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ISU QB Richardson adjusts to being starter

ISU QB Richardson adjusts to being starter

AMES, Iowa (AP) Iowa State's decision to play freshman quarterback Sam Richardson in the final two games of the regular season resulted in a win, a loss and a lot of hope for the future.

Now Richardson has the chance to grow some more.

Iowa State (6-6) earned a berth in the Liberty Bowl against Tulsa (10-3), giving Richardson more time to increase his familiarity with the rest of the starting offense.

The Cyclones say the experience from playing in a pair of games and working as the starter in practice is already paying off.

``The biggest thing, to be honest with you, is pocket presence,'' offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham said. ``Because how he's handled the offense, how he's interacted with the players has always been very mature, very much `I know what I'm doing.' But the thing that's changed is, now that he's had real live reps, is his ability to understand `I need to go run' or `I need to throw it away and not take a sack.'''

Richardson, a redshirt freshman who spent much of the year as the third stringer, led the Cyclones to touchdowns on four straight possessions in his first full quarter of playing time in a 51-23 win over Kansas on Nov. 17. That effort earned him his first and only start the following week against West Virginia.

Richardson completed just 13 of 31 passes in extremely blustery conditions, but he also racked up three TDs and no picks in a 31-24 loss. He's since been able to work with the rest of the starting offense more than he ever had before, and he said that experience has been ``tremendously'' positive.

``I've definitely molded my game to fit with the (starters) now and it's helped quite a bit,'' Richardson said.

The one thing the Cyclones would like to see more of is assertiveness.

The soft-spoken Richardson is still growing into his role as a leader. But coach Paul Rhoads said Sunday that he's seen Richardson make progress in that area during bowl preparation, and Richardson is doing his best to adopt a more assertive approach.

``It's just being confident in your play,'' he said. ``Sometimes back earlier in the year I might have gotten frustrated with myself. Now it's carrying yourself through those mistakes and carrying the offense as well.''

Iowa State has always thought highly of Richardson even when it wasn't ready to hand him the starting job. But the Cyclones are even more confident in him after watching him play in games, because he's shown a knack for making plays when it matters.

``To be honest, I don't see a big bit of difference. I don't mean that in a negative way,'' Rhoads said. ``I just mean that it's not like with one start and a lot of playing time in the other game and these extra reps he's bloomed into the next Dan Marino. He's doing a nice job, but he also did a nice job before. He just didn't do some of the little things that we needed him to do to hand it over to him.''

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How Ben Olsen is coaching D.C. United during coronavirus quarantine

How Ben Olsen is coaching D.C. United during coronavirus quarantine

Despite the uncertainty surrounding the MLS season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, D.C. United head coach Ben Olsen is finding a sense of “underlying positivity” in the face of massive changes to the day-to-day life of so many around the world.

"The priority right now with the group that we have is to maintain a level of fitness," Olsen said on a conference call with local reporters this morning. "All we can do right now is follow the guidelines given by MLS."

Even though the team is not able to meet face-to-face like they normally would, Olsen and his staff have had to get creative in ways to continue to build team chemistry and make sure everyone is on the same page.

"We have a once-a-week call with everyone on a Zoom chat with the trainers," he said. "We talk about things like social media and how to stay connected to fans, the programs we are sending out and we get feedback from [the players] on what is going well."

Dealing with the pandemic has been especially challenging for players from overseas, who might not have the same support systems that those longtime MLS players have in the area. The club is making a particular point to reach out to those players.

D.C. United and its staff are also making sure that all of the club’s players are able to partake in individualized training to keep a level of fitness, even if that means getting some workout equipment to players who might not have it where they live.

Olsen noted after a personal story of taking his kids to a local field to play some soccer and being turned away by policemen and that “there’s all these hurdles that the [players] are coming up against and we are now constantly having to adapt off our new reality.”

As new challenges arise and are met, Olsen is trying to keep a positive mindset and joked that he now has the time to be a better husband and father than he normally would at the start of a new season.

"There’s this underlying positivity that again I feel very, very lucky because of the scenario I’m in," the head coach noted. "I’m also constantly thinking about others that are not in the situation I’m in. Whether it’s the EMTs, the firemen, the D.C. support system, our medical doctors, so many people on the frontlines that are doing so much and putting their lives in danger right now. I make sure we as a family are constantly reminding our children that there’s a lot of people out there doing some great things in a very, very tough time."

When asked what he misses most about what would be the end of the opening month of the MLS season, Olsen stated that he misses the locker room and being with his players.

"Dealing with the ups and downs of a season, dealing with the journey of the season," he said. "It’s a special thing that we have and I think in some ways you have to lose it to appreciate it. Right now I miss being in that locker room, I miss the guys, I miss my staff."

While no one knows yet when the season will return, Olsen is "very bullish and optimistic" that MLS will recover quickly.

"Of course the league will take a hit, just like every other league and every other business across this country," Olsen said. "This league will be just fine when we get through this, just like our country will be just fine."

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Davey Martinez to ESPN: ‘I believe there will be baseball’

Davey Martinez to ESPN: ‘I believe there will be baseball’

Baseball may not yet be close to returning to action, but Nationals manager Davey Martinez hasn’t given up hope that the 2020 season will be salvaged after the start pf the campaign was delayed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

“I do believe that we'll have a season, but at this particular moment, for me and for our players, our main concern is the well-being of families, friends, fans,” Martinez told ESPN’s Marly Rivera. “We need to get out of this healthy and ready to go.”

This is the seventh time MLB has had to cut into a season. The last time it happened was 1994-95, when a strike by the players forced the league to cancel ’94 World Series. Martinez was a member of the San Francisco Giants that season, denied a chance to make the playoffs after the season came to a halt with the Giants only three games back of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West.

But when asked if he had any past experiences helping him get through the pandemic that’s forced governors across the U.S. to issue stay-at-home orders, Martinez pointed to another traumatic event that shook both baseball and the country.

“For me, 9/11,” Martinez said. “I am from New York and I have family in New York. I understood what everybody was going through. But New York rebounded, and baseball came back and took everybody in. I was playing with Atlanta and we played the Mets in that first game [in New York after 9/11].

“We were winning that game, and all of a sudden [Mike] Piazza hits the home run -- and it was almost a sigh of relief for everybody. It really was. That moment, watching the ball go over the fence. ... I know we're all so competitive and we all want to win, but in that particular moment for me, it was like, ‘You know what, this is what the game's all about. Win or lose, this is what the game is all about.’ Watching and listening to the fans stand up and cheer like they did, it was phenomenal.”

While stuck at his home in Tennessee, Martinez has helped pass the time by driving around his property on a four-wheeler and reaching out to his players—two or three a day. He asks them about their families, trying to gauge what their mindsets are because “all of a sudden what you love to do this time of year is gone.”

“I believe there will be baseball,” Martinez said “I can't put a finger on when, but we're going to step back on that field and we're going to have a lot of fun. I tell the boys, think of it this way, we hold the trophy for a lot longer than anybody else.”

As the defending World Series champions, the Nationals have been able to at least take solace in the fact that a banner-raising ceremony and ring presentation await them when they return to D.C. Until then, all Martinez can do is bunker down and wait things out along with the rest of the world.

“I think about that moment when we come back and get those beautiful rings and put up that banner in the stadium,” Martinez said. “It's still going to be there no matter what when we get back. But under these circumstances, I can't think about anything else but the safety of the people and our love for this country.”

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