By Bill Campbell
On the College Scene
It was a memorable weekend in football, both on the college and professional scenes. Saturday’s Penn State-Ohio State contest was remarkable for the Nittany Lions allowing 63 points, the most ever given up by Penn State in any game since 1900. When the Buckeyes’ backup quarterback, Kenny Guiton, scored on an 11 yard run to make the score 63-7, the Lions already had given up 64 yards of total offense to the Buckeyes. By that point, Ohio State had scored 9 touchdowns in 11 possessions. The Buckeyes dominated all the numbers, totaling a staggering 686 yards to Penn State’s 357 while rushing for 408 yards on 51 attempts — an average of 8 yards per carry. It was a brutal day for the Lions with a final score of 63-14.
Ohio State’s starting quarterback Braxton Miller accounted for 5 touchdowns, 3 passing and 2 running, while accumulating 320 yards of total offense in 3 periods of playing time. Carlos Hyde rushed for 147 yards in 16 carries and scored twice. Penn State’s only touchdowns came on a 12-yard pass in the second quarter from quarterback Christian Hackenberg to Brandon Felder and an 85-yard pitch from back-up quarterback, Tyler Ferguson, to Allen Robinson. Hackenberg was 12 for 23 for 112 yards and 2 interceptions. He had to leave the game in the third period with a shoulder injury. The Buckeyes’ offensive line handled Penn State’s front seven rather easily but the Nittany Lions’ pass defense seemed to have great trouble finding and covering Ohio State’s receivers. Ohio State is now 8-0, first in their NCAA division. This game was remarkable for all the wrong reasons. Penn State plays Illinois in Happy Valley at noon this coming Saturday.
Other local colleges had similar problems. Villanova lost to Maine, 37-35. Temple was beaten by Southern Methodist University, 59-49. Only Penn came out on the right end of the score with back-up quarterback Ryan Becker, playing in place of Billy Ragone, throwing 2 touchdown passes for the Quakers. Penn’s defense played well enough to hold off Maine before over 11,000 at Franklin Field on a perfect day for football.
That Villanova loss was unfortunate because the Wildcats’ quarterback, John Robertson, ran 22 times for 214 yards and 4 touchdowns, becoming the first player in Villanova history to go over 200 yards two weeks in a row. But Maine quarterback, Marcus Wasilewski, completed 28 for 34 passes for 337 yards, allowing Maine to hang on to the last minute and squeak out the win. As for Temple, the Owls ran into a buzz saw named SMU, particularly its quarterback, Garrett Gilbert, who really did some damage. At one point, Temple led by 21 points and the score stood at 28-7 at halftime. But the Owls could only watch as SMU returned in the second half and rolled up a school record 720 total yards to go on to win by 10 points. SMU did the same thing against Rutgers earlier this season. Additionally, the Scarlet Knights fared no better against Houston last week, losing 49-14. Temple and Rutgers will meet next weekend. Locally, it was a college football weekend remarkable for its losses.
The Flyers Come Alive
The Flyers finally played like the Flyers of old. Just when you thought they would never again score 3 goals in a game, they turned things around and scored 5. It took 10 games to do it but they found some missing offense up in Uniondale, New York, last Saturday night to beat the Islanders 5-2. Before this contest, the Flyers were in danger of becoming the first NHL team to open the first 10 games without scoring more than 3 goals. The last to earn that stat was the New York Americans in 1940. That risk has passed now thanks, in part, to the noteworthy play of center, Vinny Lacavalier, who scored the seventh hat trick of his career – his first as a Flyer. He was the big gun in this one. “We want to start a streak,” said Lacavalier, “That’s our goal right now.” This game was a great confidence-builder for everybody. The Flyers got off to a great start, scoring 3 goals in the first period, 2 of them by Lacavalier. The 33-year-old center completed his hat trick with 11 minutes left to give the Flyers a 3-2 lead. They never looked back. Lacavalier somehow swept a pass to Claude Giroux and, while off-balance, caught Giroux’s return pass which he shot into an empty net. “It probably was the hardest 15 seconds he’s worked this season, maybe the hardest he’s worked since he’s been here,” said Scott Hartnell of Cavalier, “and this was only his second game since he came off the injury list. Not many players have the ability to do that.” Hartnell also had just returned to the line-up after missing 4 games with an upper body injury so the team itself is coming back to full strength. Veteran defenseman, Mark Streit, in his first year with the Flyers, said after the game that it was emotional for him to return to his former indoor playground, the Nassau Coliseum, for this game. The Flyers started the game 29th in the 30-team NHL in power play functioning at 8.1% (3 for 37). With a 2-7 record now, Vinny Lacavalier has improved their chances. If new head coach Craig Berube’s message is heard by his team, those stats should start to improve.
As for Scott Hartnell, his Hartnell Down Foundation which raises money for local charities is hosting a “chow-down” next Sunday at Spasso Italian Grill in Old City. For a $250 ticket contribution, 75 guests can dine with Hartnell, ask questions, pose for pictures, buy chances on some upscale raffle items and enjoy some time with this popular Flyer at his favorite restaurant. Proceeds go to the foundation’s favorite charities.
Chip Kelly Has His Problems
Chip Kelly’s exhibition of coaching in the Eagles-Giants game on Sunday was so bad it almost defies description. You would think twice before coaching a high school team that way. To send a rookie quarterback into a game without proper preparation is simply inconceivable. How could Kelly have vetoed having Barkley work out with the first player unit during the week? Kelly had two quarterbacks, Mike Vick and Nick Foles, both on the injured list. Allowing the first-string guy to dictate how his rehab would be handled, to determine his return to the field, defies understanding. If Kelly avoided offending Vick by not prepping Barkley, it was beyond a miscalculation. How Kelly managed to win all those games at Oregon is a real question now.
Michael Vick lasted 4 series on Sunday and shouldn’t have been in the game for 4 minutes. From the start we could see that his hamstring was causing him pain. He had little or no mobility and it quickly became clear that he couldn’t play. Neither could Nick Foles, who’s recovering from a concussion. But neither could Matt Barkley because, as we learned later, he never was permitted to practice. It defies all logic. For the second time this season, Barkley came into a game without adequate preparation for the task. He didn’t have a chance. Apparently, the decision to name the starting quarterback was based on what Michael Vick thought and said about his own readiness to play. Kelly waited for Vick. That came first and, as we saw on Sunday, Barkley got thrown to the Giants. With Nick Foles benched, every time Kelly consulted with and waited for Vick was a day that Barkley received no practice or prep. Vick went out in no time at all on Sunday and in came Barkley to play an important game at a crucial time. The young rookie tried but he couldn’t find his receivers and turned the ball over several times. The only touchdown the Eagles scored was a defensive touchdown in the fourth quarter. The Giants took full advantage of the Birds, as any team would, for the 15-7 win at The Linc. Kelly’s decisions about the increasingly troubling QB position are more than suspect now.
Coach Kelly wasn’t the only one who came up short in this game. DeSean Jackson was targeted 11 times and made 8 catches but for only 63 yards. In his last 3 games, Jackson has 17 receptions but he’s averaging only a bit more than 8 yards per carry. Shady McCoy averaged only 6 yards per carry on Sunday and in his last 4 games he’s averaged just 3.4 yards. Between the quarterback injuries and lack of explosive receivers, the defense, which was supposed to be the Eagles big problem, has become its strength. Bill Davis’ guys have played well, holding the Dallas Cowboys to 13 points under their scoring average and preventing the Giants from scoring a touchdown on Sunday. They kicked their way to that win. But the offense is in major trouble.
After the game, Coach Kelly acknowledged, “We’re unstable at the quarterback spot. We haven’t played well. It’s cost us in the last two games.” At this point, that instability rests with him. Vick may never return and Foles is still touch-and-go. Get Barkley ready to go. As for some other Kelly decisions, consider the naked bootleg play called by Barkley on the first and 2 from the New York 2, coming after a time-out with 1:14 left in the first half. Barkley was hit and fumbled the ball away. The Eagles had plenty of time on first and goal to give the ball to Shady McCoy, more than once if needed. But Kelly decided to put the scoring pressure on the untried, unprepared rookie Barkley. Another failure. Then with about 4 minutes left in the game and the Eagles down by 8 points, after the gift Najee Goode touchdown on a bad punt snap, Kelly called for an onside kick which didn’t go deep and the Giants recovered. It’s that kind of play-calling that any fan has to question. It was that kind of day. They must do it differently out in Oregon. Post-game, Kelly also said, “I think when you’re unsettled at that [QB] position in this league, it’s real difficult. I was concerned all week long. When you’re not settled all week long, you better have a QB. And right now, we’re unsettled at that position.” That was an understatement. He would like us to believe that the Eagles had a plan. Whatever it was, it didn’t work.
After saying good-bye to Andy Reid, Eagles’ owner, Jeffrey Lurie, had a big decision to make and went in hot pursuit of Chip Kelly. You have to wonder about his choice at this point in the season. There must be more difference between college and pro football, maybe more than Lurie or Kelly realized when they made their deal but it’s starting to show a bit now. Meanwhile, have you checked out Andy Reid’s record in Kansas City? The Chiefs are 8-0. After 8 games, the Eagles are 3-5, 2-2 in their division and 3-2 in their conference. The Birds now have lost 10 consecutive games at home. It would be comical if it just wasn’t so disappointing, so frustrating.
The Miami Heat will be in town to play the 76ers on Wednesday evening at 7:00 p.m. Anaheim and Washington will be in this week to skate against the Flyers. The Eagles will travel to Oakland to play the Raiders next Sunday at 4:00 p.m. our time. See you next week.