Sean Clifford’s turnovers lead to Penn State’s fourth straight loss and a surprisingly decent outing by backup Will Levis

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Penn State goes on the road, commits a couple of dumb turnovers in the first half, falls behind, then loses at the last second despite an exciting comeback attempt and an advantage of about 200 in the yardage department.

Yes, the 30-23 loss to Nebraska felt like deja vu after PSU fans sat through many of the same scenes that made the defeat at Indiana such a torture rack. The two key differences against the Cornhuskers were that the Nittany Lions never had the lead in Lincoln and that Will Levis replaced Sean Clifford in the second quarter.

That’s it. That’s the play that prompted James Franklin to finally pull Clifford and take his chances with the unproven Levis. Clifford has now fumbled into an opponent touchdown for the second week in a row and has generally been a turnover machine in 2020. Earlier in the game he killed a Penn State drive with a critically misplaced throw. He also threw a pair of interceptions against both Maryland and Indiana.

I thought the Ohio State game was a sign of good thing to come for Clifford, as he connected with Jahan Dotson for three touchdowns and didn’t turn the ball over until very late, but he fell hard back to old habits in these last two painful losses. Enter Levis, who clumsily filled in for Clifford when he got hurt in Columbus last season and barely led Penn State to a win over Rutgers.

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Mets fans are in love with Steve Cohen after his introductory press conference

New Mets owner Steve Cohen and returning team president Sandy Alderson held an introductory press conference this afternoon and it couldn’t have gone much better. Mets fans like myself were already fawning over Cohen because he purchased the beloved franchise away from the hated Wilpon family, whose financial troubles dating back to the Bernie Madoff scandal have held the Mets back for the past decade.

Cohen could have said anything and been adored by fans, but he ended up saying all the right things anyway and solidifying good vibes heading into the 2021 season.

When Uncle Stevie talks about being committed to building an exceptional team, the words having meaning because we know he has the resources to make it happen. When he spoke about letting the baseball operations people handle baseball decisions, it resonated because fans are sick of the Wilpons’ meddling. And when Cohen said he would build a great analytics department, we cheered because the Mets have been falling behind in the stathead area for years.

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Giants force five turnovers, still almost lose to Football Team

I’ll give the Giants credit. They did not waste any of the takeaways they got against Washington Football Team on Sunday. New York needed all five to come away with a 23-20 victory that dealt a serious blow to their chances at the top 2021 draft selection.

It’s not like anyone can play as poorly as the Jets, anyway. The Jaguars might have only one win, but even they are competitive week in and week out. The Jets, meanwhile, have only covered the spread in one game this season. And I type that as I’m hoping for them to stay within nine points of New England during Monday Night Football.

The problem with the Giants being a little better than horrible is that we still don’t know if they have their franchise quarterback. Daniel Jones succeeded in not throwing an interception or losing a fumble against Washington, but he didn’t blow anyone away, either. Jones dinked and dunked his way down the field for 212 yards and a touchdown. He took five sacks, included one on third down when the Giants needed a first down to put the game away late.

That touchdown pass to Evan Engram was perhaps Jones’s finest throw of the game, but there was no such magic in the second half. The Giants came out of the locker room with a 20-3 lead, but they scored just three points afterwards and held on for dear life while Alex Smith caught fire and led Washington on three straight scoring drives.

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Shocking loss to Maryland exposes Sean Clifford and Penn State’s lack of quarterback depth

Penn State lost to Maryland on Saturday and I’m at a loss for words. It would be one thing if the Nittany Lions let another game slip away due to sloppy quarterback play and poor clock management, but instead they were dominated by a Terrapins squad that just two weeks ago was blown out by Northwestern.

How did Maryland come away with a 35-19 victory that wasn’t even that close? It starts with Taulia Tagovailoa looking a lot more like his brother Tua than anyone anticipated. The sophomore from Hawaii might have struggled in his debut, but in his last two games (both Maryland wins), he’s shown poise, accuracy, and the ability to make plays on the move.

Look at him step up to his right on that play and throw across his body to hit freshman phenom Rakim Jarrett in stride for an electric touchdown. It’s safe to say that Maryland fans haven’t seen that kind of ability from a quarterback in a long time. Based on the potential that the young Tagovailoa has shown, I can give the PSU defense a little slack, especially since they clamped down in the second half.

The offense, on the other hand, laid a huge egg and raised serious questions about the future of the quarterback position. Sean Clifford was that bad. He had trouble finding open receivers, which led to him taking seven sacks and completing just 47 percent of his passes. Clifford started pressing in the second half and turned the ball over three times to put the game out of reach.

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Ohio State beat Penn State convincingly, but Sean Clifford’s connection with Jahan Dotson is encouraging for the future

I kind of hate that I feel this way, but I’m more at peace with Penn State’s loss to the Indiana Hoosiers after the Nittany Lions dropped their second game to the Ohio State Buckeyes in more decisive fashion. Ohio State jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead and rode that wave to a 38-25 victory in State College, Pennsylvania. Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford connected on touchdown passes with wide receiver Jahan Dotson three times to keep PSU in the game, but the biggest star of the night was Justin Fields, as the Ohio State QB enhanced his Heisman Trophy resume with four touchdown passes and a nearly flawless 28-for-34 passing performance.

Nittany Lions fans like myself knew it was going to be a long night right from the start.

Yeeeeeesh. That Garrett Wilson has some serious wheels. Since we’re trying to stay positive and find reasons why Penn State might win its next six games, I’ll point out that Joey Porter Jr. ran down Wilson from behind and might be the fastest guy on either team. Porter is only a freshman, but he battled Ohio State’s top WR Chris Olave all night. Olave may have won the battle with 120 receiving yards and a pair of touchdown grabs, but you could tell from watching Porter that he’s going to be a major problem for opposing offenses in a year or two.

During Olave’s first score, Porter was in his grill the whole time. For the second, the young defensive back wasn’t on the coverage.

That was probably Fields’s best throw of the night right there. The Penn State defense was solid enough to slow down Indiana for nearly the entire game last week, but Fields was never made uncomfortable. When Penn State played coverage, he was able to pick up yards underneath. When the Lions blitzed, Olave and Wilson won their one-on-one battles. Plus, the consistent rushing attack led by Master Teague III ensured that the Buckeyes were rarely if ever behind schedule.

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Kevin Cash ruined the World Series for the Rays and the stats have finally gone too far

One of the pillars in the ages-old debate of stats vs. instincts in baseball is the argument over when it’s okay to take a starting pitcher out of a baseball games. In the old days, before the Oakland Athletics changed baseball by winning 103 games on a shoestring budget in 2002 and inspiring a best-selling book to be written about them, baseball managers used to allow their starting pitchers to stay on the mound as long as they kept the team in the game.

More recently, front offices and managers have put more and more stock into statistics that show how a pitcher’s usefulness decreases each time he passes through the lineup. Specifically, the third time through a batting order can be a danger area for many starting pitchers. Of course, baseball doesn’t always play out this way or we never would see a complete game, but there’s no denying that in general, a pitcher is more vulnerable on his third pass through a given lineup.

That’s the science that Kevin Cash was relying on when he pulled Blake Snell out of the sixth game of the World Series last night with one out in the sixth inning. The issue that I and most baseball fans had with that decision was that Snell looked very much like he was about to carry the Rays to a series-tying victory. His fastball was popping and his curveball was falling-off-the-table nasty. In his first five innings, Snell struck out nine Dodgers with zero walks and just one hit allowed on 69 pitches.

Either Cash didn’t think Snell was convincing enough to take a chance on him for a third trip through the order, or the skipper’s mind was changed when Austin Barnes hit a line-drive single with one out in the sixth. I’m not sure which explanation was worse. All we know is that Tampa Bay’s 1-0 lead disappeared as soon as Snell did. Mookie Betts hit a double off of new Rays pitcher Nick Anderson to put runners on second and third. Both runs scored during Corey Seager’s at-bat thanks to a wild pitch and Betts scoring from third on a ground ball to first base. Betts added a solo home run in the eighth and the Dodgers clinched their first World Series title since 1988.

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I’m in football pain because Penn State couldn’t run out the clock against Indiana

I’m looking back at a weekend that featured one of the most exciting NFL games of the season, only of the most thrilling World Series games ever, and the first Big Ten win for the Rutgers Scarlet Knights since 2017, yet I’m still hung up on a single moment that happened outside all of those incredible .

The Penix was short.

In case you had something better to do than watching college football at around 7:30 p.m. on Saturday night (as if), that’s Indiana Hoosiers quarterback Michael Penix Jr. fully extending himself while reaching for the pylon on an overtime two-point conversion attempt. My Penn State Nittany Lions had already scored a touchdown in the extra period, so after Indiana found the end zone, head coach Tom Allen’s decision to go for two became a do-or-die play to decide the game. Penix scrambled, stretched, and was ruled to have hit the pylon before landing out of bounds. The call stood upon replay review, giving IU a 36-35 upset victory and their first win over a top-10 team since 1987.

It looks to me like the ball hits the white paint before Penix slides it into the pylon, but I can’t be too mad at the officials, ever if there were some truly perplexing penalty calls during the game. Replay is meant to overturn obvious and egregious mistakes, not to make calls on game-deciding plays in which there’s no definitive screenshot. Penix LOOKS like he was short, and I believe he was short, but I can’t say there is conclusive evidence.

Besides, Penn State had a chance to wrap this game up in regulation time, only for James Franklin to be badly outsmarted by Allen and for the defense to improbably collapse at the worst possible time. Even before PSU took a 21-20 lead on Sean Clifford’s brilliant 60-yard pass to Jahan Dotson with 2:30 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Lions had already missed two field goals and turned the ball over three times. They should have been ahead by way more than one point.

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Giants waste 11-point lead in Philadelphia, but are still very much alive in the NFC East

After the New York Giants lost their first five games of the season, I figured at least I wouldn’t have to experience the team completely blowing a game that they had wrapped up in the fourth quarter. Even if that happened, the Giants would probably be eliminated from playoff contention and the game wouldn’t matter. Well, football has a funny way of messing with fans and last night is a great example.

The miserable Giants were 4.5-point underdogs to a bad Philadelphia Eagles team on Thursday Night Football, but thanks to its surprisingly strong defense and the goofiest, dorkiest 80-yard run in the history of the game by Daniel Jones, New York led 21-10 with six minutes left.

Jones keeps the ball on that option about once a week, so I don’t know how Philadelphia was so unprepared, but the end of this play is the headline with Jones tripping over nothing but air and crashing on the eight-yard line. Thanks to a pass interference call in the end zone three plays later, the blooper of the year didn’t cost the Giants any points. Instead they lost the game because Evan Engram dropped a perfectly-thrown Jones pass that would have converted a 3rd-and-6 and allowed the Giants to run out the clock.

The drop forced the Giants to punt, and the Eagles scored touchdowns on their last two meaningful possession to pull off a 22-21 victory that could end up deciding the NFC East because everyone is awful.

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Penn State forces Pat Chambers out, resets program just when it was starting to build momentum

Penn State basketball fans received stunning news on Wednesday evening when head coach Pat Chambers suddenly resigned. Not only was Chambers coming off his most successful year at PSU in which he led the Nittany Lions to what would have been an NCAA Tournament berth if not for COVID-19, but we’re just one month away from the start of the new season. In a vacuum, the timing made no sense.

Little did I know that there was an ongoing investigation stemming from Chambers’s racially insensitive comments that he made to former player Rasir Bolton more than a year ago. The incident came to light publicly in July and I wrote back then that Chambers should retain his job.

And that should be the end of the matter. Chambers made a mistake and it cost him a talented basketball player. Bolton used his right to transfer and is in a place where he feels more welcome. But what if it’s not the end? It wouldn’t be beyond the media to pressure Penn State to make a change and reverse the progress that Chambers has made with this program over the years. All for a mistake that Chambers says he will learn from.

According to Penn State, an internal investigation yielded “new allegations of inappropriate conduct” that led to Chambers resigning.

I’d love to know what these new allegations are because Chambers had been the coach for 10 years and had the support of veteran players like Lamar Stevens and Jamari Wheeler. What happened with Bolton was a misstep, and it should have been handled better, but Chambers deserved the chance to learn from his mistake and continue forward with a program that he had slowly built into a tournament contender.

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Baseball needs change, but MLB is changing the wrong parts

Right before the World Series between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Los Angeles Dodgers got started this evening from Arlington, Texas, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred met with the media and talked about possibly making permanent some of the changes he made for the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. Specifically, he mentioned the expanded postseason field and playing extra innings with a runner starting on second base.

“I like the idea of, and I’m choosing my words carefully here, an expanded playoff format,” Manfred said. “I don’t think we would do 16 like we did this year. I think we do have to be cognizant of making sure that we preserve the importance of our regular season. But I think something beyond the 10 that we were at would be a good change.”

With the added runner rule, the longest of 68 games of 10 innings or longer were a pair of 13-inning contests, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

“I think the players like it,” Manfred said. “I think it’s really good from a safety and health perspective that keeps us from putting players in situations where they’re out there too long or in positions they’re not used to playing.”

I can’t imagine that changes like these would be tough to get approved by the Players Association because players like collecting postseason checks and also like not playing baseball until one o’clock in the morning. As far as what’s best for the game, though, I’m not so sure.

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