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Klein, No. 4 K-State rout No. 17 WVU 55-14

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Klein, No. 4 K-State rout No. 17 WVU 55-14

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) Collin Klein ran for four touchdowns and threw three TD passes as No. 4 Kansas State got little resistance from No. 17 West Virginia in a 55-14 victory Saturday night that turned a matchup of Heisman Trophy contenders into campaign ad for the Wildcats' quarterback.

Klein was 19 for 21 for a career-high 323 yards and ran for 41 yards for the Wildcats (7-0, 4-0 Big 12).

It was no surprise the Mountaineers (5-2, 2-2) were awful on defense, it's been that way all season. For the second straight game, though, Geno Smith and the offense did nothing to keep it close.

Smith followed up a clunker at Texas Tech last week with an even worse game, throwing his first two interceptions of the season and finishing 21 for 32 for 143 yards. The senior has gone from Heisman front-runner to long shot in two weeks.

Kansas State (7-0, 4-0) scored on its first eight possessions, making it 52-7 with 2:25 minutes left in the third quarter when Klein hit Tyler Lockett over the middle for a 20-yard score.

Milan-Puskar Stadium was already half empty by that point, and a long line cars was creeping out of the parking lot.

The optimism and excitement that was pumping through Morgantown a couple of weeks ago is gone.

In Manhattan, Kan., it's all good, and everything is on the table for coach Bill Snyder's team. The Wildcats are the only unbeaten team in the Big 12. Their quarterback is the Heisman front-runner. And with five games left on the schedule, they are serious national title contenders.

The first meeting since 1931 of the new Big 12 rivals was so lopsided that by the time it was over it was hard to even remember that this matchup started as a battle for first in the conference.

On one side was Klein, aka Optimus Klein, the Wildcats' methodical battering ram, whose passes don't look like much but usually find their target.

On the other side was Smith, the future NFL first-round draft pick with the video game passing statistics.

But Klein got to face West Virginia's beleaguered defense, which ranks near the bottom of the Big 12 and the country in just about everything.

With the Mountaineers seemingly determined to at least stop the run early, Klein completed his first seven passes, including a 10-yard touchdown that Lockett made a stretching, toe-dragging catch on in the back corner of the end zone. That made it 10-0 in the first.

The K-State running game went to work on the third drive and Klein finished that off with a 1-yard plunge.

Klein made it 24-0 on the next Kansas State drive, taking an option keeper 8 yards. That gave him 39 rushing touchdowns over the last two seasons to break an FBS record held by Eric Crouch of Nebraska and Stacey Robinson of Northern Illinois.

Tavon Austin finally put a little life back into the sellout crowd when he took the ensuing kickoff back 100 yards for a score with 4:12 left in the first half.

The bad news for West Virginia was that it gave the Wildcats more than enough time to get the ball back in the end zone - which they did.

Klein hit Lockett deep for 44 yards and a few plays later he finished off the drive with another 1-yard dive.

The first half onslaught went like this for Kansas State: five possessions, 346 yards, four touchdowns and a field goal. The offense was unstoppable and the defense was just as good, holding Smith to 62 yards by flooding the secondary with defenders and taking away the down field throws.

Maybe the pressure of having to score every time he touches the ball has gotten to Smith, but that trip to New York for the Heisman Trophy presentation, which seemed like a lock after the Mountaineers won at Texas, is now in serious doubt.

As for Klein and the Wildcats, they will face tougher tests. The gap between the top and the bottom of the Big 12 doesn't seem all that wide. But they have now won three conference road games, including at Oklahoma. They came into the weekend fourth in BCS standings, behind Alabama, Florida and Oregon.

With their 73-year-old coach pushing all the right buttons and their happily married quarterback making all the right plays, the Wildcats might be due for a promotion.

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Orioles clean house, fire 11 members of scouting and front office departments

Orioles clean house, fire 11 members of scouting and front office departments

Baltimore Orioles executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias is dedicated to altering the direction of the organization and that was reciprocated Friday with the firing of 11 members of the scouting and front office departments.  

"We're in a period of change right now with the industry and we're in a period of change right now with the Orioles," Elias said. "Sometimes to make changes you've got to make changes."

Among those relieved were baseball operations director Tripp Norton, scouts Dean Albany, Jim Howard, John Gillette, Nathan Showalter, and Buck Showalter. 

Elias acknowledged the uphill battle ahead of filling numerous voids but insists it's just a part of the job 

"We're going to be very busy bringing people into this organization," he said. "This is just the organization moving along and adapting to the sport today."

Just one day removed from a judge confirming that the Orioles owe the Nationals nearly $300 million, Elias insisted this move isn't to save money.

"There are changes going on in the scouting business in terms of greater availability of information in general, video and data," Elias said. "There are instances where we will replace people's roles kind of man for man, head for head, spot for spot, but there's other instances where we're reconfiguring the way the scouts go about their business."

The O's will look completely different from this point out and players won't be the only changes.

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Sleep-deprived Nationals win one they probably shouldn’t have in Chicago behind Aníbal Sánchez

Sleep-deprived Nationals win one they probably shouldn’t have in Chicago behind Aníbal Sánchez

The clubhouse wears have never been packed so quickly. Washington was sprinting as a group to get out of Pittsburgh on Thursday night following another three-hour-plus game with a 1:20 p.m. local start looming in Wrigley Field on Friday.

Max Scherzer finished his postgame comments in less than four minutes, then quickly moved to get cleaned up and join the others. Most lockers were vacant by the time media members reached the clubhouse, which wasn’t long after the game ended. 

Despite the scramble for minutes saved, Friday was supposed to be a loss. Las Vegas knew. The players and management knew. It was a bad spot. Night game, onto a plane, then a day game against a team which played at home the previous afternoon, and was 44-19 there -- the second-best home record in the National League. 

And yet, Nationals 9, Cubs 3, and it wasn’t that close.

Some bloops fell, some situations turned out lucky. Though, Aníbal Sánchez dominated. No voodoo or charms were involved.

He went through 8 ⅓ innings before being removed after 112 pitches. He was provided a shot to finish the game -- just 15 National League pitchers have a complete game this season -- but couldn’t. A rare Anthony Rendon throwing error cost him an out, then his opportunity for a solo close to the afternoon in Chicago.

Sánchez threw 31 four-seam fastballs, 31 cutters and 28 “splitters” among his 112 pitches. He worked as a marionettist, pulling strings to change positions and outcomes throughout the day. Matt Grace finished the game. No high-end reliever was used, resetting a bullpen which had to cover five innings in Pittsburgh on Thursday.

The offense beat up Jon Lester. He didn’t make it out of the fifth inning. Everyone in the lineup -- including Sánchez -- picked up a hit. Trea Turner’s single extended his on-base streak to 30 games.

Sánchez’s work piggybacked on what the other starters did against woeful Pittsburgh. Nationals starters have allowed two earned runs in the first five games of this seven-game road trip. The offense has averaged 8.2 runs in that span. It’s hard to fathom they lost once with both sides operating in such fashion.

All of this is just a continuation of a massive turnaround. Washington is 52-26 since its nadir May 24. Only the Dodgers -- who host the Yankees on Friday night -- have a better record in that span, and by just a half-game. They have won 10 of 12 and 13 of 17. Fivethirtyeight.com now gives the Nationals a 90 percent chance to make the postseason (this includes the wild-card game).

Wins like Friday emphatically move that needle. The Cubs are trying to wind their way into the postseason. They were also set up for a clear advantage thanks to the schedule. Instead, Sánchez, throwing as slow as 68 mph and as fast as 91, controlled the day, the offense rolled through the afternoon and everyone was ready for bed after a surprise win.

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