Nationals

K-State emerges alone atop Big 12

201210131500540394702-p2.jpeg

K-State emerges alone atop Big 12

AMES, Iowa (AP) The upcoming matchup between Kansas State and West Virginia was supposed to break up the tie between the Wildcats and Mountaineers for first in the Big 12.

There's no doubt who leads the league now.

No. 4 Kansas State (6-0, 3-0) emerged from Saturday's hard-fought 27-21 win over Iowa State (4-2, 1-2) as the Big 12's only unbeaten team, both overall and in the conference.

Though the Wildcats would quickly lose their grip on the league lead with a loss at No. 17 West Virginia - which is no doubt smarting after a 49-14 shellacking by Texas Tech on Saturday - they woke up on Sunday as the unquestioned class of the conference.

Just don't tell coach Bill Snyder that.

``I'd like for us to have played better than we did across the board,'' Snyder said. ``There were times we played extremely well ... but by the same token, we still had some issues.''

Kansas State's winning formula has been remarkably simple: Play sound, disciplined defense and let Collin Klein handle the offense.

Klein was brilliant again on Saturday, with 292 total yards and three rushing TDs against an Iowa State defense that entered the weekend ranked third in the Big 12 at less than 16 points allowed per game.

Klein converted a series of crucial third downs on a key drive in the fourth quarter. It produced a field goal and, more importantly, ate up over eight minutes at a time when the Cyclones desperately needed to make something happen on offense.

Klein also responded with a quick touchdown drive after Iowa State had seized momentum with a 30-yard TD pass from Jared Barnett to Ernst Brun late in the first half.

``He's an All-American in my book. He doesn't get the attention because he's not as flashy and doesn't put up the gaudy numbers that some of the other college football players do,'' Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads said about Klein. ``But he has a 6-0 football team that is ranked in the top five in the country.''

Kansas State's defense allowed the Cyclones to score three touchdowns even though they had the ball for barely 19 minutes. But when the Wildcats needed stops, they got them.

Iowa State had the ball at its own 40 with 4:17 left, trailing by six points, but Kansas State forced Barnett into three incompletions and got the ball back. The Wildcats also stopped Iowa State on its final possession two minutes later, with Barnett misfiring on three straight passes with pressure in his face.

Perhaps the most troubling problem for Snyder on Saturday was penalties. Kansas State had just nine all season, but it committed nine more in Ames.

``It was tremendously out of character for us,'' Snyder said. ``We had been the least penalized team in the country and now we look like the most penalized team in the country. That's a matter of discipline. That's a matter of a lot of things. Part of it is focus.''

But given how well the Wildcats are playing, Snyder is likely resorting to nit-picking to find anything wrong.

It's been 3 1/2 years since Snyder came back to the sidelines, and his formula for building a Big 12 champion is working wonders so far in 2012.

``They can play with anybody in the country with arguably less talent on the field than everybody in the top 10 if not everybody in the top 15,'' Rhoads said.

Quick Links

Nationals on periphery in Las Vegas

bryceharpermarlinstarp.jpg
USA Today Sports

Nationals on periphery in Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS -- Marlins Man walked into a modest eatery Sunday here in Las Vegas to look over the options. His bright orange jersey stood out among the cowboy hats and zombie-like Sunday exodus inside the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.

While another Las Vegas weekend closed, sending an army of roller bags across the casino floor toward the exit and airport, baseball started to creep into the home of the 2018 Winter Meetings. Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo wandered across the marble floor. Media members from cities across the country became situated. Television stations raised their studios and radio talkers began to ramble. Everyone is wondering if the show in Vegas will be filled with drama or just another stall along the way to the offseason’s biggest news.

We know Rizzo turned in his homework early. Patrick Corbin’s money and introduction arrived late last week. Corbin, presumably, is the Nationals’ largest offseason expenditure. Surprising comments from Nationals principal owner Mark Lerner to 106.7 The Fan on Friday made that seem to be the case. He described Bryce Harper as all but gone, speaking wistfully, if not definitively.

Which means Rizzo is here for smaller shopping and the rest of baseball waits on Harper and Manny Machado.

A look through the Nationals shows few remaining gaps. Rizzo publicly contends he feels all right about starting the season with a Wilmer Difo/Howie Kendrick platoon at second base. The outfield is clear without Harper. Joe Ross and Erick Fedde will fight for the final rotation spot. Two new catchers have arrived. The bullpen was upgraded. Rizzo didn’t wait and watch what other teams were doing.

“We like the club we have at present,” Rizzo told NBC Sports Washington last week. “But, we’re never satisfied. There’s tweaks and combinations we can go after. We’ll be looking for values out there. What works for us, how do we construct the periphery of the roster. You can never have enough pitching and we’re always on the look for good starting and relief pitching. That could be something we attack either via the free agent market or trade market.”

One thing the market remains full of is left-handed relievers. The Nationals currently have three. One of which is Sammy Solis.

Washington decided to tender him a contract and the sides reached a one-year deal. There was consideration not to tender him a contract, which would have ended Solis’ time with Nationals. Instead, he’s back despite two back-to-back poor seasons following a strong 2016. Last season was a wreck. Solis finished with a 6.41 ERA. The other two lefties, Sean Doolittle and Matt Grace, were excellent. So, are the Nationals in the market for one more left-handed reliever to be sure?

“We’ve got right now on the roster three really competent left-handed pitchers,” Rizzo said, “in Doolittle, Grace who had a magnificent season last year and Sammy Solis, who we feel is a bounceback candidate. We feel good about the left-handed spot. We feel good about our bullpen as a whole.”

The Nationals were mid-pack last season in relievers’ ERA in both the National League and Major League Baseball. Their bullpen does appear close to done: Doolittle, Trevor Rosenthal, Kyle Barraclough, Koda Glover, Grace, Solis, Justin Miller and Wander Suero are eight quick spots down there.

One upside here for Rizzo is he can wait. He doesn’t need to jump at the flush reliever market, which includes several decent left-handed options, because of the team’s prompt signings. A discount may arrive later. A factor to remember in regard to Solis is the Nationals would only be on the hook for 1/6th of his salary if they cut him in spring training. That’s a small penalty if someone in West Palm Beach appears more capable.

Washington also needs a left-handed bat off the bench that can play first base. Matt Adams, Justin Bour and Lucas Duda are names that could fill that slot. None will rattle the meetings.

This is life on the periphery, as Rizzo puts it. Will they talk to a lot of agents here? Yes. Will they consider an upgrade at second base? Of course. Are they part of the gigantic Harper and Machado storylines unlikely to conclude in Las Vegas but en route to dominate the conversation? Not really. At least not if Lerner’s public declaration is filled with flat facts. They offered Harper, he can do better elsewhere, and now life is quieter, even in Las Vegas.

MORE NATIONALS NEWS

 

Quick Links

When asked about the defensive decline, DJ Swearinger gives response 'they want' him to give

When asked about the defensive decline, DJ Swearinger gives response 'they want' him to give

A frequent question Redskins players have had to face this past month is, in some form or another, "What's wrong with the defense, and what's changed?"

Washington's defense was, for the most part, effective and at times dominant during the team's 6-3 start.

But in this losing streak that extended to four games after the disgraceful performance against the Giants, the unit has been a trainwreck on top of a dumpster fire. 

DJ Swearinger was the latest 'Skin to be asked the increasingly common question in the FedEx Field locker room postgame. His response was noteworthy.

"We just didn't execute, we just didn't get the job done," he said. "That's the answer they want me to give."

Swearinger attracts some of the largest media crowds when he speaks because he's passionate and never holds back with his quotes.

However, some recent comments from No. 36 about the Redskins' practice habits caught Jay Gruden's attention to the point where the coach explained in one of his weekly pressers he'd prefer the safety keep those thoughts in-house.

So, is Gruden or another coach or front office person the "they" that Swearinger referred to following the Giants blowout? You'd have to assume so.

Regardless, it's obvious that he wanted to say more, but instead, he kept his full, unfiltered opinion to himself — this time. If things continue to trend downward and his frustration continues to trend upward, though, don't expect him to keep giving the answers "they want."

MORE REDSKINS NEWS