Nationals

Fiesta Bowl gets prime matchup of Wildcats, Ducks

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Fiesta Bowl gets prime matchup of Wildcats, Ducks

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) Kansas State and Oregon were in perfect position at the start of Nov. 17, Nos. 1 and 2 in the BCS standings, seemingly on a crash course toward the national championship game.

By day's end, the Wildcats had been run over by Baylor, the Ducks lost a heartbreaker to Stanford and both of their national title hopes were all but gone.

Disappointing? Certainly. Every team goes into the season hoping to play for a national championship and to have it snatched away so late in the season is unquestionably a letdown.

Unlike many teams in college football, Kansas State and Oregon ended up with a nice consolation prize: A trip to the Valley of the Sun to face each in the Fiesta Bowl.

``This game could have been for the national championship,'' Oregon linebacker Boseko Lokombo said. ``A couple weeks ago, that's where we were both headed.''

They're headed to the desert instead, setting up one of the most anticipated games this bowl season.

A year ago, the Fiesta Bowl hit it big with Oklahoma State and Stanford, two high-profile programs that didn't disappoint, putting on an offensive show won by the Cowboys 41-38 in overtime.

This year's game, Thursday night at University of Phoenix Stadium, has the potential to be even better.

Oregon (11-1) is in its fourth straight BCS bowl game under coach Chip Kelly, following a trip to the 2011 BCS championship game and two Rose Bowls, including the program's first win in the Granddaddy of Them All in 95 years last season.

The Ducks fly fast, overwhelming opponents with where-did-they-all-come-from speed, their touchdown drives measured not in minutes but seconds.

Oregon has one of the nation's most explosive running back tandems in Kenjon Barner and DeAnthony Thomas, threats to score on every touch, and redshirt freshman quarterback Marcus Mariota played well beyond his years while proving to be a dynamic force in his own right.

The Ducks were second nationally with 50.83 points and 323.25 yards rushing per game and fourth in total offense at 550.08.

``Basically, only one team stopped them the entire year and that was Stanford,'' Kansas State defensive coordinator Tom Hayes said. ``It's a challenge. We need to meet the challenge if we have any wishes for a victory.''

It doesn't figure to be any easier for Oregon going against Kansas State (11-1) in its second resurrection under coach Bill Snyder.

The studious coach orchestrated one of college football's greatest turnarounds his first stint in the Little Apple, turning a program that had lost more games than any other into a national championship contender.

After a three-year retirement, Snyder again lifted the Wildcats out of the doldrums, leading them to a bowl game his second season, 10 wins a year ago and all the way back to national prominence this season.

Fitting the mold of their 73-year-old coach, the Wildcats are meticulously prepared and run Snyder's schemes to near perfection.

Kansas State doesn't play nearly as fast as the Ducks, but can put up points in a hurry - ninth nationally with 40.67 per game - and is led by a Heisman Trophy finalist, do-everything senior quarterback Collin Klein.

This is the Wildcats' 14th bowl appearance under Snyder and with a win over Oregon, they can finish with the first 12-win season in school history.

``Obviously, you can't help as a coach (but) admire what Coach Snyder has done,'' Kelly said. ``He had an opportunity when he first got to K-State that he created a legacy that I don't think anybody could ever imagine when he first took over that program, what one man could do to a university. Retired for a couple years, then came back and is building upon that legacy.

``It's really a special story in college football that will (have him) go down, like I said, as one of the top coaches in the history of the game.''

Snyder's quarterback has a pretty good story, too.

Lightly recruited and switched to receiver early in his college career, Klein had a superb first season as Kansas State's starter, throwing for 1,918 yards, rushing for 1,141 more and accounting for 40 touchdowns as a junior.

He became a bona fide star his final season in Manhattan.

A fifth-year senior, Klein earned the moniker Optimus Klein for his grittiness and ability to grind out victories any way he could, seemingly topping himself every game.

A sturdy 6-foot-5 and 226 pounds, Klein became the first quarterback in the BCS era to run for at least 20 TDs and throw for 10 in consecutive seasons, and broke the FBS record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback in two seasons with 49.

He was a Heisman Trophy finalist, the Big 12 player of the year and won the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award.

Whatever happens Thursday night, Klein will leave the Little Apple as one of the greatest and most popular players in Kansas State history.

``He's very good, he runs that offense efficiently, he's a poised guy, appears to be a very smart football player,'' Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti said. ``He knows what they want him to do in their game plan.''

Many of those attributes could be used to describe Mariota, too.

The first freshman to start at Oregon since Danny O'Neil in 1991, he was considered one of the few question marks for the Ducks heading into this season.

Mariota answered them all and then some, showing poise beyond his years while leading a veteran, talent-laden team.

A bit more wiry than Klein at 6-foot-4, 211 pounds, Mariota is an athletic dual-threat quarterback who's a better passer, but can use his speed to break off long runs.

Mariota threw for 2,511 yards and 30 touchdowns, ran for 690 yards and four more scores, and cemented his place as Oregon's quarterback of the future.

``He does so many things from the skill standpoint, his quickness, his speed, ability to throw the ball accurately two out of three times,'' Snyder said. ``He's gifted from a physical standpoint. I think as much as anything, the fact that for a very young person on the field playing in some very highly competitive environments, he seems to be a very, very poised young guy, doesn't seem to get ruffled.''

Between the two star quarterbacks and all that talent on both sides of the ball, it should be a fun Fiesta Bowl.

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Max Scherzer grits his way through broken nose in stellar outing, win vs. Phillies

Max Scherzer grits his way through broken nose in stellar outing, win vs. Phillies

WASHINGTON -- With a broken nose, pronounced black eye and seven shutout innings, Max Scherzer provided a striking capper to the Washington Nationals' day-night doubleheader sweep of the Philadelphia Phillies.

Scherzer himself? He shrugged off his work in the Nationals' 2-0 victory Wednesday night as business as usual.

"Trust me, this thing looks a lot worse than it actually is," Scherzer said. "I felt zero pain. There's been plenty of other injuries where I felt a lot of pain and I've had to pitch through. I'll hang my hat on those starts, but tonight I felt zero pain. This is part of what you have to do. You take the ball every fifth time.

"That's my responsibility to the team, to make sure I always post, and I knew I could post tonight."

Brian Dozier and Victor Robles hit solo homers to support Scherzer (6-5) as Washington won for the 16th time in 23 games. Philadelphia has dropped seven of its last nine and 12 of 18.

In the first game, Patrick Corbin struck out eight while allowing one run over seven innings as the Nationals earned a 6-2 victory in the delayed series opener after the teams were rained out Monday and Tuesday.

Scherzer bunted a ball off his face during batting practice Tuesday, but it didn't stop him from making his scheduled start. His injury may have provided an extra layer of intimidation in the form of a black eye more worthy of a boxing ring than a baseball diamond.

The three-time Cy Young Award winner sported a pronounced bruise arcing beneath his right eye, adding another hue to a glare that already featured one blue eye and one brown eye.

"Going out there and throwing, the only thing I had to deal with was the swelling underneath the eye," Scherzer said. "It was kind of jiggling around, and so in warmups I just had to get used to knowing what it was feeling like to throw the ball and just have that swelling."

While he wasn't at his most efficient on a humid night, piling up 117 pitches, Scherzer was rarely threatened. He struck out 10, yielded only four hits and permitted just two runners to reach scoring position. And he finished strong, striking out three in a row after Cesar Hernandez led off the seventh with a double.

"It really is one of the most impressive things I've seen in a while," Dozier said. "He's probably the best pitcher in our generation, and you don't get that status unless you take the ball every fifth day, no matter if you're doing good, doing bad, you got a broken nose. You always want the ball."

Bryce Harper, Scherzer's former Nationals teammate, was 0 for 4 with four walks in the doubleheader and was loudly booed before each plate appearance -- especially in the better-attended nightcap. This series is his second trip back to Washington, where he played from 2012-18, since signing a 13-year, $330 million contract with Philadelphia in March.

Dozier belted a two-out solo shot in the second off Jake Arrieta (6-6), who allowed two hits and struck out three over six innings and had the misfortune of matching up with Scherzer on the wrong day.

"Max is just one of the best to ever toe the rubber, honestly," Arietta said. "We have ran into him a couple of times. That's just what he does. He is tough to square up, and he is throwing three or four pitches for strikes with electric stuff. Just a tough one."

Robles homered off reliever Pat Neshek in the eighth. Neshek departed two batters later with a left hamstring strain, and manager Gabe Kapler said he was likely to land on the injured list less than a week after returning from an absence of more than three weeks caused by a shoulder strain.

Wander Suero pitched a perfect eighth for Washington, and Sean Doolittle worked the ninth for his 15th save in 18 tries.

Philadelphia was 0 for 12 with runners in scoring position between the two games.

Corbin (6-5), whose start was pushed back twice this week, allowed a solo homer to Scott Kingery in the first inning of the opener. But he let just one other runner to reach third while ending a personal three-game skid.

"It's not ideal, but you have to deal with it to make sure you are ready," said Corbin, who is one strikeout shy of 1,000 for his career. "I was glad we got that one in today."

Dozier and Gerardo Parra had RBI doubles against Phillies starter Zach Eflin (6-7). They later hit back-to-back homers in the eighth inning off Cole Irvin to seal the victory.

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This Nationals fan's Max Scherzer broken nose shirt is the best thing you'll see today

This Nationals fan's Max Scherzer broken nose shirt is the best thing you'll see today

Nationals ace Max Scherzer added another incredible chapter to his legendary career Wednesday, pitching seven shutout innings against the Phillies after breaking his nose in a batting practice accident the day before. 

To honor Scherzer's toughness, one amazing Nats fan wore arguably the greatest shirt ever seen at a baseball game.

(Photo: NBC Sports Washington)

This isn't a good shirt. This is a GREAT shirt, worthy of the man who's face it features. 

Someone get this fan a signed Scherzer baseball. 

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