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Hodge-podge group of players propels No. 4 K-State

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Hodge-podge group of players propels No. 4 K-State

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) The star quarterback used to be a wide receiver, and the top wide receiver used to be a quarterback.

There are junior college players from the most out-of-the-way places imaginable, and Division I transfers getting a fresh start. Small-town high school stars from the Heartland, and a motley collection of talent overlooked by most of college football's marquee programs.

This is No. 4 Kansas State, arguably the most diverse team in the country.

One of the best, too.

Listening to quarterback Collin Klein describe the hodge-podge that makes up the only unbeaten team in the Big 12, it's as if the Heisman Trophy candidate is likening sagely coach Bill Snyder to the Statue of Liberty - ``Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses,'' as the Emma Lazarus poem goes, only this time it's the overlooked and the underappreciated.

``We do come from pretty diverse parts of the country, diverse backgrounds, different roads that have brought us here,'' Klein said. ``I mean, it goes back to his formula of taking whoever is here and bringing us in and molding us together and creating a true team to where it doesn't matter where you came from, how you got here, anything like that. What matters is now.''

Right now, the Wildcats are the hottest team in the country.

They've already won at Oklahoma and West Virginia. They're 7-0 overall, 4-0 in the conference, and for once a favorite going into this weekend's game against No. 15 Texas Tech.

Poring over the roster, though, this isn't the kind of team that should be stacking up against top-ranked Alabama, high-flying Oregon or even high-profile Notre Dame.

The vast majority of these guys weren't five-star prospects coming out of high school. Heck, most of them didn't even arrive at Kansas State out of high school, instead going through a junior college for reasons ranging from academics to lack of interest the first time around.

Eight of the 11 starters on defense went that route, including All-American candidate Nigel Malone, the team's top cornerback. Defensive tackle John Sua went to California's Allan Hancock College, hardly a pipeline to national prominence, and defensive ends Meshak Williams and Adam Davis formed quite the pass-rushing tandem during their days at Hutchinson Community College.

Then there are the guys who WERE high-profile recruits but opted to go elsewhere, such as linebacker Arthur Brown, a semifinalist for the Butkus Award.

He had his choice of schools coming out of Wichita, Kan., and opted for the sunshine and warm weather of Miami. When things didn't go how he foresaw, Brown headed back to the often-overcast, usually blustery and far more frigid life of Flint Hills.

``We have guys from all over, guys from different backgrounds, and it definitely adds character to our team,'' he said. ``That's one of the most enjoyable parts of the process.''

The offensive side of the ball is a similar collection of castoffs, misfits and guys who were never expected to compete for a national championship - at least, by people on the outside.

Certainly not by Snyder, though. He welcomed them with open arms.

Klein has emerged as one of the nation's most valuable players - he had seven touchdowns in the 55-14 rout of West Virginia - after being largely overlooked coming out of high school in Loveland, Colo. His only other interest came from the likes of Colorado State and Utah.

Just how highly sought were his quarterback skills? Even the coaches at Kansas State turned him into a wide receiver when he first got on campus.

Chris Harper went precisely the opposite direction.

He was a coveted quarterback recruit coming out of high school, and ultimately chose the swagger of Oregon over the old-school approach of the Wildcats. He switched to wide receiver early in his career, and ultimately decided to transfer to Kansas State for his sophomore season.

Now, he's an NFL prospect and the team's leading receiver.

``We have guys from all over,'' fellow wide receiver Curry Sexton said. ``That's something our coaching staff has been able to do, bring in players from around the country that fit our program, what we do here, and I think that's been important to our success.''

Wide receiver Tyler Lockett went to high school in Tulsa, Okla., but barely got a sniff from the Sooners. Running back John Hubert is from Waco, Texas, but the Longhorns didn't bite.

Tight end Travis Tannahill wasn't even among the top 10 players in Kansas coming out of high school, much less the country. Offensive linemen B.J. Finney is from tiny Andale, Kan., population 928. Fullback Braden Wilson is from Smith Center, a booming metropolis by comparison.

The one thread that ties them together? Their values, Snyder said - and their talent.

``The recruiting environment has turned upside down in regards to the timing. You look around right now and everybody has 25 commitments and the season's not half over,'' Snyder said. ``You have to get to know them to see if they fit in.''

If they do, well, it doesn't matter where they come from.

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Three reasons the Capitals lost to the Panthers

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USA Today Sports

Three reasons the Capitals lost to the Panthers

Friday’s game had a little bit of everything. After spotting the Florida Panthers a 4-1 lead, the Capitals furiously battled back to tie the game at 4, then tied the game at 5 with just 1:25 remaining in regulation to earn an improbable point. The comeback ultimately fell short, however, as the Panthers earned the 6-5 shootout win.

Here are three reasons the Caps lost.

Bad puck management

A disastrous first period saw the Panthers score four goals and the biggest reason for that was the Caps’ puck management. They were sloppy with the puck leading to a number of costly turnovers, and Florida took advantage.

A good illustration of this game with Washington already trailing 2-1: Jakub Vrana made a lazy pass in the defensive zone that was easily intercepted by Jonathan Huberdeau, who forced a really nice save from Braden Holtby.

Whew, bullet dodged. Actually, not so fast.

Brett Connolly won the resulting faceoff, but Michal Kempny attempted a backhanded pass behind the net that was easily stolen away by Vincent Trocheck. Florida went tic-tac-toe with Trocheck to Huberdeau to Colton Sceviour who finished off the play for the goal.

No control in front of the net

Trocheck scored a rebound goal from the slot that bounced off of Lars Eller and into the net. Evgenii Dadonov scored from the slot on the power play. Sceviour scored from the high-slot after what was a generous pass from Huberdeau who looked like he could have scored from closer in…from the slot. Jared McCann pounced on a loose puck in the slot to beat a sprawling Holtby and Huberdeau scored off a rebound right in front of Holtby.

See a pattern?

The Panthers had complete control in front of the Caps’ net and all five of their goals came from in close.

Penalties

The Caps had a pretty good start to the game, but that was derailed by a Jakub Vrana penalty just 6:10 into the game. Evgeny Kuznetsov was called for hooking about 10 minutes later and Dadonov scored to put Florida up 2-1.

Despite the penalties and going down 4-1 in the first, the Caps battled back to a 4-4 tie in the second. Then the penalties popped up again.

Alex Ovechkin was called for interference on Aaron Ekblad late in the period. It was a tough call as the puck as was at Ekblad’s feet, but Ovechkin made no attempt to play the loose puck at all and simply hit Ekblad, drawing an interference call. Less than a minute later, the Caps were called for too many men giving Florida 1:15 of a two-man advantage to work with and Huberdeau scored the go-ahead goal.

After three-straight goals, the Caps’ penalties completely derailed them and swept momentum back in the Panthers’ favor.

But wait, there’s more.

With the time ticking away on the too many men penalty, Kuznetsov was tossed out of the faceoff dot. He argued with the linesman and apparently argued a bit too hard because the linesman went to the referee and Kuznetsov was booked for unsportsmanlike conduct giving Florida another 10 seconds of 5-on-3.

Despite all of that, the Caps still managed to tie the game with just 1:25 remaining in the game. Matt Niskanen, however, took a penalty with just 23 seconds left. With a 4-on-3 power play to start overtime, 

Overall, Washington gave the Panthers seven power play opportunities including two 5-on-3s, gave up two goals on the man advantage and completely killed their own momentum.

MORE CAPITALS NEWS:

10.19.18 Rick Horrow sits down with Zach Leonsis of Monumental Sports

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USA TODAY Sports

10.19.18 Rick Horrow sits down with Zach Leonsis of Monumental Sports

By Rick Horrow

Podcast edited by Tanner Simkins

LISTEN TO THE FULL PODCAST HERE

Top 3 sports biz items of the week:

1) The NHL’s new season has been infused with a bit of flare and fun that it is not used to. According to The Hockey News, players across the league have started to show a bit more personality on the ice, something that fans have been “begging for” for years. The highlight of the first week came during a wild 7-6 win for the Toronto Maple Leafs over the Chicago Blackhawks. Maple Leafs C Auston Matthews and Blackhawks RW Patrick Kane exchanged jeers after each scored a goal within the final minutes of regulation. Meanwhile in Raleigh, the Hurricanes now have one of the league’s best post-game celebrations. After a win, the whole team applauds the crowd before “skating from their own blueline to the other end of the ice and jumping into the boards.” This playful nature is one thing that the NHL has lacked compared to its NBA and NFL counterparts. With more fun, expect more fans. And to the fun mix add Gritty, the startling new Muppet-like orange Philadelphia Flyers mascot, who calls his fans “Gritizens,” has been on with Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel, and after mere weeks has amassed over 136,000 Twitter followers.


2) E-commerce giant Amazon is used to disrupting industries in a quick and swift fashion, but its dive into sports broadcasting has been described as “humble.” According to SportsBusiness Journal, Amazon has been linked with some of the world’s biggest leagues and tournaments, such as the NFL and Premier League, despite not being a longtime player in the sports broadcasting industry. “There is more to come from Amazon, full stop. We are in it for the long-term, that’s for sure,” said Amazon Prime Video European Managing Director Alex Green. “We just get our heads down and try and do the best possible job. We are quite humble about it. Amazon may be a big name but in sports broadcasting we are not. Let’s face it.” Amazon recently celebrated its first exclusive sporting event broadcast when it streamed the U.S. Open to tennis fans in the U.K. as part of a $40 million, five-year deal. While that effort did not go smoothly, with thousands of fans unable to access the livestream, Amazon has assured its current and would-be broadcast partners that their humbling performance would only improve.


3) NFL owners are preparing for a big vote at their fall meeting this week regarding cross-ownership. According to SportsBusiness Journal, the decades-old rule currently prevents “owners of other big four sports teams in NFL markets from buying a football team,” while also preventing NFL owners from buying non-NFL Big Four sports teams in an existing NFL market. The ballooning of franchise valuations has led owners to reconsider the rule due to the shrinking pool of potential buyers for clubs. To illustrate this, when the Carolina Panthers came up for sale earlier this year, only three bidders emerged before David Tepper bought the team for $2.275 billion. Even that NFL record setting sale came in under expectations. However, the league has not strictly upheld the cross-ownership rule. Back in 2010, Stan Kroenke exercised an option to buy the then-St. Louis Rams despite owning the NBA’s Denver Nuggets and NHL’s Colorado Avalanche. Kroenke skirted around the rule after he handed off the Colorado teams to other family members, setting precedent and setting up the NFL for a sensible rule change.