Penalties, turnovers hurt Illini against Penn State

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Penalties, turnovers hurt Illini against Penn State

CHAMPAIGN Illinois asked fans to stripe the stadium for Saturdays game against Penn State. The visual effect in Memorial Stadium was wiped out by the fourth quarter, as the sight of empty seats overtook any resemblance of striping.

It is hard to blame Illinois fans for heading to the exit after the Illinis dispiriting loss to the Nittany Lions, 35-7, however.

After the game the Illini had no excuses for their poor play, which included two turnovers and 69 yards of penalties.

That we are disappointed is the least you could say about this game, Illinois coach Tim Beckman said. Its to step up, to see what this football team is all about and move forward. Weve got to.

Illinois debuted a new look on Saturday, showing off the teams matte blue helmet, which was not supposed to be worn until 2013. If moving up the helmets debut was an attempt to change the look of the team, though, the Illinois defense did not get the memo.

Things looked good for the defense early after a quick three-and-out, but a muffed punt gave Penn State the ball back deep in Illini territory. Another good stop was canceled by a running into the kicker penalty.

With a second chance at the endzone, Zack Zwinak made Illinois pay, scoring on a one-yard run at 10:41 in the first quarter, putting PSU up 7-0 early on.

The Illinois defense continued to struggle on PSUs second drive. Another mental error on the first play of the drive, a targeting the head penalty, moved the Nittany Lions into Illinois territory. From there quarterback Matt McGloin exploited holes in the Illinois secondary with ease.

He moved his team down to first and goal from the one-yard line and, two plays later, punched it in himself. With the PAT, Penn State went in front 14-0 with less than six minutes elapsed in the game.

The Illinois offense finally found its legs on the third drive of the game. Donovonn Young found space around the left on first down and marched 52 yards downfield, setting the Illini up at the Penn State 11 yard line. Illinois tried to keep the momentum going, but found no space to run and were forced to go for a field goal.

Taylor Zalewski had been nearly automatic since replacing Nick Immekus, but he was left holding his head in his hands as his 26-yard field goal went wide of the mark late in the first quarter.

Despite the missed field goal, the Illinois offense continued to improve in the second quarter. On their first drive of the period, Scheelhaase stepped up and completed to passes for first downs and then ran the ball for the first time in the game, picking up seven yards. The drive would be stamped out, however, when Penn State came up with a stop on fourth down at their own 28.

Four times on Saturday Illinois went inside the PSU 30-yard line and failed to convert. The problem was troubling for Beckman.

Penn State did a great job of coming here and playing physical football, but when you get the ball inside the 30, in the redzone, thats the key to the game. We have to come up with points, with touchdowns, he said.

Penn State capitalized on Illinois failure to convert well, and three minutes after taking possession, McGloin found Matt Lehman over the middle for a 21-yard touchdown reception.

Scheelhaase led his team down to the four-yard line of PSU on the next drive, but once again could not finish the drive.

On fourth and goal he threw the ball directly into PSU linebacker Michael Mautis hands on the goalline. The big man hustled 99 yards before being brought down by Miles Osei with one second remaining in the first half. Penn State lined up for a field goal, but had it blocked by VAngelo Bentley, bringing the first half to a wild end, the Nittany Lions leading the hosts 21-0.

On the first drive of the second half Scheelhaase took a hard hit, high and low, and limped off the field. He would return after one play but would not have a first down in him.

The punt by Justin DuVernois was a beauty, trapping PSU at their own one. From there the Illinois defense showed a flash of its 2011 greatness, allowing just two yards of offense for the Nittany Lions and forcing a punt.

With starting position in the PSU half, Scheelhaase shrugged off any questions about his ankle and quickly got Illinois on the scoreboard.

On second down he found Josh Ferguson over the middle for a 22-yard reception. Then he passed to Ferguson in the backfield on first down and the running back picked out a wide-open Spencer Harris for a 22-yard touchdown over the right side.

With the touchdown, Illinois cut their deficit to just two touchdowns, 21-7 with 10:22 to go in the third quarter.

The Illinois defense came up with another big stop on the ensuing Penn State drive, this time forcing a turnover on downs by sacking McGloin on fourth and five from the Illinois 16. Their hard work went for naught, though, as the Illinois offense went three-and-out on the ensuing possession.

McGloin would not be stopped as easily on the next Penn State drive. He went 3 for 3 on the drive and finished with another one-yard touchdown run, putting PSU ahead 28-7 with three minutes left in the third quarter.

A second pick of Scheelhaase by Mauti late in the third quarter sealed the fate of the Illini. On the PSU drive, Zwinak scored his second touchdown of the game from a yard out, bringing the score to its final 35-7 tally.

After the game, Beckman was more introspective about his team. He acknowledged that having a number of players injured certainly hurt, but he cast blame for the loss on himself and vowed to work to get the team better.

We cant turn the football over, weve got to move the football better, and weve got to tackle and do the things we feel are necessary for us to be successful, he said. Were just not getting those done the last two weeks.

Ahead of the Illinis trip to Wisconsin next Saturday, Beckman targeted physicality as an area that needed immediate improvement.

We know were going to be playing some physical football teams here coming up, and weve just got to become a more physical football team and do what we need to do, he said.

Injuries have played a big part in his teams lack of imposing physical stature, however, and he acknowledged that fact as well. Thats kind of a double-edged sword right now getting more physical and staying healthy, but thats one of the things were going to have to address.

Miguel Gonzalez throws six perfect innings as White Sox take series against Tigers

Miguel Gonzalez throws six perfect innings as White Sox take series against Tigers

For six innings Sunday, Miguel Gonzalez was perfect.

The White Sox right-hander put the baseball world on perfect-game alert and conjured memories of Mark Buehrle and Phillip Humber with his dazzling work through six innings. Gonzalez lost his bids for a perfect game, no hitter and shutout in the span of three batters to lead off the seventh inning, but that didn’t take away much from how good he was in a 7-3 win for the South Siders at Guaranteed Rate Field.

Gonzalez, who entered with a 3-5 record and a 4.55 ERA in nine previous starts this season, set down the first 18 hitters he faced in order, with the visiting Detroit Tigers rarely even coming close to reaching base. That streak of 18 straight hitters retired to start the game was the longest by a White Sox starter since Chris Sale sat down the first 19 he faced back in May 2013.

The Tigers — who trailed big after the White Sox gave Gonzalez a 7-0 lead — finally broke through to start the seventh. Austin Romine reached on an infield single, Alex Avila singled through the right side of the infield, and Miguel Cabrera dumped an RBI base hit into right field.

Detroit added two more runs on three extra-base hits in the eighth, but Gonzalez still finished with a great line, yielding just three runs on six hits in 7.2 innings of work.

Gonzalez’s gem snapped a streak of rough outings that started, coincidentally enough, against this Tigers team, when he was crushed for seven runs on 14 hits in an April 30 loss in Detroit. Entering Sunday’s game, Gonzalez was a nasty 0-5 with a 6.99 ERA in his previous five starts. He hadn’t made it out of the sixth inning in any of his previous three starts.

[WHITE SOX TICKETS: Get your seats right here]

That seventh-inning blip by the Tigers ended the day’s only drama, as the White Sox offense put the result of the game out of question earlier, tagging opposing starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann for seven runs in his five innings of work.

Zimmermann entered the day struggling on the 2017 campaign, and that didn’t change Sunday. Willy Garcia tripled in Omar Narvaez for the game’s first run in the third and scored on the same play thanks to a throwing error. Two hitters later, Melky Cabrera hit a solo home run to make it 3-0.

Matt Davidson led off the bottom of the fourth with his 10th home run of the season, and Narvaez drove in Yolmer Sanchez to make it 5-0. Todd Frazier tacked on two more in the fifth with a two-run shot that also scored Jose Abreu.

The White Sox took three of four from the Tigers in this weekend series that featured a doubleheader split Saturday. It’s a positive start to this home stand — which continues with a three-game series against the Boston Red Sox — after going 3-7 on a recent 10-game road trip.

Takuma Sato holds off Helio Castroneves to give Andretti another Indy 500 win

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AP

Takuma Sato holds off Helio Castroneves to give Andretti another Indy 500 win

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Andretti family has struggled for decades to win the Indianapolis 500.

As a car owner, though, Michael Andretti certainly knows the way to victory lane.

Takuma Sato won the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday to give Andretti a second consecutive victory in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” An Andretti driver has now won the 500 three times in the last four years.

Last year, it was with rookie Alexander Rossi. This time it is with Sato, who joined the team just this season and had largely been overlooked at Indianapolis Motor Speedway as the Andretti camp expanded to six cars for the 500 with the addition of Formula One driver Fernando Alonso.

It never seemed to spread the team too thin, and the main issue facing Andretti Autosport was the reliability of its Honda engines. Alonso put on a thrilling show and even led 27 laps — third most in the race — but the two-time Formula One champion was sent to the paddock when his engine blew with 20 laps remaining.

The Honda teams had a clear horsepower advantage over Chevrolet, but the engine maker had serious questions about reliability. Before Alonso’s failure, 2014 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay lost his engine. Hunter-Reay had led 28 laps and was a strong contender late.

Sato had to hold off Helio Castroneves, who was trying to win for a record-tying fourth time, in the closing laps. Castroneves, in a Chevrolet for Team Penske, briefly took the lead but couldn’t make it stick as Sato grabbed it back.

The margin of victory was 0.2011 seconds — and it was redemption for Sato, who crashed while trying to beat Dario Franchitti on the final lap of the 2012 race.

A joyful Sato dumped a bottle of 2 percent milk over his head, received a kiss from the Indy 500 Princess and raised his finger in the air.

Michael Andretti ran down pit lane to reach Sato’s crew, then rushed to victory lane to hug his driver, the first Japanese winner of the Indy 500.

“It was a tough, tough, race. Helio really drives well,” Sato said. “It was a fantastic race.”

As for the difference between 2012, when Sato crashed in the first turn of the final lap racing Franchitti, Sato said his strategy this year was perfect.

“I was pointing in the right direction into (Turn) One,” he said.

Castroneves was disappointed to fall short of the four-time winners club.

“I really thought we had it,” the Brazilian said.

Max Chilton finished third, the highest driver for Chip Ganassi Racing, and was followed by former 500 winners Tony Kanaan and Juan Pablo Montoya.

Alonso, who had a spectacular race, simply feel victim to his engine in the waning laps. The crowd gave him a standing ovation as he climbed from his car.

“I felt the noise, the engine friction, I backed off and I saw the smoke and yeah, it’s a shame,” Alonso said. “It’s a very nice surprise to come here with big names, big guys, the best in open-wheel racing and be competitive.”

Pole sitter Scott Dixon, already having a rough week because he was robbed at gunpoint at Taco Bell hours after turning the fastest qualifying effort in 21 years, was knocked out of the race in a terrifying crash in which his car sailed through the air and landed cockpit-first atop the inside safety fence. Dixon’s car was split in two amid sparks and flames.

The tub of the car remained intact and the 2008 champion was able to climb out on his own to a roar from the crowd. He walked to a waiting ambulance while the race was placed under red flag and crews began to clean up debris scattered over hundreds of feet.

“Just a little beaten up there. It was definitely a rough ride,” Dixon said. “We had a great shot. We had gotten a little loose but they had dialed it in.”

Dixon had collided with Jay Howard, who blamed the incident on Hunter-Reay. He was a couple of laps down when Hunter-Reay tried to get around him and that forced him to the top of the track, where he wound up hitting the wall.

That impact sent Howard across the track, where Dixon had nowhere to go.