NCAA

Trace McSorley matches Penn State record for wins at quarterback with victory over Wisconsin

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Trace McSorley matches Penn State record for wins at quarterback with victory over Wisconsin

BOX SCORE

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Trace McSorley and Penn State went back to a familiar formula Saturday — a steady diet of elusive Miles Sanders.

The resurgent running game put the Nittany Lions offense back on track, and got McSorley a milestone victory, too.

Sanders ran for 159 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries, McSorley matched Todd Blackledge's program record with his 29th win at quarterback and No. 21 Penn State beat Wisconsin 22-10.

If Sanders had been irritated that his rushing totals had fallen off along with the Nittany Lions' offensive output lately, he hadn't shown it. He considers himself a patient tailback, and he channeled some pent-up energy into running over the Badgers.

"People may say that at times (Sanders) had been frustrated, but you never saw that," Penn State coach James Franklin said. "Would we love to rush for more yards week in and week out? No doubt about it."

Penn State (7-3, 4-3 Big Ten, No. 20 CFP) racked up 200-plus rushing yards in each of the first six games but had averaged just 120 over the last three. Meanwhile, McSorley -- a key part of the team's rushing attack -- has been dealing with a sore right knee.

McSorley completed 19 of 25 passes for 160 yards and a TD. He appeared to hurt his left knee in the first half but got some relief watching Sanders juke through the Badgers with his shifty running style.

"Something that I don't think he gets enough credit for is the balance he has," McSorley said. "He's able to take on a hit and shake it off, maintain his balance and keep going."

The Badgers had no balance with starting quarterback Alex Hornibrook out with a concussion.

Jonathan Taylor ran 20 times for 185 yards and a touchdown for Wisconsin (6-4, 4-3), but backup quarterback Jack Coan completed just 9 of 20 passes for 60 yards with two interceptions and was sacked five times. The Badgers have lost three of their last five games.

"We've got to execute better," Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst said. "We knew coming in, it's a good defense."

DeAndre Thompkins caught a touchdown pass for Penn State, and the Nittany Lions held the Badgers to 125 yards in the second half.

Jake Pinegar made three field goals for Penn State while Wisconsin kicker Rafael Gaglianone added the Badgers final points midway through the third quarter.

Wisconsin broke through first when Taylor ran 71 yards to the end zone on the Badgers' first possession.

But McSorley led back-to-back scoring drives to give the Nittany Lions the lead for good. He hit Thompkins for a 14-yard touchdown pass to cap an eight-play drive, then led the offense just past midfield to set up Pinegar's 49-yard field goal.

Sanders added a 1-yard touchdown run midway through the second.

Pressure galore
Beaver Stadium was more difficult than usual for a quarterback to make his first career road start Saturday. Freezing temperatures were made worse by a constant wind powered by gusts up to 40 miles per hour.

At times, it looked like Penn State's defensive line was playing that fast. Shareef Miller and Wisconsin native Robert Windsor each turned in two sacks, and Coan was hurried or hit a handful of times.

Young wideouts
The Nittany Lions have been looking for more options in the passing game all season. Aside from KJ Hamler, who was targeted on six of Penn State's first 12 plays, another consistent playmaker has yet to emerge.

But a handful of underclassmen saw their most extended playing time yet. Jahan Dotson, Cam Sullivan-Brown and Justin Shorter combined to play season-high snap counts and contributed a combined four catches for 51 yards.

The takeaway
Wisconsin: The Badgers were limited on offense without Hornibrook. Coan attempted just four passes in the first half and completed two for 10 yards. Meanwhile, the Nittany Lions were able to load up the box and keep Taylor from getting into the end zone following his first big run.

Penn State: Offensive coordinator Ricky Rahne stuck with the running game and fed Sanders the ball, going back to what worked for Penn State earlier in the season as McSorley deals with a sore knee. The offensive line was solid, and the strategy worked well. It was Sanders' first 100-yard rushing game since Oct. 13.

Up next
Wisconsin travels to Purdue.

Penn State visits Rutgers.

Can Villanova get back to the Final Four earlier than expected?

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USA Today Sports Images

Can Villanova get back to the Final Four earlier than expected?

Is Villanova ahead of schedule?

It's a question worth considering as this college basketball season careens towards what figures to be an especially wild and unpredictable month of March. 

With no scholarship seniors on the roster, a lot of people - myself included - figured the Wildcats were a year away from seriously contending for another national championship. I expected this year's group to improve as the season progressed, compete for a Big East championship and maybe win a couple NCAA Tournament games. Then, with everyone returning for the 2020-2021 season, they'd be a Top 5 team with a legit shot of winning the program's fourth national title and third since 2016.  

But several factors have me thinking these Wildcats could arrive at the Final Four a year early.

Villanova won its 20th game of the season Wednesday night at DePaul, a convincing 91-71 victory in which the Wildcats made 18 of their 26 three-point attempts. They are ranked 12th in the country, with an opportunity to climb higher with a win Saturday at Xavier. They are 20-6 overall and 9-4 in the Big East, and a three-game losing streak a few weeks ago is starting to feel like a distant memory.  

As is often the case with Jay Wright's teams, this group is picking up steam as February comes to a close. They are playing that familiar selfless brand of 'Villanova basketball' that has served Wright's previous teams so well in postseason play. 

And, maybe most importantly, there aren't any dominant teams in college basketball this season. No teams that would be an insurmountable obstacle to Villanova in the NCAA Tournament.

So does Villanova have a shot to win it all this year? Here are three reasons why it could happen, and three reasons why they could fall short.

3 reasons Villanova can win a National Championship

1. The Gillespie-Bey 1-2 Punch

Junior Collin Gillespie and sophomore Saddiq Bey are as good a duo as any in the country. Both guys are capable of carrying Villanova in March. Gillespie leads Villanova in scoring, assists and steals. He scored a season-high 29 points last Sunday at Temple and is averaging more than 18 points in his last 13 games. He's shooting 43 percent from three-point range over that span and is a strong candidate for First Team All-Big East honors.

Bey is in the midst of a breakout season that has put him squarely on the radar of NBA talent evaluators. He's averaging 15.6 points and 5.0 rebounds and leads Villanova with a 46 percent three-point accuracy. Like Gillespie, Bey has stepped up his production in recent weeks. He's averaging more than 17 points and is shooting 52 percent from three point range in his last 12 games. Of course, Bey is playing himself into becoming a potential first round draft pick, which would throw a wrench into the notion that everyone will be back for Villanova next season.

2. Three-Point Barrage

Villanova shoots a ton of three-point shots. It can be ugly when those shots aren't falling (more on that later). But when the shots are going down, they can beat anyone in the country, and we've seen the Wildcats at their best recently. Dating back to halftime of Sunday’s win at Temple and extending through Wednesday's win at DePaul, Villanova has made 31 of its last 46 three-point attempts, a staggering 67 percent.

It would be silly to expect that type of shooting to continue. But even if they can make close to 40 percent of their long range shots, they'll be a very tough out in March.

3. Freshmen Maturing

Villanova's two freshman starters are X-factors: the Wildcats are very difficult to deal with when Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and Justin Moore are playing well. Robinson-Earl was just named the Big East Freshman of the Week for the sixth time this season. He's averaging 10.9 points and 9.3 rebounds and has established himself as an elite rebounder on the collegiate level. He's also playing with more confidence on the offensive end, trusting his ability to knock down the perimeter jumper.

Moore was terrific against DePaul, scoring 17 points and making 4 of 5 three-point attempts. He's proven to be a very skilled guard capable of getting to the basket as well as scoring from the outside, and he plays a valuable role as a complementary scorer to Gillespie and Bey.

3 reasons Villanova could fall short

1. Trouble on the Boards

The Wildcats have been significantly out-rebounded on several occasions and are particularly vulnerable on the offensive glass. This problem is exacerbated when Robinson-Earl gets in foul trouble. They were out-rebounded by an average of nearly seven rebounds per game during a three-game losing streak in early February. Villanova currently ranks 129th in the country in rebounding margin, pretty average among 350 Division 1 schools. This is definitely something worth monitoring in March when each possession becomes more valuable.

2. Sleeping in the Streets

One of Wright's favorite mottos is 'Shoot 'em up and sleep in the streets'. It means, for better or for worse, Villanova is going to keep shooting. Wright doesn't want his players to hesitate when they have an open look. Shoot first and ask questions later. As mentioned earlier, when the Wildcats are making shots it's a thing of beauty. But when they're not, it can make for some agonizing offensive performances.

Villanova has its share of good shooters, but they also have several inconsistent shooters. In the one-and-done format of the NCAA Tournament, they're one cold-shooting night away from elimination.

3. Slow Starts

Villanova has struggled at the beginning of games quite a bit this season. It's not uncommon to look up at the scoreboard 10 minutes into the game and see them with 10 or 12 points. Sometimes they're able to overcome these sluggish starts, sometimes they're not. As the level of competition picks up in March, it becomes more difficult to climb out of a double-digit hole in the first half. Starting games with more energy will be a point of emphasis with postseason basketball right around the corner.

Former Temple coach Matt Rhule selling sprawling estate for $2.5 million

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Realtor.com

Former Temple coach Matt Rhule selling sprawling estate for $2.5 million

It's a big month for Philly-connected college coaches and real estate. 

Former Temple football coach and current Carolina Panthers coach Matt Rhule is selling his very nice Waco, Texas estate for $2.5 million, according to the Charlotte Business Journal.

The listing news comes just days after rumblings emerged of Villanova's Jay Wright listing his Berwyn home for a similar price.

Rhule's house going up for sale, of course, is a little more self-explanatory: he just landed a new job in Charlotte, with a mind-boggling seven-year deal, meaning he has no longer has any reason to hold on to Texas real estate.

The house itself holds up plenty of axioms about Texas culture: full of wooden bannisters and exposed brick, and laid out over a sprawling 8,150 square feet, everything truly is bigger (and more rustic) in that state.

The main house comes with five bedrooms, five full bathrooms, a commercial-grade kitchen, a temperature-controlled wine cellar, and... an elevator.

An elevator.

The rest of the 5.53-acre estate includes 3,000 square feet of covered exterior space, an in-ground pool, a basketball court, and a gym.

Here's a look through some highlights: