veteran quarterback Sean Clifford to an injury.  The Fightin’ Illini lasted played two-weeks ago, a 24-0 shellacking by Wisconsin. 

Penn State head coach James Franklin has stated the Clifford will be a game time decision.  Clifford returned to practice this week however the first-team reps were slip between Ta'Quan Roberson and Christian Veilleux. 

Penn State is a 24-point home favorite according to William Hill sportsbook.

 

Date: October 23, 2021

Where: Beaver Stadium, University Park, PA

When: 12:00 PM/Eastern

TV: ABC

Radio: 1210 WPHT and the Penn State Radio Network

Series History

Penn State and Illinois have met 25-times.  The Nittany Lions lead the series 20-5.

 

Last Match Up

2020: Penn State defeated Illinois 56-21 in Happy Valley

 

This Game at a Glance…

This is a game that Penn State should win rather easily with or without QB Sean Clifford.  The Nittany Lions had a bye-week to rest and refocus on the remainder of the season.  A Big Ten championship game appearance and a College Football Playoff berth are still possible for Penn State. Clifford, who was injured in the Iowa loss, took some practice reps this week and will be a game time decision.

The picture is not as rosy for the Fightin’ Illini. After Illinois’ shutout loss to Wisconsin, Illini coach Brett Bielema called out the previous regime for leaving the cupboard bare and not having Big Ten quality players.  It’s not very often you see a coach do that in-season and live to the media.  The moral in Champaign is at a low right now.   

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