Part One of Our Two-Part Temple-Penn State Primer: On Penn State

Part One of Our Two-Part Temple-Penn State Primer: On Penn State

In advance of this weekend's showdown in Happy Valley between Temple and Penn State (3:30 p.n. on ABC/ESPN 2), Nick Menta and our friend and guest-spotter from Examiner.com Kevin McGuire have gotten together for a two-part preview of this weekend's matchup.

In Part 1, Nick picks Kevin's brain about the current state of the Nittany Lions. They'll reverse roles in Part 2. And for yet more, check out Nick's full game preview here.

On with the show...

------------------

Nick: Alright, let's get the injury report out the way up front. How are the banged up running backs?

Kevin McGuire: It looks as though Bill Belton’s status is still not good, as he was
not seen in practice late this week while media were allowed to watch
(could be a decoy, who knows), but Derek Day was in full pads and
O’Brien suggested he is ahead of Belton right now.

Last week Penn State
relied on Michaekl Zordich to pound the football, and he is comfortable
doing so when asked. Don’t expect to see true freshman Akeel Lynch
unless absolutely necessary. O’Brien is trying to keep freshman from
playing as much as possible in some spots to preserve their eligibility
moving forward.

This is one of those inevitable "what really was it?" questions. Was Penn State's thrashing of Navy a product of the team settling in and finding itself, or of Navy being sort of horrendous by comparison. (No wimping out and picking both! Okay, you can if you want.)

It had to be a little from Column A and a little from Column B to be honest, but I think there are signs that Penn State is continuing to improve in some aspects in the early going under O’Brien.

The defense has forced eight turnovers in the past two games and that doesn't happen by accident. The defense has played better week-to-week after three games.

The offense seems to have found at least one player to take over a key role with sophomore Allen Robinson at wide receiver. The offense in general is still finding itself, but Matt McGloin has shown some good things early on with his decision-making, for the most part. As a team I think there are some positive trends unfolding for Penn State on both sides of the football that suggest they could be OK this season.

Speaking of McGloin, his progression isn't staggering, but it's certainly
substantial. Is it because it's O'Brien, because it's not Paterno,or because he doesn't have Bolden over his shoulder any longer? Which of those
three is most responsible for his improvement?

There is no question in my mind that McGloin has benefited from new
coaching, and he has made some subtle and not so subtle comments
supporting that idea. But, as you pointed out, I think the fact that
McGloin was named the starter early by O’Brien has the biggest impact on
everything.

Last season the switching back-and-forth of quarterbacks prevented Penn
State from finding their offensive identity and establishing any sort of
rhythm. We know that McGloin is not the most talented or skilled
quarterback, but right now at Penn State he has been the best available
option. Now McGloin gets to take all of the first team snaps and feel
more comfortable leading the offense.

What do you make of the number of attempts to go for it on fourth down? Specifically, O'Brien's decision not use Ficken for a chip shot last week and coming away with no points right after the kid has missed an extra point. The right move? Too aggressive? Is he unconcerned with Ficken's psyche?

I thought O’Brien should have gone for what should have been an easy field goal just to give Sam Ficken a chance to boost his confidence and let him know that he will be trusted. I felt kicking a chip-shot field goal (or at least not hesitating to attempt it) would have done Ficken some good as a young player who felt awful about the way the previous week had gone.

That said, I’m not Bill O’Brien.

It’s a new way of thinking when it comes to Penn State’s offense, and that means taking more risks and gambling on fourth down a lot more than usual. Penn State has already converted six fourth down attempts for a first down this season, compared to ten all of last season. This may be the way it is going to be under O’Brien but there may be something else to consider here. What does Penn State ultimately have to lose by going for it on fourth down rather than kicking field goals? We all know Penn State has no postseason to play for, so there is nothing to lose by playing with an extra risk.

Do you get the sense that as this season goes on, key guys in that locker room will grow committed enough not to leave the program, or is Penn State treading water until the next transfer period?

There is no question that the biggest challenge Bill O’Brien has this season is keeping this team together, and establishing and maintaining team chemistry is a huge part of that. The ability for this program to stay afloat, metaphorically speaking, will rely heavily on O’Brien keeping players on the roster now from transferring elsewhere after the season at a time when he will also need to focus on recruiting for the Class of 2013.

What's the most key matchup in this weekend's game that Penn State needs to get the better of to win?

Penn State’s biggest weak point this season has been third down defense. Penn State ranks 115th in the nation in third down conversions allowed, giving up first downs 50.98 percent of the time (Temple is getting off the field 60 percent of the time by comparison). If the Owls can get in to some manageable third down situations, with the running game they should have to rely on the odds could be very good that Temple continues to crack Penn State’s third-down defense.

And since I anticipate this being a tight game, that could become a huge factor as the game unfolds.

Click here for Part 2: On the Temple Owls and keep up with Kevin and Nick's weekend reports from State College on
Twitter @KevinOnCFB and @cnmenta.

*

Follow The700Level
on Facebook
and Twitter.

NBC Sports Philadelphia Internship - Advertising/Sales

plain-peacock-logo.png

NBC Sports Philadelphia Internship - Advertising/Sales

Position Title: Intern
Department: Advertising/Sales
Company: NBC Sports Philadelphia
# of hours / week: 10 – 20 hours

Deadline: November 20

Basic Function

This position will work closely with the Vice President of Sales in generating revenue through commercial advertisements and sponsorship sales. The intern will gain first-hand sales experience through working with Sales Assistants and AEs on pitches, sales-calls and recapping material.

Duties and Responsibilities

• Assist Account Executive on preparation of Sales Presentations
• Cultivate new account leads for local sales
• Track sponsorships in specified programs
• Assist as point of contact with sponsors on game night set up and pre-game hospitality elements.
• Assist with collection of all proof of performance materials.
• Perform Competitive Network Analysis
• Update Customer database
• Other various projects as assigned

Requirements

1. Good oral and written communication skills.
2. Knowledge of sports.
3. Ability to work non-traditional hours, weekends & holidays
4. Ability to work in a fast-paced, high-pressure environment
5. Must be 19 years of age or older
6. Must be a student in pursuit of an Associate, Bachelor, Master or Juris Doctor degree
7. Must have unrestricted authorization to work in the US
8. Must have sophomore standing or above
9. Must have a 3.0 GPA

Interested students should apply here and specify they're interested in the ad/sales internship.

About NBC internships

Underdog, huh? Eagles headed to Super Bowl

Underdog, huh? Eagles headed to Super Bowl

BOX SCORE

The Eagles have been dead for weeks, right? The only problem is that no one ever told them. 

They're more alive than ever. 

And now, without their franchise quarterback, their Hall of Fame left tackle, their starting middle linebacker, their most dynamic offensive weapon, their special teams captain and their original kicker, the Eagles did it again. 

As improbable as it sounds … the Eagles are going to the Super Bowl. 

The Birds got off to a rough start, but clamped down and absolutely demolished the Vikings, 38-7, at Lincoln Financial Field Sunday in the NFC Championship Game (see Roob's observations). They'll see the Patriots in Minnesota in two weeks for Super Bowl LII (see story).  

The fourth quarter became a party as fans were doing the Skol chant — they changed it to "Foles" — mockingly and the entire Eagles' sideline danced along to a Meek Mill song. 

This is the Eagles' first trip back to the Super Bowl since the 2004 season, when they lost to the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXIX in Jacksonville. 

They'll get another crack at Tom Brady and the Patriots, who beat the Jaguars, 24-20, earlier in the day. The Patriots won the game but didn't look invincible. They needed to stage a late comeback to take down the Jaguars. 

Nick Foles claimed he was calm and confident all week and he certainly looked like it in the NFC Championship Game. Sure, the play-calling helped, but Foles had a simply incredible game. He played loose and demolished the best defense in the NFL. 

Foles turned in an all-time performance. He completed 26 of 33 passes for 352 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions. He had a passer rating of 141.4. 

With the loss, the Vikings missed a chance to become the first team to ever play in a Super Bowl it's hosting. Oh well. 

The Eagles actually got off to a terrible start Sunday. All three phases chipped in. First, the defense gave up a touchdown drive to start the game. Then the offense missed chances and had to punt. Then, they got a fair catch interference call on special teams. 

Things were going badly until that Patrick Robinson pick-six. Chris Long forced the pressure and during the 50-yard return, the Linc got so loud the press box shook. 

After last week's divisional round win over the Falcons, head coach Doug Pederson called another masterful game. He put on a clinic against the Vikings, pushing all the right buttons as the Eagles began to push around the NFL's best defense. 

Turning point
Long turned that corner and affected Case Keenum's throw enough to allow the ball to hang in the air for Robinson. After Robinson picked off the pass, he took it 50 yards to the house and momentum had officially swung the other way. 

Key stat
The Eagles' 38 points are their second most in playoff history and their margin of victory (31 points) is the biggest in franchise history. 

The 38 points the Eagles scored are the most the Vikings have allowed all season. They had allowed 34 in their last three games combined. 

Offensive stud
For all the questions about Foles over the last few weeks, he answered them Sunday. Foles was incredible. He got into a rhythm early and is now leading the Eagles into the Super Bowl (see report card)

Offensive dud
This was about to go to Torrey Smith for dropping a deep pass early, but he totally redeemed himself when he caught that deep touchdown pass on the flea flicker. 

Defensive stud
Long is 32 years old, but he isn't playing like it. He's rejuvenated and made some huge plays Sunday. None were bigger than the one that led to Robinson's pick-six. 

Defensive dud
Najee Goode gave up that early touchdown to Kyle Rudolph that gave the Vikings an early lead. It looked like he didn't know what was going on. 

Key plays 
• Foles threw his third touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter to cap off a 92-yard drive and give the Eagles a 38-7 lead. 

• On 4th-and-goal in the third quarter, it looked like Adam Thielen caught a ball in the end zone, but the replay showed it clearly hit the ground. The Vikings turned the ball over on downs. 

• Pederson dialed up a flea flicker on his first drive of the second half and it worked perfectly. Corey Clement took the handoff, tossed it back to Foles, who hit Smith down the field for a 41-yard touchdown to give the Eagles a 31-7 lead. 

• The Eagles got the ball back with just 29 seconds in the half, but Pederson didn't play it scared. Instead, the Eagles attacked and were able to get down the field and kick a 38-yarder to take a 24-7 lead into the locker room. 

• On 3rd-and-10 from their own 47-yard line with under two minutes left in the first half, Foles avoided pressure and threw a 53-yard bomb for a touchdown to Alshon Jeffery to give the Eagles a 21-7 lead. 

• In the second quarter, the Vikings took the ball from their own 15-yard line and got all the way down to the Eagles' 16 before rookie Derek Barnett came around the left tackle and stripped the ball from Keenum. The Vikings' six-minute drive didn't get them any points. 

• Jim Schwartz dialed up a safety blitz on 3rd-and-2 and Malcolm Jenkins came free to force a quick throw from Keenum, who seemed bothered by the pressure. 

• LeGarrette Blount ran over safety Andrew Sendejo on an 11-yard run to get into the end zone early in the second quarter. That gave the Eagles a 14-7 lead. Just before that, Pederson dialed up a little quick pass to Zach Ertz on 3rd-and-short to convert. The Blount touchdown capped off a 75-yard drive. 

• Long got to Keenum to provide pressure and alter his throw that hung up in the air. Robinson picked it off and had an incredible return of 50 yards for a pick-six to tie the game at 7-7. It was the second-longest pick-six in Eagles postseason history. 

• On the Eagles' first drive, Smith dropped a ball he should have had deep and then Trey Burton couldn't get his feet down on a key third-down pass. For some reason, Burton left his feet and jumped to make the catch. 

• Keenum hit Rudolph for a 25-yard touchdown to cap the opening drive of the game. Goode, starting in place of Dannell Ellerbe (hamstring), looked lost before the play and didn't seem ready. Rudolph blew past him and was wide open for a touchdown.

Injuries
Linebacker Ellerbe (hamstring) was inactive after being listed as questionable coming into the weekend. Ellerbe was questionable last week, too, but was able to play against the Falcons. Goode started in his place Sunday. 

Up next
The Eagles are heading to Minnesota. They'll face the Patriots in Super Bowl LII in two weeks.