The week that was: From Oct. 7 to 14, from baseball to football to hockey
Steelers notch first win; Penn State upsets Michigan in 4OT
The Pittsburgh Steelers finally got their first win of the season Oct. 13 by a score of 19-6 at the New York Jets. The game's only touchdown was a 55-yard pass from Ben Roethlisberger to wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders. Sanders had a total of three catches for 70 yards, while Roethlisberger threw 23-for-30 for 264 yards.
Safety Ryan Clark and inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons both picked off Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith in the win. The run defense appears to have finally found itself, as running backs Bilal Powell, Mike Goodson, and Chris Ivory all struggled to gain yardage against the Steel Curtain.
Kicker Shaun Suisham, a journeyman who has played for five different teams in both the CFL and NFL, hit four field goals in the win. Suisham was very important in the win, but going forward, the Steelers need to finish their drives off with seven points instead of three in order to ditch the cellar of the AFC North. On Oct. 20 at 4:25 p.m., the Steelers face the 3-3 Baltimore Ravens, who are sitting at No. 2 in the division, at Heinz Field.
The Cleveland Browns saw their three-game-winning streak snapped by the Detroit Lions in a 31-17 loss on Oct. 13. After getting his job back due to an injury to Brian Hoyer, quarterback Brandon Weeden threw 26-of-43 for 292 yards and two touchdowns. Both of Weeden's touchdown passes came deep in the red zone, as he hit running back Chris Ogbonnaya from four yards out and wide receiver Greg Little from two yards out.
Wide receiver Travis Benjamin led the rushing effort with a 45-yard gash on an end around in the first quarter. That would be his only carry, and running back Willis McGahee gained 37 yards on 10 carries. The defense let the game slip away, as the 17-7 lead vanished in a second half that saw no touchdowns for the Browns. Lions QB Matthew Stafford threw four touchdown passes.
The 3-3 Browns' defense will need more offensive (read: Brandon Weeden remains the starting QB) help next week when they visit Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers (3-2) at 4:25 p.m. on Oct. 20.
The Buffalo Bills also struggled on Sunday, as quarterback Thad Lewis could not finish in a 27-24 overtime loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. Lewis started the game hot, but looked more and more like a reserve as the game continued, opening the door for the Bills to lean on CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson, but the two combined for only 90 yards on 20 carries.
The Bills' defense allowed 337 yards and three touchdowns to quarterback Andy Dalton through the air, and gave up another 165 total yards to Cincinnati's versatile ground game. The secondary made significant contributions, as safety Jim Leonhard intercepted Dalton, and fellow safety Jairus Byrd played in his first game of the season after having finally recovered from a foot injury.
Next week, the 2-4 Bills visit Miami to take on their division rival Dolphins (3-2) at 1 p.m. on Oct. 20.
Christian Hackenberg and the Penn State Nittany Lions upset the No. 18 Michigan Wolverines in four overtimes by a score 43-40. Happy Valley hasn't been this happy in years. Hackenberg threw 23 of 44 for 305 yards and three touchdowns. Senior wide receiver Brandon Felder caught six balls for 97 yards and two touchdowns. Sophomore tight end Jesse James also caught a 20-yard touchdown pass.
Junior kicker Sam Ficken hit three of five field goals, including a 47-yarder in the fourth quarter and a 40-yarder in the first overtime. However, fellow junior and Penn State running back Bill Belton was much more clutch than Ficken, as he scored a two yard touchdown run to win the game in the fourth overtime.
It was tough on both sides, but the high-scoring thriller led to a win for Penn State. This week's matchup against the Wolverines and an upcoming bye week may prepare them for a visit to the No. 4 Ohio State Buckeyes on Saturday, Oct. 26 at 8 p.m.
The Pitt Panthers did not play as well as the Nittany Lions, as they lost to the Virginia Tech Hokies 19-9. Senior wide receiver Devin Street had five receptions for 103 yards and a touchdown. Street accounted for more than half of Tom Savage's 187 passing yards.
Savage only completed 13 of 28 pass attempts and the Panthers combined for 29 total rushing yards. Savage's numerous sacks led to his negative-29 rushing yards, despite a nine-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter. Freshman running back James Conner left the game with a shoulder injury after only contributing one yard on two carries.
The offense's struggles left the door open for the Panthers defense to crank out another performance a la the Virginia game on Sept. 28, but Logan Thomas and the Hokies sneaked through instead. Pitt has a great opportunity to recover from the tough loss against the Old Dominion Monarchs, who will be joining the FBS in 2014. The game is at Heinz Field at 7 p.m. on Oct. 19.
Bucs Eliminated, Tigers fight on against Red Sox
The Pittsburgh Pirates were eliminated by the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday, Oct. 9 by a score of 6-1. First baseman Justin Morneau scored the Pirates' lone run on an RBI single from third baseman Pedro Alvarez. Right fielder Marlon Byrd hit three-for-four.
Defensively, Gerrit Cole lost the game for the Pirates with a two-run second inning. Cole left the mound after five innings. Righty Mark Melancon's three earned runs in the bottom of the eighth added a little salt to Pittsburgh's wound, and the Pirates came up empty in the ninth.
Adam Wainwright pitched a complete game for the Cardinals, and the Cards are making the Los Angeles Dodgers see red. They currently hold a 2-1 lead in the NLCS.
That leaves the Detroit Tigers as the only baseball team in the Sports Corner that isn't watching the playoffs on TV yet. The Tigers are currently tied 1-1 in a seven game series with the Boston Red Sox, and a World Series appearance is on the line.
Righty pitcher Anibal Sanchez was spectacular on Saturday, Oct. 12. Through six innings of the 1-0 victory, Sanchez allowed no hits and struck out 12. He did walk six, but no runs were earned. The Tigers' bullpen picked up where Sanchez left off. Joaquin Benoit earned the save, and Sanchez was credited with the win. The Tigers' lone run was scored by third baseman Miguel Cabrera.
Sunday, Oct. 13 was a different story for Detroit. After jumping out to a five-run lead in the top of the sixth behind Alex Avila's three RBI, the bullpen collapsed. Max Scherzer was solid through seven, but it took four different pitchers to get the Tigers out of the eighth. Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz knocked a grand slam off of Benoit to tie it at 5, and Rick Porcello lost the game for Detroit when catcher Jarrod Saltamacchia singled to left to score left fielder Jonny Gomes. The Tigers fell by a score of 6-5.
Looking ahead, the next five games of the series will be played in the upcoming week. The Tigers and Red Sox square off on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday.
Otters and Pens trudge on; Sabres struggle
The Erie Otters had a strong week this week, going 4-0 against solid competition. A total of 20 goals were scored by Erie during that span, highlighted by a 7-0 victory at the Missasauga Steelheads on Oct. 14. Center Dane Fox scored two goals, and NHL Prospects Adam Pelech (NYI) and Connor Brown (TOR) both notched two assists. Young star Connor McDavid also had a goal and an assist.
Oscar Dansk shut out opponents twice this week, both coming on the road. His defense gave him help by limiting shots faced against the Steelheads. Dansk saved all 19 shots faced. However, in the Otters' 4-0 victory over the Kitchener Rangers, Dansk faced almost twice as many shots as he did against Missasauga, saving all 35 shots faced. Capitals prospect Andre Burakovsky scored two goals against Kitchener.
Erie's two wins at home were not quite as convincing as their road wins, but after last season, the Otters will take a win however they can get one. Devin Williams allowed five goals in the Otters' showdown with the Saginaw Spirit, but Brown and the Otters' offense bailed Williams out. Brown, McDavid, and Dylan Strome scored in the five-round shootout.
Looking ahead, the 7-2-1 Otters host the Belleville Bulls on Oct. 18 and the Ottawa 67's on Oct. 19. Both games start at 7 p.m. If Oscar Dansk's stellar GAA from this week (0.67) can continue and the offense keeps scoring, it will be a good year for hockey in Erie.
The Pittsburgh Penguins also had a strong week, going 2-1 against three teams from what used to be the southeast. Jordan Staal's most recent visit to his former home on Oct. 9 did not go well for the Carolina Hurricanes. Jussi Jokinen scored two goals on the way to a 5-2 win at home for the Pens. Left winger Tanner Glass also scored in the third and got into a fight with Hurricanes defenseman Jay Harrison. Jordan's brother Eric Staal scored for the Hurricanes.
The Pens then hit the road for a nice, sunny trip of away games. The offense did not provide enough support for young goalie Jeff Zatkoff, who relieved Marc-Andre Fleury for the night. Zatkoff's save percentage was only .800 in a 6-3 loss to the Florida Panthers. Former Erie Otter Brad Boyes scored two goals for the Panthers. Evgeni Malkin, Pascal Dupuis, and Chris Adams scored for Pittsburgh.
The road trip continued on a visit to the Tampa Bay Lightning that ended in a 5-4 victory for the Penguins. Two of the most potent offensive threats in the NHL squared off in Tampa Bay on Oct. 12. Penguins center Sidney Crosby earned a hat trick and an assist on his way to earning a plus-4 on the night, while Lightning center Steven Stamkos, who came in second in goals and points last season, also came up with a goal.
The Penguins (4-1) have four games in the upcoming week, three of which are at home. They host the Edmonton Oilers, Vancouver Canucks, and Colorado Avalanche, but the highlight of the Pens' week will be going toe-to-toe with the Broad Street Bullies in Philadelphia. The Pens and Flyers play at 7 p.m. on Oct. 17.
The Buffalo Sabres, unlike the Pens and the Otters, struggled this week. The depth they faced against Columbus and Minnesota and the star power that the Blackhawks and Lightning flash proved to be too much for Ryan Miller and the Sabres. Following Thursday's 3-2 loss at home against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Miller returned from his lower body injury, only to be peppered with shots left and right as he was in the first week of the season.
Miller faced 33 shots in a 4-1 loss to the Blue Jackets. The Sabres' lone goal was scored by left winger Thomas Vanek. Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, and the Chciago Blackhawks also gave Miller fits, as the Blackhawks got off 40 shots on Miller. Miller was able to stop 38 of them for a .950 save percentage, but he only got one goal out of his offense yet again. Right winger Drew Stafford scored the Sabres' only goal in Chicago.
To wrap up the week, former Sabre Jason Pominville came back to town in green and red. The Minnesota Wild downed the Sabres 2-1. Pominville scored a power-play goal late in the second period that ended up being the game-winner. Center Brian Flynn scored for the Sabres, but reserve goalie Jhonas Enroth saw only 20 shots.
It looks like the Sabres defense puts forth more effort when Enroth is in net. Regardless of the goaltender, be it Miller OR Enroth, the defense has to put forth more effort if they want to snap their seven-game skid. In the upcoming week, the 0-7 Sabres visit the New York Islanders on Oct. 15 at 7 p.m., and host the Vancouver Canucks and Colorado Avalanche on Oct. 17 and Oct. 19, respectively.
Adam Unger can be contacted at aUnger@ErieReader.com, and you can follow him on Twitter @AdamUnger28.