No. 2 K-State bears resemblance to '98 team

No. 2 K-State bears resemblance to '98 team

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) The college football landscape has changed dramatically since 1998.

The legacy of Joe Paterno is viewed far differently now. The system for deciding a national champion has been massaged. The very rules of the game, even some altered just this year, have created a different product on the field.

One thing that hasn't changed is Kansas State coach Bill Snyder, and that's a good reason why the second-ranked Wildcats look strikingly similar to the team he had in '98.

``He was really all about accountability and being consistent and being able to play at your highest potential,'' said wide receiver Aaron Lockett, who was a freshman on that team.

``He wasn't really into the individual superstar or the stats,'' Lockett said. ``It was all about momentum and all about feeding on one another - work your hardest not to be the weakest link, and if you did that everybody would be successful.''

The Wildcats certainly were successful that year.

They rolled to an 11-0 record and won the Big 12 North, and had a big fourth-quarter lead on Texas A&M in the conference title game. They were that close to playing for a national championship, but the Aggies staged a dramatic comeback and won in overtime.

That's where this group of Wildcats want the similarities to stop.

Kansas State, ranked No. 1 in the BCS standings, are off to the first 10-0 start since that ballyhooed team led by Michael Bishop, the runner-up for the Heisman Trophy. The current team has another Heisman candidate in quarterback Collin Klein, and the same kind of rugged defense led by a talented linebacker corps that terrorized opposing offenses in the late `90s.

But these guys want to finish the job. The Wildcats (7-0 in Big 12) play at Baylor on Saturday before a week off, and then a high-profile season-finale against Texas.

``You know, they lost a game, we're not trying to do that,'' said wide receiver Chris Harper. ``We're trying to set ourselves apart. We want to come out of the shadow of that `98 team.''

It's a big shadow, to be sure, and the ties that bind the '98 team to the current one run deep - Lockett's nephew, for example, is sophomore wide receiver Tyler Lockett, who has made just like his uncle with his propensity for returning kickoffs for touchdowns.

Brown leads the current team in tackles, earning the nickname ``The Judge,'' while the '98 team had future NFL draft picks such as Mark Simoneau - who will soon be enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame - patrolling the field.

Then there's the play behind center.

Bishop set the school record for pass efficiency, and his 2,844 yards through the air made him one of college football's most dynamic players. It was little wonder he was invited to the Heisman Trophy ceremony, finishing second to Texas running back Ricky Williams.

``Michael was a quality leader for that team in a far different way than Collin is,'' Snyder said. ``Still, his teammates responded to him quite well in a positive way. People responded to him because he made plays.''

Klein can make plays, too.

The wide receiver-turned quarterback has put up pass efficiency numbers similar to Bishop, and he's proven to be more elusive on the ground. The result has been record-setting touchdown totals and frontrunner status for college football's most coveted individual award.

``Collin's leadership goes beyond that,'' Snyder said. ``They respond to him, not only by what he does, but also what he addresses them about in the areas other than just football, and Michael's thing was just on the football field.''

Klein's example off the field is just as meaningful as his example on it, and it affects the behavior of his teammates in a positive way.

``Just being around him kind of makes you want to be a better person as well,'' said fullback Braden Wilson. ``I'll find myself doing things I normally wouldn't just because I'm around him and he's influencing me for the better.''

Wilson provided this example: Klein doesn't swear, so even though he doesn't police what other people on the team say, they tend to avoid cursing in an effort to follow in his footsteps.

``That relates to just doing the little things right, as far as everything's concerned, not just things when you think somebody's watching you,'' Wilson said.

Of course, the '98 team had similar leaders.

Aaron Lockett remembers teammates like Travis Ochs, running back Brian Goolsby, kick returner Lamar Chapman and defensive end Joe Bob Clements - currently an assistant coach - and the way they rallied the team on a week-by-week basis.

``They walked the walk,'' Lockett said.

Just like this year's team.

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Free agency frenzy

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Free agency frenzy

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, March 17, 40 days before the NFL draft.  

The Redskins week that was

A look at some of the most popular posts and hottest topics of the week on Real Redskins and NBC Sports Washington.

Redskins and NFL free agency tracker—I started this a week ago today and it grew to 3,500 words. The problem was there wasn’t much to add by the time that free agency actually started at 4 p.m. on Wednesday. The legal tampering period or, as I dubbed it to avoid an oxymoron being used, the “permitted tampering-like activities period” was when all of the news happened. By the time actual free agency opened on Wednesday afternoon it pretty much was all over. Thanks to those of you who followed along.

Zach Brown agrees to terms with Redskins, per source—Since Kirk Cousins’ departure was a foregone conclusion, Brown was the Redskins’ most important free agent. His retention provides continuity in the defense and that will benefit both the team and Brown. His contract (preliminary numbers three years, $24 million) showed that the Redskins are willing to invest some money in the inside linebacker spot for the first time since Joe Gibbs brought in London Fletcher to play middle linebacker in 2007.

Report: Kirk Cousins to sign epic new deal with Vikings—We heard you, folks. The collective voice of the fans who visit NBC Sports Washington on a regular basis let us know that you were not interested in a lot of posts about the Cousins saga that was unfolding in Minnesota. So this was one of very few articles on Cousins that we posted even though Cousins posts have been popular, but with the vast majority of traffic coming from out of town. So, you’re welcome. It should be noted that we will write about Cousins in the future but infrequently.

Redskins officially announce 5-year deal with WR Richardson—He was the opening act for the Alex Smith press conference, and he handled himself very well. If Richardson is even moderately successful I think he will be a major fan favorite.  

Tweet of the week

Here is what fans need to know—a team can afford to do virtually anything it wants in free agency in a given year. If they wanted to the Redskins could restructure deals and sign all of their free agents to contracts that have very small first-year cap hits, creating room to sign the Honey Badger or Suh. The problems come in later years when the cap space you pushed back starts to pile up. The Redskins generally do squeeze free agent contracts into relatively small cap spaces. For example, Richardson’s deal average $8 million per year but the 2018 cap hit is just $4 million. But they don’t like to restructure deals to push money back into later years. That created problems during the Vinny Cerrato years.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.


Days until:

—Offseason workouts begin (4/16) 30
—Training camp starts (approx. 7/26) 132
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 176

In case you missed it

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Wizards vs. Pacers: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

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Wizards vs. Pacers: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Kelly Oubre, Jr. and the Washington Wizards battle Victor Oladipo, Myles Turner, Bojan Bogdanovic and the Indiana Pacers on Saturday night.

Here is all you need to know: TV, live stream and radio info, tip-off time, plus three things to watch:


Where: Capital One Arena
Tip-off: 7 p.m.
TV: NBC Sports Washington (pregame coverage begins at 6 p.m.)
Live stream:
Radio: 1500 AM

Season series on the line

The Wizards and Pacers square off for the third and final time this season on Saturday night and the game will represent the tiebreaker for the season series. The Wizards beat the Pacers in their first meeting on Feb. 5 and Indiana then got even on March 4. The first game did not feature Victor Oladipo. John Wall didn't play in either of them.

Whichever team wins on Saturday night will own the playoff tiebreaker, meaning that team will get the better seed in the even they finish with the same regular season record. Right now only one game separates the teams, so that could definitely come into play. With a win over the Pacers, the Wizards could also move into third place in the East. They would tie the Pacers by record and own the head-to-head series. The one variable there is the Cavs play the Bulls on Saturday. If they win and the Pacers lose, the Cavs will be in third.


Wizards have been struggling

The Wizards won their last game on the road against the Celtics, but have lost five of their last eight overall. They remain in good shape in the big picture, but could use some positive momentum. A win over the Pacers would certainly give them that with three off days awaiting on the other end before they head out to San Antonio to face the Spurs.

Defense has been the problem. During this eight-game stretch, they have allowed the second-most points in the paint per game (53.8), the ninth-most points per game (111.0) overall and the fourth-highest opponents shooting percentage (49.3). 


Pacers are tough

The Pacers may be missing two of their best big men on Saturday as Domantas Sabonis has been ruled out and Myles Turner is questionable. Both are nursing sprained left ankles. That bodes well for the Wizards' defense in the paint, but Indiana still has plenty of firepower.

Oladipo is having a terrific season with averages of 23.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 2.2 steals per game. There's also Bojan Bogdanovic, a former Wizards player who is averaging 14.0 points and shooting 46.9 percent from the field and 39.4 percent from three this year. Bogdanovic has scored 20 points or more in each of his games against the Wizards this season. The Pacers as a team have won six of their last eight.


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