Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Citizen's Bank park ranked 10th by SI

-Courtesy of the Cleveland Indians

CLEVELAND, OH- Progressive Field was voted the #1 Ballpark in Major League Baseball by Sports Illustrated in their recent online poll conducted in March on

The results were based solely from an online survey of thousands of baseball fans asked to rate their hometown ballpark in 10 categories (Team, Affordability, Food, Team Quality, Tradition, Atmosphere, Fan IQ, Hospitality, Promotions, Traffic, Neighborhood). Nearly 15 percent of the responses came from season-ticket holders, and more than half of all the responses came from fans who attend at least five games per season. All 10 categories were weighed equally.


1. Progressive Field Cleveland Indians

2. Miller Park Milwaukee Brewers

3. PNC Park Pittsburgh Pirates

4. Comerica Park Detroit Tigers

5. Busch Stadium St. Louis Cardinals

6. Safeco Field Seattle Mariners

7. Coors Field Colorado Rockies

8. U.S. Cellular Field Chicago White Sox

9. Angel Stadium of Anaheim Los Angeles Angels

10. Citizens Bank Park Philadelphia Phillies

Not only are the refs against the Flyers, so is Rocky

Sixers - Pistons Game 5 reaction

Flip Saunders

"We did what we were supposed to do tonight. We won at home. Now we need to get some rest tonight and be ready to go again on Thursday. Whe we got the ball to our people tonight, we shot the ball well and played good offensive basketball. When we turned the ball over, that is when we struggle. We got back to playing a little bit grittier defensively and offensively we started moving the ball. When we start getting up there in those mid-twenties and high-twenties assist-wise that is when we are playing well. I think that going into Thursday our guys know what the recipe for success is and that is not a mystery and we should go out and play that way."

"Outside the one game that he didn't play very well in Philadelphia he has had a great series. He has made some big blocks, has protected the middle, made adjustments and offensively they've worked hard the last few days to move the ball."

"Tonight he (CB) had a little but more pop in his step and a little more lift on his shot as well as rotation on the ball. He felt better about himself shooting the ball tonight. He had a couple of turnovers but he did a nice job of running the offense."

Chauncey Billips

"I think so (most complete game). It was a great game for us. We picked up on the momentum that we had in the second half of the last game, of Game 4. We came home, we knew we were going to be in our home building and we knew it was going to be loud and we just took care of business from the jump ball."

1Q "You never know when you're going to shoot that well. But for us, in this series it's all about energy. I thought on both ends we were very energetic. Defensively we were in the right places at the right time. Offensively we ran a couple things that we hadn't run yet in this series and they really didn't have answers for it. Guys started hitting shots -- I hit some shots, Sheed hit shots, guys were just knocking them down."

"Pretty much (imposing will). We knew coming in this game 5, it was tied 2-up. Obviously the biggest game of the series. We knew Game 6 was going to be an elimination game either way it went. We wanted to be on the upper hand of that."

"It felt good. I got some great looks, good opportunities and I continued to be aggressive. Whether my shot is falling or not, I'm going to play the same way, take the same shots. You never know when they're going to fall but I can't let that affect my floor game and other games that I do."

"We want to definitely go out there and be aggressive from the start of the game, like I said. When you're in a rut and you're playing not so great, you play yourself into that and you play yourself out of it. I felt like the second half of Game 4 we played ourself out of that, we got back to playing the way we were accustomed to playing. We proved that today in the way that we played four straight quarters."

"You definitely want to have a repeat performance, You want to go out there, wherever it's at, play the same exact way. Elimination games are always the hardest to win because that other team who is facing elimination is going to be fighting, scratching and clawing. It's going to be a good challenge for us."

"Rook was great, Afflalo was great tonight man. He never knew whether he was going to play or not. He hadn't played yet but he continued to stay focused all the time. He came in with a lot of energy. Defensively he was great. Offensively he hit shots. Big game for him."

"No, it doesn't but we'll take it. We'll take it all day."

"He's a really good player as well and he's not going to struggle every single night. He's going to get out of his rut and he's going to play some good games. But it's not about one person, whether who outplays who. It's about a team thing with us and the Pistons won tonight."

Tayshaun Prince

"It's a good thing that we did play like we did. Obviously it was a matter of time before he (AI) came out and make some shots. He was aggressive. It's a good thing that we were on a hot streak as well. We were moving the ball and doing the things that we needed to do. Like I said after the last game in Philly, if we can carry over what we did in that second half and bring it the first quarter, it would set a good tone for our team so that's what it did."

"Moving the ball and being aggressive. Obviously Chauncey hit some shots early. When Chauncey hits shots early, he kicks it to Sheed, Sheed makes shots, it gets our team going. Because now we're moving the ball. We're playing good defense when we make shots. That was the case."

"We really had a gut-check last game at halftime. We came out and made plays and that really set the tone for our team as far as what we need to do to really establish ourselves against this team as far as being patient. They've really been doing a good job of making us turn the basketball over and when we play smart and play hard at the same time, that's when we're taking care of the basketball."

"It's very important because you never want to give a team like this any hope. They won Game 1 and that's a sign of a good basketball team that they can play on the road -- good young crew. We have to keep responding. We have good momentum going into this next game. Of course, the probability of shooting 78 percent in the next game in the first quarter is not likely but if we can play good, solid defense and take care of the basketball, we should be in good shape."

Rip Hamilton

"We wanted to be the team that go out and try to make a run early and I thought we did a great job of that."

"We've just got to do it. We've got to look and see what's at stake. Guys did a great job tonight of really focus on taking care of home. Fans come out and did an excellent job of cheering us on, we wanted to give them something to cheer about."

"We made the easy play. We didn't want to hold the ball and things like that. If you had a shot, shoot it, if not, try to make a play for somebody else."

"Chauncey was awesome tonight. Not just making baskets, but dishing. He had 11 assists tonight. When he's rolling like that, we just try to feed off of him."

Maurice Cheeks

"Well, they were very good once again. Offensively, I think Chauncey, the way he took over the game in the beginning, each and every one of them actually, this is a team that's been in situations before that understands how to take advantage of certain things. It was very evident tonight of Chauncey understanding the situation, Rip understanding the situation."

"We never talk enough about Tayshaun Prince. He's always like the fourth guy but he's always that main guy at some point at the end of the clock. They have a lot of good players."

"The series is not over until someone gets four wins. That's the essence of it right now. We got to play a little better, obviously. We have to play a little better on the defensive end. Can't turn the ball over as much and we've got to defend a little bit better one-on-one."

Andre Miller

"We played them pretty even after the first, but they capialized on our game plan and hit shot after shot."
(CB) "He opens everything up for them. Our game plan was to make him hit jumpers, and he did what he was supposed to do. By the time we made any adjustments, it was over."
"They protected their home court, and we have to do the same thing in Game 6."

"I think that we play well with our backs against the wall. They did what they were supposed to do to protect their home court and we need to do the same thing."
Willie Green

"We all got to see the Detroit Pistons at their best tonight. That's why they are one of the toughest teams in the Eastern Conference."
"We played them tough, and that's a positive, but you have to tip your hat. They beat us in every aspect of the game."

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Reputation - not conspiracy - hurting Flyers

By Michael Rushton
The Phanatic Magazine

Philadelphia, PA – Much has been made of the treatment the Flyers have been receiving during their second-round playoff matchup with the Montreal Canadiens.

In fact, many fans, writers and analysts have already begun churning the wheel of conspiracy, hinting that perhaps Philadelphia is up against more than just the Canadiens themselves. Is the NHL rooting for the lone representative of Canada still alive in the postseason? Are the officials out to get the Black & Orange in an effort to help the Habs?

In a column written by Sam Donnellon for Tuesday’s Daily News, the writer brings up some convincing arguments to back up some of those claims. That includes a statement by "Daily News Live" analyst Chris Therien, a former Canadian-born Flyer, that his team felt like they were playing Canada’s team during a postseason bout with the Maple Leafs some seasons ago.

Well, I’m here to tell all you Catcher in the Rye-readers that it isn’t a conspiracy that is working against the Flyers. Instead, Philadelphia is being harmed by its own reputation.

You see, thanks to early-season shenanigans by Steve Downie, Jesse Boulerice, Randy Jones and Scott Hartnell, in the eyes of the officials, if it looks like a penalty by a Flyer, then it must be a penalty on the Flyers. Forget whether the prior’s suspensions were justified – that is a separate and old argument at this point – the bottom line is that suspensions were handed down, and the Flyers obtained a reputation in the process.

Think about it. When a crime is committed and police have no leads, if television and cinema have taught me anything, the law usually goes to the usual suspects to try and dig up information. The same thing happened in school when a prank was played on an unsuspecting teacher. Said instructor almost always went after the class clown, with or without proof.

That’s just how it works. Sorry.

Take Mike Richards’ phantom knee in Game 1. Replay showed the center leveled Alex Kovalev with a shoulder. However, the on-ice officials didn’t have the benefit of replay and if it looked like a knee, than it must have been a knee.

How about Derian Hatcher’s boarding call? It was such a viscous hit that Francis Bouillon was not only able to get right up afterwards, but he was able to take a few shots at Hatcher as well. Before the Flyers defenseman was booted out of the game, might I add. If you want to see a boarding, I think the Boston Bruins can show you some video of what a five-minute boarding penalty that warrants a suspension looks like.

Anyway, Hatcher’s hit deserved two minutes at best. And how about the liberties Montreal has been taking on the Flyers after the whistle? Likely, the black and white enforcers just see Montreal defending itself from the big and bad bully known as the Flyers.

But what can you do? It’s the bed Philadelphia made for itself all year long.

Michael Rushton can be reached a or

Phils activate Victorino

The Phillies activated OF Shane Victorino from the 15-day disabled list before Tuesday's game against San Diego and optioned OF T.J. Bohn to Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

The team also claimed infielder Oscar Robles off waivers from San Diego and assigned him to Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

Flyers' Knuble to return Wednesday

By Bob Herpen

Philadelphia, PA (The Phanatic Magazine) - Philadelphia Flyers forward Mike Knuble is expected to return to the lineup in time for Game 4 of his club's Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Montreal Canadiens.

Knuble slid awkwardly while trying to block a shot late in the second period in Game 5 of the team's conference quarterfinal series against the Washington Capitals and suffered a torn hamstring. He missed the final two games of that series and the first three games of the current set.

The 35-year-old was a major factor in the Flyers' opening-round win, collecting two goals, including an overtime game-winner, and three assists through the first four contests.

Heading into Wednesday's game, the Flyers hold a two-games-to-one series advantage over Montreal, the top seed in the conference.

Soul's Moten wins AFL Defensive Player of the Week honors

Eddie Moten (5-10, 185, Texas A&M Kingsville) registered a game-high 9 1/2 tackles along with a Week 9-high three interceptions as the Philadelphia Soul (9-0) defeated the Dallas Desperados (7-1), 57-28, at the Wachovia Spectrum Monday night in a game between two unbeaten teams.

During the fifth play of Dallas’ first possession of the second quarter, Moten made a touchdown-saving tackle on Desperados WR/DB WILL PETTIS at the Soul one-yard line. On the next play, Moten intercepted Dallas QB CLINT DOLEZEL in the end zone for a touchback.

On the Desperados’ second possession of the third quarter, Moten intercepted Dolezel again on Philadelphia’s one-yard line, ending the Desperados scoring drive and keeping the Soul’s lead at 23 points. With 6:18 remaining in the game, Moten corralled his third interception off Dolezel at Philadelphia’s seven-yard line with his momentum carrying him into the end zone for a touchback.

The Soul’s defense held Dallas to under 30 points for the first time since May 1, 2004, and only the second time in team history. Philadelphia travels to Quicken Loans Arena to face Mitsubishi Motors Eastern Division rival Cleveland (4-4) on Friday, May 2 at 7 p.m. ET.

Penn State names 2008 captains

-Courtesy of Penn State University

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa., April 29, 2008 – A quintet of seniors have been elected captains of the 2008 Penn State football team.

Defensive end Josh Gaines (Ft. Wayne, Ind.) and safety Anthony Scirrotto (West Deptford, N.J.) were named the defensive captains. Center A.Q. Shipley (Coraopolis) and wide receiver Derrick Williams (Greenbelt, Md.) were named the offensive captains.

In addition, linebacker Sean Lee (Pittsburgh) will serve as an honorary captain in 2008. Lee suffered a serious knee injury earlier this month that will likely keep him off the field this season, but he is planning to return for the 2009 season as a fifth-year senior.

All five of the 2008 captains are on schedule to graduate during the next year. Williams is on schedule to graduate in August, with Gaines and Shipley on track to earn their degrees in December. Lee could graduate in December or next spring, with Scirrotto on schedule to graduate next spring.

A two-year starter, Gaines played an important role in helping the Nittany Lions rank in No. 2 the nation in sacks and No. 7 in rushing defense in 2007. The only returnee on the defensive line with any significant experience going into last season, Gaines was instrumental in helping the unit make substantial progress. The former Northrop High School all-state selection has provided consistently strong play and good leadership the past two seasons. A 2007 honorable-mention All-Big Ten selection, Gaines recorded 40 tackles, with 5.0 TFL, including 2.5 sacks for minus-16 yards. Gaines, who comes from a family of 11 children, also had one forced fumble and one pass breakup.

"I was a little surprised at first when Coach Paterno said I was a captain,” Gaines stated. “I just look at it as I've got to keep doing what I've been doing. I was voted a captain for a reason, so they must like what I've been doing. I just try to lead by example and if somebody is down, I try to pick them up."

One of the squad’s most versatile and valuable athletes, Scirrotto led the Nittany Lions in interceptions for the second consecutive season in 2007. A physical player that loves to deliver a jarring hit, he has started all 26 games the past two seasons at safety and played a significant role in the success of Penn State’s Top 10 defense. Scirrotto has 10 career interceptions, moving him one away from moving into the school Top 10. The former West Deptford High School standout was fourth on the squad with 65 tackles last year, including a tackle for loss, with three interceptions, three pass breakups and one fumble recovery. His three interceptions were tied for ninth in the Big Ten. A 2006 first-team All-Big Ten selection, Scirrotto recorded a career-high 10 tackles at Michigan State last season, including 0.5 TFL, and returned an interception 53 yards to set-up a touchdown. A special teams standout, the talented and instinctive Scirrotto was on the field a team-high 1,029 snaps last season and is a probable post-season honors candidate.

A starter in all 26 games the past two seasons, Shipley anchors the offensive line. A hard-working leader for the offense, he has used his skills, tenacity and competitive nature to become one the top offensive linemen in the Big Ten. He was recognized by the conference coaches with his selection as the 2007 first-team All-Big Ten center and will be a candidate for the Rimington Award for the second consecutive year. The Coraopolis, Pa. native also is on the Watch List for the 2008 Rotary Lombardi Award and Outland Trophy. The former Moon Area High School standout was selected to the 2007 All-Bowl Team after the Nittany Lions ran for a season-high 270 yards in the 24-17 win over Texas A&M. He also made his first career reception against the Aggies, rumbling for four yards after snaring a deflected pass. He saw action on 997 snaps last season, fourth-highest on the team.

"It's a great honor to be put in the same category with all the great captains Coach Paterno has had before,” Shipley said. “We're just going to go about our business, keep everybody moving together in the same direction and lead by example on and off the field."

Williams enrolled at Penn State in January 2005 and has been a catalyst for the Nittany Lions as a receiver, returner and runner the past three seasons. The nation’s top prep player in 2004, Williams is a three-year starter coming off a season when he made a team-high 55 receptions, tied for No 3 on the school season list. The immensely talented and hard-working athlete gained 1,121 all-purpose yards last year, second-highest on the team. He averaged a superlative 10.37 yards on his 108 touches. Williams continued to take on a larger role in the passing game, making a team-high 55 catches for 529 yards and three touchdowns. The former Eleanor Roosevelt HS All-American ranked third in the Big Ten in punt returns, averaging 11.0 yards on 23 returns. He swung the momentum of the Notre Dame clash with his electrifying, zig-zagging 78-yard touchdown return, earning the Pontiac Game Changing Performance for the second time in his outstanding career. Williams also averaged 6.3 yards per carry with one score.

A candidate for the 2008 Biletnikoff Award and other post-season accolades, Williams made 25 receptions in the last four games, lifting him into a tied for No. 4 on the school career receptions chart with 117, along with classmate Jordan Norwood and Jack Curry (1965-67). The dynamic playmaker also is No. 15 in Penn State career receiving yards (1,258), needing 262 yards to crack the top 10.

"It's an honor. It doesn't really change anything for me leadership-wise from the past three years,” said Williams. “We just want to work hard, go out and do the best we can to bring back a good season."

Lee had a superlative junior season, earning 2007 first-team All-America honors from Pro Football Weekly. But, during practice on April 11, he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during practice and is unlikely to play during the 2008 season. Lee had surgery on April 28 and his rehabilitation will take approximately nine months. A rising senior, Lee played as a true freshman in 2005 and has a redshirt year available. The vastly talented, instinctive and intelligent Lee ranked second in the Big Ten with 138 tackles last year, trailing only teammate Dan Connor.

A two-time Big Ten Defensive Player-of-the-Week honoree in 2007, Lee earned second-team all-conference honors in a league that featured two of the three finalists for the Butkus Award. His 138 tackles were No. 5 on the school season list. Lee recorded double-figures in tackles in 10 of the last 11 games. An intense competitor who loves to hit, Lee also had 10.5 tackles for loss (minus-34), 3.5 sacks, forced three fumbles, recovered three fumbles and grabbed one interception. The swift and strong athlete also was second on the team with eight pass breakups. A first team Class AAAA all-state selection from Upper St. Clair High School, he was tied for first in the Big Ten in fumble recoveries and was tied for No. 7 in the conference in forced fumbles last year.

A starter in the last 26 games, Lee punctuated his marvelous junior season by earning 2007 Valero Alamo Bowl Defensive Player of the Game accolades. He recorded a game-high 14 tackles, tied for most in Alamo Bowl history, to lead a defensive unit that allowed Texas A&M just three points over the final 49 minutes of the game. He also had a minus-yardage hit and a pass break-up in the 24-17 victory to earn a berth on the All-Bowl Team. Lee earned ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District honors last year and has earned Academic All-Big Ten honors twice.

"It's an honor to be a captain and join the list of players that have been a captain prior to me,” Lee commented. “I've always dreamed of being a captain at Penn State. It's a great responsibility, but we have a great senior class with a lot of leadership."

Soul defense makes presence felt

By Michael Rushton
The Phanatic Magazine

Philadelphia, PA - In Philadelphia, it just takes a visit by a team from Dallas to bring out the best.

The Soul's defense, which is ranked in the middle of the pack this season as far as touchdowns allowed goes, put on a show in front of its home faithful on Monday night in helping Philadelphia remain undefeated on the season with a 57-28 victory over the Dallas Desperados.

The win also handed the Desperados their first loss of the season in a battle that marked the latest point in a season two undefeated clubs met on the field. Philadelphia is now 9-0, while Dallas fell to 7-1.

Sure, Philadelphia's top-ranked offense was there, as quarterback Matt D'Orazio threw six touchdown passes and ran for another two, but it was the defense that grabbed the momentum early.

Defensive back Mike Brown intercepted Dallas quarterback Clint Dolezel's first pass of the game, and returned it 26 yards to the Desperado 14. After a D'Orazio TD run, the Soul defense halted Dallas on the Philadelphia nine-yard line on four straight plays, culminating with Bryan Save's sack.

That led to another Philly score, and Dallas failed to find the end zone in the first quarter. The Desperado's third possession, which began in the first frame and extended into the second, ended when Eddie Moten grabbed the first of his third interceptions on the day.

"Unbelievable, defense came out and just played lights out," said D'Orazio. "They prepared all week really well."

In a league where the turnover battle can make or break a team each week, the Soul defense notched four interceptions in all and helped stake the club to an early 21-0 lead.

Moten was without a doubt the Soul's most emotional player on the defensive side of the ball. The Dallas native seems to always bring his A-game when he battles the Desperados, and there is no Christmas cards being exchanged between himself and Dolezel.

The players have butted heads before, and Moten even went as far as to return his first interception into the chest of Dolezel, after the player was over of course.

Moten's three interceptions tied his own franchise record for most in a single game, set on May 6, 2006 versus, of course Dallas. He also posted a career-high 9 1/2 tackles in the win.

"That's my hometown and I just want to play good against those guys," Moten said of playing against Dallas. "I guess I've got to get extra pumped, extra motivated, bottom line I just want to come down with a win."

Philadelphia didn't come out of the Dallas game perfect though. Defensive back Brian Mance suffered a fractured left ankle and will miss the rest of the season. Brown, meanwhile, suffered a back ailment that has him day-to-day.

That forced recently re-signed wide receiver/linebacker Sean Scott, as well as standout wide out Chris Jackson, into a shorthanded secondary during the game.

"Like I said, I'm just proud of those guys," said head coach Bret Munsey. "They're battling. Whatever it takes, we've got guys stepping up and that's what it's all about."

The Soul's 57 points were nearly 16 points more than Dallas was allowing per game heading into the test, but was also nine points below the offense's average as well.

There is no doubt that the Soul make their money on offense, racking up points at an alarming pace. But the defense now has something to build on as well, and if that unit can carry this performance over into the later weeks, the Soul will be a force to be reckoned with.

"I kind of wanted to come out and keep it with offense," Moten said. "Offense has been playing great first half of the season. We've been playing all right, mediocre. I think we need to step our games up a little bit the second half of the season and get great, right along with the offense."

If anything, Monday's win will instill a confidence necessary week in and week out. But confidence isn't something Moten lacks.

When asked where the Soul go from here, he easily responded: "10-0, next week."

Cheeks finished fourth in NBA Coach of the Year results


Coach, Team 1st 2nd 3rd Pts

Byron Scott, New Orleans 70 34 6 458

Doc Rivers, Boston 23 36 19 242

Rick Adelman, Houston 17 23 39 193

Maurice Cheeks, Philadelphia 5 12 20 81

Phil Jackson, L.A. Lakers 4 4 9 56

Jerry Sloan, Utah 6 4 7 49

Eddie Jordan, Washington -- 5 12 27

Stan Van Gundy, Orlando -- 2 8 14

Nate McMillan, Portland -- -- 3 3

Flip Saunders, Detroit -- -- 1 1

Mike D’Antoni, Phoenix -- -- 1 1

Lieberthal will retire as a Phil

Former catcher Mike Lieberthal, who spent 13 of his 14 major league seasons with the Phillies, will retire as a member of the organization on June 1, the team announced Monday.

The last player to retire as a Phillie in this manner was outfielder Doug Glanville in 2005

Originally selected by the Phillies as the third overall pick in the 1990 draft behind Chipper Jones (Braves) and Tony Clark (Tigers), Lieberthal holds the franchise record for most games caught at 1,139 despite seven trips to the disabled list.

Other notable players taken in the first round of the 1990 draft included Dan Wilson (7th), Carl Everett (10th), Todd Van Poppel (14th), Jeromy Burnitz (17th), Mike Mussina (20th) and Rondell White (24th).

"Philadelphia has always been a second home to me, so I’m really looking forward to this," said Lieberthal. "I spent half my life there and still follow the team closely on television."

In his 13 seasons with the Phillies (1994-2006), Lieberthal hit .275 with 150 home runs and 609 RBI in 1,174 games. He spent the 2007 season -- his final season as an active major league player -- with the Dodgers where he batted .234 with one RBI in 38 games.

A two-time All-Star (1999-2000), Lieberthal became just the sixth catcher in major league history to hit .300 with 30 home runs in a season when he did so in 1999. He was the first Phillies player to reach those numbers in the same season since Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt did it in 1981, a span of 18 years. Lieberthal also set a Phillies record in 1999 for fielding percentage by a catcher (.997), committing just three errors in 946 total chances, en route to a Rawlings Gold Glove Award.

Morelli signs with Cardinals

-Courtesy of Penn State University

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa., April 29, 2008 – Two members of Penn State’s 2007 squad have signed with National Football League teams on the heels of a pair of Nittany Lions that were selected in the NFL Draft.

Wide receiver Terrell Golden (Norfolk, Va.) signed with the Philadelphia Eagles and record-setting quarterback Anthony Morelli (Pittsburgh) signed with the Arizona Cardinals. The signing of the two tri-captains brings the total of 2007 Nittany Lions to be drafted or signed to four, with other signings to be announced. The signings will be announced as NFL teams make their announcements.

Golden joins former Nittany Lion standout tailback Tony Hunt on the Eagles’ roster. Morelli will be reunited with former Penn State All-America tackle Levi Brown, who was the No. 5 overall selection by the Cardinals in the 2007 NFL Draft.

Golden was a consistently productive threat to make a big catch and run throughout his career. Playing in every game and earning seven starts in 2007, Golden made 30 receptions for 345 yards (11.5) and three touchdowns, tied for second-highest on the squad. During his career, he made 48 receptions for 735 yards for an impressive 15.3 yard average. He scored five career touchdowns with a career long catch of 56 yards.

Golden made a significant impact in the Nittany Lions’ 38-7 win over No. 19 Wisconsin. He and Morelli were locked-in, as the talented and determined Golden broke his career-high for receptions in the first quarter alone, making four grabs for 64 yards. He finished with five catches for a career-best 83 yards, delivering catches of 20, 18, 17 and 19 yards as the big Homecoming win unfolded. In the critical victory at Indiana, the athletic and hard-working Goldenb recorded four catches for 40 yards, including a 13-yard touchdown.

In the Valero Alamo Bowl win over Texas A&M, Golden hauled in a season-long 32-yard reception on third-and-20, taking the ball inside the Aggies’ 20 to set-up the go-ahead field goal just before halftime in the 24-17 win.

Golden was a frequent contributor to the Penn State Football Story this season with his spontaneous video interviews of his teammates. Golden earned his degree in August 2007.

The only Penn State quarterback to throw for 2,000 yards in more than one season, Morelli started all 26 games the past two seasons, leading the Nittany Lions to 18 wins, including bowl victories over Tennessee and Texas A&M, and a pair of Top 25 finishes. The former Penn Hills High School All-American finished his career leading or among the top five in numerous Penn State season and career passing lists, including:

* Season Passing Yardage (2nd, 2,651 in 2007)
* Career Passing Yardage (5th, 5,275)
* Most Passing Yards in a Half (231 vs. FIU in 2007)
* Most 2,000-Yard Passing Seasons (1st, 2)
* Season Pass Completions (1st, 234 in 2007; 2nd, 208 in 2006)
* Career Pass Completions (2nd, 460)
* Season Pass Attempts (1st, 402 in 2007; 2nd, 386 in 2006)
* Career Pass Attempts (3rd, 822)
* Season Touchdown Passes (T 4th, 19 in 2007)
* Career Touchdown Passes (6th, 31)
* Career 200-Yard Passing Games (T 3rd, 11)
* Season Total Offense (3rd, 2,638 in 2007)
* Career Total Offense (6th, 5,154)

Morelli completed the 2007 season with 2,651 passing yards, just 28 shy of the Penn State single season mark of 2,679 set by All-American Kerry Collins in 1994. He broke his own school season records, set in 2006, with 234 completions and 402 pass attempts.

A tri-captain, Morelli threw for 200 yards or more seven times this season (five vs. Big Ten foes) and is No. 3 in career 200-yard games with 11. This past season, he was 234 of 402 for 2,651 yards, with 19 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Morelli had 37 completions of 20 yards or more in 2007 and led the Lions to eight scoring drives in the final 2:00 of the first half, including six in the last seven games.

Morelli is on schedule to earn his degree in May.

A pair of Penn State standouts were selected in the 2008 NFL Draft, increasing to 234 the number of Nittany Lions that have been drafted under Hall of Fame coach Joe Paterno. All-America linebacker Dan Connor (Wallingford) was selected by Carolina in the third round and All-Big Ten cornerback Justin King (Pittsburgh), was selected by the St. Louis Rams with the second pick of the fourth round.

There were 31 former Nittany Lions on NFL rosters during the 2007 season, placing Penn State in the top 15 nationally among schools in producing current NFL players. Former Nittany Lions Jay Alford and Kareem McKenzie won Super Bowl rings with the New York Giants last season.

Soul turns broad Street Brawl inro rout

By John McMullen

Philadelphia, PA (The Phanatic Magazine) - While the Flyers were schooling the storied Montreal Canadiens at the Wachovia Center in the second round of the NFL playoffs, Philadelphia's best team was across the parking lot drubbing the Dallas Desperados in something Soul public relations guru Greg Wiley dubbed the Broad Street Brawl.

The undefeated Soul (9-0) used three straight defensive stops early in the game to take control and never looked back en route to an easy 57-28 win over previously undefeated Dallas (7-1).

"You have to take your hats off for the defense," Said Soul quarterback Matt D'Orazio. "Defense came out and shut out a great offense. Just played tremendous football. We have a great offensive line and if they continue to be the best in the league we can make out so it's a total a team effort."

Monday night's encounter was the latest two undefeated teams clashed in AFL history.

D'Orazio, subbing again for the injured Tony Graziani, completed 20-of-29 passes for 194 yards and six touchdowns with just one interception. Chris Jackson caught seven balls for 83 yards and a TD, while Larry Brackins had seven for 77 yards and three scores.

"We took advantage of the home field, the crowd and the Spectrum," D'Orazio added. "We were excited about a win; we are probably as excited as we are about any win."

Dallas native Eddie Moten added three interceptions, tying his own franchise record also set against Dallas on May 6, 2006.

"I kind of wanted to come out and keep it with offense," Moten said. Offense has been playing great first half of the season.

Clint Dolezel was just 17-of-36 for 206 yards and two TDs with four interceptions for Dallas.

The Soul took charge on the first offensive play of the game. Dolezel and his receiver weren't on the same page and Mike Brown took advantage, picking off a pass and returning it all the way to the Dallas 14-yard line.

Four plays later, D'Orazio went up the middle on a quarterback draw for a seven-yard TD and Philadelphia led 7-0.

The Soul defense broke serve for a second straight time when nose tackle Bryan Save broke through on a 4th-and-goal play to sack Dolezel at the Philadelphia 17.

D'Orazio was able to cash in again by finding Brackins for a 17-yard score on a corner pattern in the back of the end zone.

The Soul defense kept the pressure on Dallas with a third straight stop early in the second quarter. A fierce pass rush caused a hurried Dolezel to force a pass to the back of the end zone and Moten was there for Philadelphia's second pick of the night.

D'Orazio kept the pressure on the reeling Desperados by finding former Denver Bronco Darius Watts for a four-yard TD and a 21-0 Soul advantage.

Dallas finally found the scoreboard when Dolezel took it in from a yard out but any celebration was short-lived as Gabe Nyenhuis blocked the ensuing PAT, and Brown scooped it up and raced to the opposite end zone for a two-point play and a 23-6 Philly lead.

D'Orazio continued to confound the Dallas defense and extended the Soul's cushion to 30-6 when he found a wide open Phil Bogle for a three-yard score. Bogle, an offensive lineman, was eligible on the play and slipped off the line, surprising the Desperados with just under a minute to go in the first half.

Dallas finally got some offense going on their ensuing possession and Dolezel finished things by faking a handoff up the middle and breaking around left end for a two-yard score. The Desperados QB lost his composure, however, and was called for unsportsmanlike conduct after spiking the ball right in front of Brown.

That gave the Soul better field position and D'Orazio was able to turn that into a 17-yard TD to Brackins and Philadelphia took a commanding 37-13 lead into the locker room.

D'Orazio opened the door a crack for Dallas by opening the second half with an interception, and Dolezel took advantage with his first TD toss of the game, a 22-yarder to Will Pettis.

Any mometum was quicky stemmed when D'Orazio went to his money man, Jackson for a 17-yard TD. Connor Hughes missed the extra point and the Soul had a 43-20 cushion.

After Moten's second interception of the game, D'Orazio put things away on the first play of the fourth quarter with a one-yard TD run that gave Philadelphia an impressive 30-point cushion, 50-20.

A brilliant finger-tip catch by Pettis and a two-point coversion brought Dallas to within 50-28 with just over 11 minutes to go.

But, an onsides kick attempt by the Desperados failed, giving the Soul the ball inside the 10. Three plays later, D'Orazio threw a strike to Brackins for another score.

Soul Food: The game was moved to the Wachovia Spectrum because of the Flyers game. Attendance was 15,426... The Soul are now 4-5 all-time versus Dallas and 3-2 at home...Defensive back Brian Mance left in the third quarter with a broken left ankle and will miss the rest of the season...Brown also injured his back and did not return...Jackson got some snaps on defense because of the injuries...Jackson's TD catch was the 299th of his career. Only Damian Harrell (309) and Eddie Brown (303) have more in AFL history.

Battle Cage Xtreme

Monday, April 28, 2008

Draft update: Rice to Baltimore; Zuttah to Tampa

-Courtesy of Rutgers University

– Two-time Rutgers All-America running back Ray Rice (New Rochelle, N.Y.) was selected in the second round of the 2008 NFL Draft by the Baltimore Ravens. The nation's second-leading rusher in 2007, Rice rushed for 2,012 yards and scored 25 touchdowns in 2007 to help lead Rutgers to its third straight bowl and second consecutive bowl victory.

Rice was the No. 55 overall selection in the 2008 NFL Draft. It marked the second consecutive year that a Rutgers running back was chosen in the second round after Brian Leonard was taken with the No. 52 pick in the 2007 NFL Draft by the St. Louis Rams.

"The Baltimore Ravens are getting a tremendous player and person in Ray Rice," said Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano. "Ray proved at the college level that he was one of the elite players in the nation and I think he will have an outstanding NFL career as well. It will be exciting to watch Ray join his former backfield mate (Brian Leonard, St. Louis Rams) in the NFL. I look forward to watching Ray run on Sundays."

During Rice's three-year career in Piscataway, the Scarlet Knights won 26 games and appeared in three bowl games.

Rice's career "On the Banks" will go down in the history books as one of the best in Rutgers and BIG EAST history. In 38 career games, Rice rushed for 4,926 yards and scored 50 touchdowns (49 rushing). He is the second-leading rusher in BIG EAST history and the all-time leading rusher in Rutgers' history.

Rice became the first player in Rutgers and BIG EAST history and the 13th player in NCAA history to rush for 2,000 yards in a season with 2,012 in 2007.

In his final game as a Scarlet Knight, he saved his best performance for last, rushing for a school-record 280 yards and four touchdowns, including a 90-yard touchdown run.

Rice left Rutgers as the school's all-time leader in 100-yard games (25), 200-yard games (6), career rushing yards (4,926), career rushing attempts (910), career rushing touchdowns (49), single-season rushing yards (2,012 in 2007), single-season rushing touchdowns (24 in 2007), single-season rushing attempts (380 in 2007), single-game rushing yards (280 vs. Ball State, 2008 International Bowl), single-season scoring record (150 points in 2007), single-season all-purpose yards (2,251 in 2007), consecutive 100-yard games (8 in 2007), longest rushing touchdown (90 vs. Ball State, 2008 International Bowl) and tied the school record for longest run from scrimmage (90 vs. Ball State, 2008 International Bowl).

He is second in BIG EAST history in career rushing attempts, career rushing yards, 100-yard games and third in career touchdowns. He is the BIG EAST single-season record holder with 2,012 yards in 2007 and is the only running back in BIG EAST history to lead the conference in rushing in two consecutive seasons.

Rutgers senior offensive tackle Jeremy Zuttah (Edison, N.J.) was selected in the third round of the 2008 NFL Draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Zuttah, a two-time All-BIG EAST offensive line selection at Rutgers, was the second Scarlet Knight selected in the 2008 NFL Draft after Ray Rice was taken with the No. 55 pick by the Baltimore Ravens yesterday.

Jeremy ZuttahZuttah was the No. 83 selection of the draft and is the second offensive lineman in as many years from Rutgers to be drafted.

"Jeremy was a four-year starter for us and I know he will excel at the next level," said Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano. "He is a multi-talented player and outstanding athlete who can play several positions. Not only did Jeremy excel on the playing field, he also graduated in 3.5 years. I expect to see big things from Jeremy in the NFL."

A four-year starter for the Scarlet Knights, Zuttah made 40 career starts, including 28 straight starts to close out his career. In 2006 and 2007 as the starter at right tackle for RU, Zuttah was part of an offensive line that allowed just eight sacks in 2006 (Fewest in NCAA) and yielded just 10 sacks in 2007 (Second-fewest in NCAA). He did not allow a sack over his final two seasons with the Scarlet Knights.

Draft roundup: Connor to Carolina; King heads to Gateway City

-Courtesy of Penn State Uinversity

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa., April 27, 2008 – A pair of Penn State standouts, linebacker Dan Connor (Wallingford) and cornerback Justin King (Pittsburgh), were selected today in the National Football League Draft.

The Carolina Panthers selected Connor in the third round and the St. Louis Rams chose King with the second pick of the fourth round.

With the selection of Connor and King, 234 Nittany Lions have been drafted under Hall of Fame coach Joe Paterno and more than 300 of his players have signed NFL contracts. Thirty-four Nittany Lions have been selected in the first round of the NFL Draft, 31 of whom have played for Paterno. Six Nittany Lions have been selected in the first round of the NFL Draft over the past five years.

Connor will be reunited with former Nittany Lion linebacker Tim Shaw on the Panthers’ roster. Shaw was selected by Carolina in the 2007 NFL Draft. King will join Penn Stater David Macklin with the Rams. A cornerback, Macklin signed as a free agent with Rams last month after playing with Washington in 2007.

Connor and King led the 2007 Nittany Lion defense to top 15 national rankings in rushing (No. 7, 93.8 ypg), scoring (No. 7, 17.5 ppg) and total defense (No. 11, 308.2 ypg), as well as No. 2 in sacks (46) and No. 10 in tackles for losses (102). Penn State, Ohio State and USC were the only teams to finish in the top 15 in all five categories. They were instrumental in the Nittany Lion defense held seven teams to 17 points or less this past season, including a 24-17 win over Texas A&M in the Valero Alamo Bowl.

Winner of the 2007 Bednarik Award as the nation's top defensive player, Connor established himself as one of the all-time greats to play the position at "Linebacker U." A product of Strath Haven High School, he is the Nittany Lions' all-time tackle leader with 419. A two-time first team All-American, he also was a team co-captain as a senior.

Connor posted nine tackles vs. the Aggies to finish the 2007 season with 145 stops, the second-highest season mark in Penn State history behind All-American Greg Buttle’s 165 in 1974. A starter in the last 33 games of his career, he also had one tackle for loss vs. Texas A&M and ended his career with 34, tied for the 12th best mark at Penn State with Paul Posluszny.

In the 2008 Senior Bowl, Connor made a game-high nine tackles and grabbed an interception, earning the Under Armour Award as the North MVP. He was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week four times in his outstanding career.

Connor graduated from Penn State in December.

A starter in all 26 games the past two seasons, King (Pittsburgh) emerged as one of the nation’s top cover cornerbacks. As a junior in 2007, he earned first team All-Big Ten honors from the coaches and media and was a second team all-conference pick in 2006. Last year, King led the Big Ten and was No. 19 in the nation with 17 passes defended, recording 15 pass break-ups and two interceptions.

A prep All-American at Gateway High School, King enrolled at Penn State in January 2005 and was instrumental in the Nittany Lions’ earning a 29-9 record the past three years, among the Top 15 marks in the nation. During the 2007 season, he recorded 36 solo tackles among his 49 stops, with two interceptions, 15 pass break-ups and one fumble recovery. He ranked seventh on the squad in tackles.

A two-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree, King graduated from Penn State in six semesters, earning his degree in letters, arts and sciences in December 2007.

There were 31 former Nittany Lions on NFL rosters during the 2007 season, placing Penn State in the top 15 nationally among schools in producing current NFL players. Former Nittany Lions Jay Alford and Kareem McKenzie won Super Bowl rings with the New York Giants last season.

Soul faces Dallas in Broad Street Brawl

Dallas Desperados (7-0) @ Philadelphia Soul (8-0)

The History

By Ray Bentley -- It’s a battle of undefeated teams and is being billed as the “Broad Street Brawl.” Arguably the biggest regular season game in AFL history is set for this coming Monday night as the Dallas Desperados visit the Philadelphia Soul on Russell Athletic ESPN Arena Football Monday at 8 p.m. EST on ESPN2 and The game will also be shown in HD.

This will be the ninth meeting between these two clubs with Dallas holding a five to three advantage in the series. The Desperados swept Philly last year on their way to a 15-1 record. Philly swept Dallas the year before. This is the first of two meetings between the division rivals as they meet again in Dallas in Week 15.

The Stakes

This is not a title game or even a playoff battle, but nonetheless this is a huge ballgame. Never have two teams gone this far into an AFL season undefeated and played each other. The winner will take over sole possession of the top spot in the Eastern Division and the National Conference. They will also have the inside track to home-field advantage come playoff time.

This is a dream matchup for the AFL. Both teams were expected to be good this year, but nobody thought they would be undefeated this far into the season, especially after both lost their starting QBs for four games. There is still some doubt regarding Tony Graziani’s playing status which adds to the intrigue.

The Players

There has been a question of who the Philly QB will be the past two weeks and this week is no different. Unless Graziani improves dramatically prior to kickoff, Matt D'Orazio will get the start. I don’t know how this can be considered bad news, unless you are a Dallas fan. D’Orazio adds the threat of a mobile, running QB. He will also hold the ball a little longer waiting for receivers to break free. This gives the defense more things to worry about. Not that defending Graziani is a picnic. It doesn’t matter who is taking the snaps, the Soul lead the AFL at 66 points per game.

The Soul has a group of receivers who could make any QB look good. Chris Jackson (72-915-29TDs) runs the best routes in the game and is the best at avoiding the press in high motion. He has helped Larry Brackins (58-818-16TDs) raise his game a few notches. Brackins may be the best “X” (aligns on the line of scrimmage to the wide side) receiver in the AFL according to head coach Bret Munsey. It’s hard to argue that after watching him play. One man seldom gets Brackins to the ground. Darius Watts (27-281-3TDs) is also very talented as a third receiver.

Dallas has a similarly explosive set of pass catchers. Marcus Nash (49-582-15TDs) still has all the gears and is a smart playmaker. Will Pettis (46-534-14TDs) has the ability to take over games. He plays with power and intensity. Third receiver, Anthony Armstrong (39-515-6TDs) is getting better every week.

I don’t know how you can go any farther in an analysis without bringing in Dallas QB Clint Dolezel. The long, tall Texan is the best the game has seen over time. He will likely pass Andy Kelly as the AFL’s all-time passing yardage leader. He is closing in on 900 TD passes (884) which is more than anyone in the history of football, including backyard games. These numbers are the product of a fierce competitive nature and brilliant football mind. Not to mention he can make all of the throws.

They say defense wins championships, which means both of these teams have a chance. Dallas has the top defense in the AFL allowing only 42.7 points per game. They bring Colston Weatherington off the edge and collapse the pocket with Winfield Garnett. Duke Pettijohn is relentless and plays like a wild dog. Bobby Perry is a budding star at Jack. The secondary is anchored by veteran Jermaine Jones, who will match up on Chris Jackson much of the time. Johnnie Harris knows how to play the front side corner and is doing so at a high level. Will Pettis will also play some defense and probably cover Jackson in the red zone.

The Philadelphia defense has made key plays all year. They are fifth in the league allowing 50 points per game but their play has been exceptionally timely. They are second in the AFL at a +10 margin in the turnover department. They also get after the passer with Bryan Save and Gabe Nyenhuis.

Eddie Moten is a fixture in the heart of the Soul defense. He has had big games against Dolezel, intercepting him six times in his career. Mike Brown has been a playmaker coming up with four interceptions from the boundary corner and Brian Mance is playing very well at the field corner. Anthony Dunn has been outstanding at Mac Linebacker and was another of the shrewd off-season acquisitions by the Soul.

The kickers will be important in this one. The kicking game is always magnified in the big games. Philadelphia is one of the best special teams units in the game, leading the league in returns and coverage. Kicker Conner Hughes has proven reliable. Dallas is always a threat to bring it all the way back with Will Pettis on the nets. Kicker Remy Hamilton has picked up his game and is the all-time field goal leader for a reason.

These teams are mirror images in a lot of ways. They both have two proven veteran QBs, both head coaches call the defense, both have excellent offensive lines, both have a top-shelf edge rusher, both have physical playmakers at WR, both have productive Jack and intense Mack Linebackers. Both have excellent Nose guards.

And both are undefeated.

The Game

Very seldom do regular season games merit naming such as “The Broad Street Brawl”. But then you don’t often have undefeated teams having a showdown this late in the year. Regardless, this is a big one! It’s going to be a lot of fun. You have, without question, the best two teams in the league going at it on Monday Night. It don’t get much better than this.

This game should live up to the hype just because of the talent that will be on the field. D’Orazio is playing better than ever and Dolezel is healthier after coming off the bye week. You have arguably four of the top 10 receivers in the league in Jackson, Brackins, Pettis and Nash. Weatherington and Nyenhuis are two of the best edge rushers in the game. Pettijohn and Dunn are beasts. There will be great one-on-one matchups across the board.

This will be a well-coached football game. Both Will McClay of Dallas and Philly’s Bret Munsey are very adept at AFL strategy. They both manage the game and make effective adjustments, but more importantly, their teams will be prepared.

A key to this game will be the Desperados’ ability to defend Chris Jackson. They will try to give him different looks and hope to find a way to slow him down. If they do take Jackson away then Brackins must respond with a big game. Dallas will matchup from time to time putting Jones on Jackson and Harris on Brackins. That should be fun to watch.

Two years ago Philly swept the series with Dallas as the Desperados went 13-3. This is where the rivalry went to the next level. A big reason Philly won both games was the play of Eddie Moten. He picked Dolezel off two times in the first meeting and they got into a war of words. Obviously, Moten can get under Dolezel’s skin. Will he do so on Monday?

I expect a high scoring game although I think Dallas will try to slow it down at some point and eat up the clock. But big-time players make big-time plays in big games. Or so I heard. The team that runs the ball better and performs in the red zone will take this one and remain undefeated.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Where For Art Thou, Iggy?

By Jeff Glauser
The Phanatic Magazine

Games 1 and 3, it somehow didn't matter.

Game 2 was such a thrashing in every which way, so it was irrelevant.

This time, it became unavoidable.

The cold, hard reality is this: Andre Iguadala is the reason the Sixers lost this game - and the reason why they may lose this series.

Granted, there were plenty of things that did not go - and have not gone Philly's way: giving up way too many second chance opportunities to the Pistons, the maddening collective ineptitude at the free throw line, the inability to defend and shoot the three (ironically, salary dump Kyle Korver would look quite nice about now) and f'ing Tayshaun Prince (and guess who guarded him?).

But, when it all comes down to what matters, go-to guys are supposed to go, and Andre has been stuck at a red light for far too long.

Whether it’s poor shot selections, ill-advised passes or a chronic case of butterfingers, it’s clear that No. 9 is not ready for prime time. What started as a simple, understandable slump has become an avert-your-eyes-and-cringe kind of train wreck.

He came into these playoffs with more promise than any other member of the squad. He took two steps forward this season and on more than several occasions, carried his teammates on his sturdy, high-flying back.

Sadly, those two steps forward have transformed into a giant leap backward here.

One can hope, especially now that Billy King – who used to toss lavish contract extensions around like Michael Jackson throws sleepovers – is no longer around, that Iguadala has at least saved the Sixers several million bucks over this past week to spend elsewhere.

Numbers don’t lie:

A nauseating 11 for 49 from the field. To put things into perspective, he went 4 for 16 tonight and actually raised his shooting percentage!

Over four turnovers per game.

A not-so-clutch 4 for 9 from the foul line at home tonight.

Needless to say, none of this screams “max contract.” Even to you, Billy.

Stars turn it up a notch when the stakes are raised. Contrary to my hopes and expectations, Andre Iguadala is not yet a star.

And that fact alone may have cost the Sixers a landmark upset.