Sports Columns

Mehno: Pitt football program has major problems

PITTSBURGH — Pitt lost to North Carolina on Thursday night in a mostly empty Heinz Field, and two truths were immediately evident on social media: 1. Pitt needs a new head football coach. 2. Pitt needs a new on-campus stadium. Pat Narduzzi is the coach, and he was the coach last year ...

Despite declining stats, Barkley still leads PSU

UNIVERSITY PARK — It was midway through the second quarter Saturday, and Penn State’s running game was once again going nowhere. With just one first down and 11 yards rushing in the first quarter, the Nittany Lions trailed their old Eastern cousin Rutgers, 6-0, and though the ultimate ...

Losses can take toll on Nits’ engagement

Any team that climbs to No. 2 and sees itself in the national championship picture only to stumble twice and shatter its dreams can struggle with late-season disengagement. It’s natural. Penn State seems to have excellent leadership, from James Franklin to Saquon Barkley to Trace ...

Lions must focus on fixing flaws down the stretch

Program development for next season and beyond is my biggest concern for the Penn State football team down the stretch. The Nittany Lions are going to whip up on Rutgers, Nebraska and Maryland and finish 10-2. But I want to see how they do it. Then I want to see how they line up up against a ...

Steelers can’t afford injury to the Big 3

PITTSBURGH — We’re halfway through the Steelers season and this is the middle of the week, so it’s a perfect time for some of those look back/look ahead observations. n The Steelers’ biggest second-half concern: Injuries. If the Steelers lose Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell or ...

NASCAR’s drivers looking to survive

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup teams are just two weekends away from the off-season and the crowning of the 2017 champion. Kevin Harvick’s win at Texas this past weekend punched his ticket to Homestead’s Championship Four, joining points leader Martin Truex Jr and Kyle Busch. The final spot ...

Coaching deserves some blame

The sky is not falling on Penn State. The team is still going to finish 10-2 and go to a decent bowl game, most likely the Citrus or Outback. Still, there are serious problems the Nittany Lions must address for this season and beyond if they’re going to remain nationally prominent and take ...

PSU plays like it’s afraid of heights

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Just eight days ago, Penn State, ranked No. 2 for the first time since 1999, stood in the rarified air of the college football world and allowed itself to take a long, deep breath from the same mountaintop as Alabama. And man was it exhilarating — while it ...

Morton shines at right time

PITTSBURGH — As if the Pirates’ 2017 season wasn’t rotten enough and thankfully buried, there was a post-Halloween haunting. That came with Charlie Morton pitching the last four innings of Game 7, nailing down the Houston Astros’ first World Series championship. Ouch. Yes, the ...

Young proud of Bell’s development

Josh Bell had a terrific season for the Pirates, finally giving the club the everyday first baseman it sought for so many years. Among the people who are very proud of Bell’s development at first base is the last guy who held that everyday job for a long time with the Bucs, Kevin ...

Times have changed, making blowouts necessary

As soon as Kirk Herbstreit said it, I knew Neil and I had our point-counterpoint topic for this week. “The best thing that Penn State can do is blow people out … by 40 or 50 points if they can,” Herbstreit said on the College Football Playoff ranking show Tuesday. For many years, Neil ...

Slow down on the Ju-Ju love affair

PITTSBURGH — There’s a lot to like about Steelers rookie receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, beyond his name. (By the way, his given name is “John Sherman” and “JuJu” came from his aunt). He’s enthusiastic. He works hard. He rides his bike to work because he came here without a ...

Sports, Halloween together for one night

Commentary Halloween is one of those holidays that infiltrates every corner of pop culture, including sports. Bats, ghosts and jack-o-lanterns embellished the M&M’s theme on Kyle Busch’s Halloween paint scheme for the NASCAR race at Kansas earlier this month. (Collectors-edition ...

Lions not tough in run game

Saquon Barkley is awesome. The best running back in Penn State history. So how on earth has the program gotten to the point where it cannot run the ball effectively in clutch situations? The great Bill Murray line from the classic comedy “Stripes” is appropriate: “There’s something ...

Bryant needs to think before he acts

PITTSBURGH — If Mike Tomlin sticks to his plan, Martavis Bryant will stay on the sideline tonight in Detroit, somewhere between the table full of Gatorade cups and the kicker’s practice screen. (They’re letting him make the trip, which makes sense. Imagine what trouble he could get into ...

Knockout punch belongs to OSU

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Just when it appeared that Penn State was about ready to take the torch from Ohio State as the Big Ten’s flagship program, the Nittany Lions were dealt a cruel reality that will be forever etched in their craw. Penn State came into hallowed Ohio Stadium unbeaten, the ...

Buckeyes might be rested, but they’re not better team

In August, I picked the Nittany Lions to go 10-2 this season and have yet to pick against them so far. My fellow NitWit, Mike Irwin, used to pull this regularly, rolling out an optimistic 10-2 or 11-1 preseason prognostication and then never quite coming up with the one or two losses when it ...

Several key advantages give Ohio State an edge

Penn State is every bit as good as Ohio State and certainly can win Saturday’s showdown. But the Buckeyes have not just one, but three major elements in their favor, which is why I’m picking them. The game is in Columbus, first and foremost. Winning at The Horseshoe is always difficult ...

Bryant story will not go away

Commentary PITTSBURGH — OK, Martavis Bryant shouldn’t be the lead of this column. What has he done? He’s the Steelers’ third-leading receiver, and he has modest numbers. He’s caught 18 passes in seven games, averaging 13 yards per reception. His longest catch has been for 51 yards, ...

Observations from fading fall season

Some random thoughts while wishing the fall sports season didn’t fly by so fast… n The Penn State women’s soccer team held its senior day festivities over the weekend, an appropriate time to look back at the accomplishments of the graduating class. They brought home the program’s ...