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No. 7 K-State ready for final exam against Texas

No. 7 K-State ready for final exam against Texas

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) It probably wasn't the most happy of Thanksgivings for seventh-ranked Kansas State.

The Wildcats had climbed ever so slowly to No. 1 in the BCS standings before losing two weeks ago at Baylor, ending their perfect season along with their national championship dreams.

And due to a quirk in the schedule, they had last week off, giving them some extra time to stew over what will undoubtedly go down as one of the biggest disappointments in school history.

It also gave Kansas State time to prepare for its final exam, though.

The Wildcats return to the field for their home finale Saturday against No. 23 Texas. They can wrap up the Big 12 title and earn the league's automatic BCS bowl berth with a win, or if No. 12 Oklahoma loses to TCU earlier in the day.

``We definitely need to get back on track. There's definitely that mentality,'' said quarterback Collin Klein, whose Heisman Trophy hopes took a hit that Saturday night in Waco.

``I don't know if I'd necessarily call it anger, but there's a lot of motivation and buildup of we just need to get back on track. Our last two performances haven't been stellar. There's a lot of motivation there. I don't know if it's anger, but there's some motivation, no doubt.''

The Wildcats (10-1, 7-1) had become one of the nation's trendiest teams behind the stoic play of Klein, the unwavering leadership of 73-year-old coach Bill Snyder, and a defense that had managed to ground some of the most potent offenses in the entire country.

Klein made the cover of Sports Illustrated. National programs were doing segments on the Wildcats. The stretch of Interstate 70 from Kansas City to tiny Manhattan, Kan., became just a little bit busier as Kansas State kept piling up victory upon victory.

But then the Wildcats headed to Baylor, and everything unraveled.

Klein threw three interceptions in arguably his worst game as a starter, and was held to just 39 yards on the ground. Running back John Hubert managed only 43 yards rushing, while that stone-wall defense was shredded by quarterback Nick Florence and the Bears' running backs.

Lache Seastrunk ran for 185 yards and a touchdown. Glasco Martin had 113 yards and three more scores. Florence accounted for nearly 300 yards and three more touchdowns.

The result wasn't just a loss, but a 52-24 humiliation.

Snyder admitted he was angry with the result, not merely disappointed. And he said that attitude was embraced by the rest of the team - the Wildcats let the biggest opportunity in school history slip through their fingers, countless hours of grueling work sullied by one poor night.

``If that attitude does persist, I would hope it would be throughout our team, and not be exclusive to one particular group,'' Snyder said. ``We've won collectively and our loss is a collective loss, and our preparation needs to be collective and our attitude just the same.''

Senior kicker Anthony Cantele was the first to acknowledge feeling the same raw emotion that Snyder experienced in the hours after the game, but said things have started to change.

``At first there was some anger that set in,'' Cantele said, ``but once we started to practice, we realized, especially the seniors, this is our last chance to play at home.''

Yes, along with potentially playing for a conference championship and a spot in a BCS bowl game, the Wildcats will also be bidding farewell to a senior class that helped re-establish the program.

Most of them were recruited to Kansas State by former coach Ron Prince, but they were quickly embraced by Snyder, who managed to massage and mold them from a five-win team into one that's won at least 10 games in two consecutive years, and is poised to capture only the third conference championship in school history on Saturday.

``I think it'd be very meaningful. It'd be a lifelong memory, I'm sure, or I'd like to think it would be for all of them,'' Snyder said. ``Something you take a great deal of pride in because they had such a major role coming through the program over this period of time.''

Klein admitted that running onto the field Saturday will be emotional.

He was among those recruited by Prince. He spent time as a wide receiver before making the switch to quarterback, and has blossomed into one of the best players in school history.

Rather than all that anger he felt after losing to Baylor, Klein said, he expects to feel a pang of sentimentality, and buckle his chinstrap one more time and get ready for the Wildcats' final exam against Texas.

``Coach Snyder always talks about finishing,'' Klein said. ``As a senior, for all of us as seniors, being able to finish strong is what we want, no doubt.''

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3 things to watch for improved Wizards vs. Cavs

3 things to watch for improved Wizards vs. Cavs

The Washington Wizards still have John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter. The Cleveland Cavaliers no longer employ LeBron James. That makes Wednesday’s first meeting of the season between the Eastern Conference foes curious. The radical change for the visitors also requires a preview. Tipoff is at 7 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington. 

Here are three things to watch...

Sustaining the surge

Monday’s 117-109 victory over the Orlando Magic extended the Wizards’ winning streak to a season-high two. Don't knock the modest uptick after a 2-9 start. John Wall’s stat line took a big leap over the last three games: 24.0 points, 10.3 assists, 4.3 rebounds, and 45.5 percent on 3-pointers. Beyond the numbers, the point guard appears to have knocked off the remaining rust physically. We’re used to his aggressive end-to-end pushes, but now Wall is firing up the court immediately after makes or misses, helping Washington quickly enter its offensive sets. Another strong outing from the five-time All-Star could propel the Wizards to their first three-game winning streak since Feb. 10-22.

Quick rematch

Starters Wall, Bradley Beal, Dwight Howard and Markieff Morris had solid games against the Magic, but the Wizards’ second unit played above previous season norms. All five reserves finished with a plus-minus of plus-8 or better. Jeff Green continued his sizzling shooting, sinking 4 of 5 from beyond the arc en route to 18 points. The 6-foot-9 forward is 9 of 13 from beyond the arc overall during the last four games, and 21 of 28 overall. Backcourt partners Austin Rivers and Tomas Satoransky, slow to develop chemistry this season, showed increased comfort during the winning streak. Washington needs more from the pair to help keep minutes for Wall and Beal at reasonable levels.

Cleveland doesn’t rock

From four consecutive NBA Finals appearances to the NBA’s worst record (2-11, tied with Phoenix). Yeah, the Cavaliers miss LeBron James just a little. They also are down Kevin Love (toe surgery), leaving Jordan Clarkson (15.2) and Rodney Hood (12.9) as Cleveland’s top scorers. That’s not ideal. The Cavaliers are 27th in scoring (103.3) while giving up 113.1 points per game, which is better than Washington’s league-worst 118.5. Rookie point guard Collin Sexton, the No. 8 overall selection in the 2018 NBA Draft, is filling in for the injured George Hill. Sexton is averaging 17.0 points over the last three games.

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With 2 TDs in 2 games, Josh Doctson headlines Redskins stock report

With 2 TDs in 2 games, Josh Doctson headlines Redskins stock report

After an important road win in Tampa, the Redskins stock is soaring. The team is 6-3 and two games up in the NFC East.

For individual players, Josh Doctson headlines the stock surge but a pair of defenders are moving the other way. Let's dig into the Redskins stock report.

Stock up - Josh Doctson - The third-year wide receiver has scored in two straight games and has caught seven of 10 balls thrown his way. The yardage numbers don't jump off the page, but all four catches in Tampa were important. Further, Doctson rebounded from a tough game against Atlanta where he dropped two passes and got flagged for a (wrong) taunting penalty. Most impressive with Doctson? The touchdown in Tampa came off schedule and showed that he kept working back to his QB once the play broke down. That will garner more trust from Alex Smith, and maybe more chances for big plays down the backstretch of the year.

Stock down - Danny Johnson - For an undrafted free agent out of Southern, Johnson has had a remarkable season. In Tampa, he did not have a remarkable game and got replaced on the field by Greg Stroman. Let Jay Gruden explain, "Danny had a good week of practice. He filled in for Stroman when Stroman had the hip issue last week and we thought we'd give Danny a shot to start. Danny was playing a little soft [coverage] there for a little while, so we decided to give Stroman a crack at it." Once Stroman got in, he grabbed an interception and had a nice pass breakup downfield. Johnson has a firm roster spot - the Redskins just released Josh Holsey - but looks like he fell behind Stroman on the depth chart. 

Stock up - Kapri Bibbs - With Chris Thompson on the shelf and a murky timetable for his return, Bibbs is getting more and more chances on the field. And increasingly, he's delivering when he gets looks. Against Tampa, he ran the ball three times for 28 yards and added two catches for 13 yards. He also had a huge gain just before halftime, the Redskins first big chunk play in weeks that Bibbs took after a screen pass, but it got called back on a holding flag. 

Stock down - Pernell McPhee - No player wants to be a healthy scratch, but that's just what happened to McPhee last week in Tampa. Jay Gruden explained: "Unfortunately I had to sit McPhee, not performance related, but just I had to get another body on the offensive line because we're banged up." It was mostly a work of roster construction that landed McPhee on the inactive list, but still, Cassanova McKinzy made the active roster after being on the practice squad. McKinzy showed some ability rushing the passer, and he can play special teams. This could be a situation worth monitoring. 

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