No. 7 K-State tries to recover from disappointment

No. 7 K-State tries to recover from disappointment

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) It's hard for anybody to drop into Manhattan, Kan.

The home of seventh-ranked Kansas State is tucked in a quiet valley out in the Flint Hills, surrounded by tallgrass prairie. There's a few flights into the airport, but not many. Most of the people who live in the small college town are affiliated with the university in some way.

It's the perfect place to convalesce after a monumental disappointment.

The Wildcats were barreling toward the national championship game when they headed to Baylor last week, with a quarterback in Collin Klein who was leading the race for the Heisman Trophy.

It all came undone in 60 short minutes.

The Bears found a way to force the steady Klein into throwing three interceptions, more than he'd thrown all season. They shut down his running ability, along with backfield mate John Hubert, and then ripped apart a defense that had been among the best in the Big 12.

By the time the carnage had ended, the Bears were celebrating a 52-24 victory every bit as lopsided as the score, and the Wildcats were heading home to lick their wounds.

And with a week off before playing No. 18 Texas, there's a lot of time for licking.

``It's a double-edged sword,'' Kansas State coach Bill Snyder said. ``The time is needed from a rest standpoint for our players. Maybe it would have been better to have it a little sooner than this, but that is hindsight. The other side of the coin is you have to let this fester for that period of time. That can be good or bad. It depends on how they respond to it.''

Truth be told, the Wildcats still have plenty to play for.

They can ensure only their second Big 12 championship by beating the Longhorns in the finale Dec. 1, and also punch their ticket to a BCS bowl game, even if it's not the title game.

Even that's not entirely out of the picture.

The Wildcats (10-1, 7-1) will be big fans of USC, Florida State and Oregon State on Saturday. The Trojans need to beat No. 1 Notre Dame, the Seminoles have to top sixth-ranked Florida and the Beavers have to deal No. 5 Oregon its second straight defeat for Kansas State to have any chance of slipping back into the top two spots in the BCS standings.

That's a lot to ask, of course. The Wildcats know it.

But they also know that far stranger things have happened - like going to Waco, Texas, and getting pasted by a Baylor team whose only previous Big 12 win came against lowly Kansas.

``It was something that we knew we were going to have to face,'' Kansas State linebacker Arthur Brown said. ``The day after the loss was probably the worst, but we have to accept it.''

Snyder has certainly gone through this drill before.

The Wildcats were all-but-assured of a spot in the 1998 national championship game when they led in the fourth quarter against Texas A&M in the Big 12 title game. The Aggies rallied to tie the game, and Sirr Parker etched his name in history with the winning score in double overtime.

Kansas State retreated to its leafy Kansas in Manhattan to recover, but it never happened, especially after a quirk in the bowl system resulted in the Wildcats falling to the Alamo Bowl.

They wound up losing to Purdue and quarterback Drew Brees in a close game.

``I would say that we've gotten past the sad stage and more into the mad stage,'' tight end Travis Tannahill said. ``There is nothing you can do about it now.''

Even Snyder, who is always measured away from the sideline, admitted to feeling some anger.

``And I would have our players and coaches follow suit,'' he said.

``Heartbreaking does not even describe it, but at the same time, we just have to make sure that we do not let Baylor beat us twice,'' Klein said. ``We have to go back to what we know, and that is just trying to be the best we can be, contribute in helping each other and being a good teammate. We just cannot waste any days.''

The team was planning to practice Wednesday before breaking for Thanksgiving. Players will return to Manhattan in time for meetings on Sunday, and the preparation begins for Texas.

The Wildcats will know by then exactly what's at stake against the Longhorns.

``This is a special group. It's a group that has been through a lot through our time here,'' Klein said. ``It's a group that we truly care about each other in a pretty special way, as brothers would or family members would. We are still having fun, and that is important.''

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Familiarity makes Matt Adams’ return to the Nationals an easy call

Familiarity makes Matt Adams’ return to the Nationals an easy call

Comfort carries allure for most. That includes Matt Adams.

He knew when traded to the St. Louis Cardinals in August a chance for a return to Washington existed. Adams got along with all levels of staff while operating quietly at his locker and pulverizing right-handed pitching on the field. The hole he filled in 2018 would exist again in 2019, so why couldn’t he return?

It all seems so simple, and it turned out to be. Adams’ one-year deal for $4 million, which includes a mutual option for 2020, was announced Tuesday by the Nationals after first being reported during the weekend. The left-handed bench piece Washington needed is in place for this season. It could well be back in 2020 when the team’s first base personnel could undergo a large change if Ryan Zimmerman’s option is not picked up.

“I don’t follow too much of the media stuff in the offseason,” Adams said on a conference call with reporters Tuesday.

“But the way that everything was left when I was traded, we were on good communication, up until that point. Everything that was said leading up to that trade, if the opportunity presented itself [to return] I would be on their list. I’m kind of lost for words, because I’m excited for this opportunity. But I think the team is definitely going to be better than it was last year, with the acquisitions that [Mike Rizzo] has made so far this offseason.”

Adams is pleased he’s not hunting a job until late into February. More frequently role players are without homes for most of, if not all of, the pre-spring training portion of the offseason. Adams is settled a week before Christmas.

“For me, the way my brain and myself works, the later I sign, the more freaked out I'm going to be,” Adams said. “Because it's the unknown that's out there. Not knowing where you're going to go, how many people you're going to know on that team you're going to sign with...For me, I was lucky and blessed to have the opportunity to sign back with the Nats where I know everybody and I get along with absolutely everybody from front office to coaches and all the players. For me, it felt like the right opportunity and I was just fortunate to get the deal done when we got it done.”

Adams’ value lays in his potency against right-handed pitching. He hit 20 of his 21 home runs last season against right-handers. This is in line with his career arc that includes 83 of his 96 home runs against right-handed throwers. Adams also slugged .538 against right-handed pitchers while with the Nationals last season. 

He’s again positioned to platoon at first base and be summoned to hit late in games. Adams played much more often than anticipated last season following Zimmerman’s languishing oblique injury. 

“I think it’s just coming up with that mindset of being ready whether your name’s called or not,” Adams said. “Whether it’s on an everyday basis or, like you said, sporadic, here and there, pinch-hitting off the bench, filling in and giving Zim a blow when he needs it. But I think going into spring training in the best shape I can possibly be in, going in ready to get better, ready to work. And wherever the season takes me playing-time wise, I’m just excited to be on a winning club with a good chance to get back to the postseason.”

Bringing Adams back reduces the Nationals’ offseason list. They need a fourth starter. They are considering a full-time second baseman. Another bench option is also part of the hunt, though it’s reliant on what happens at second base (Wilmer Difo/Howie Kendrick could fill that spot if an every day second baseman is signed). Left-handed bench bat is spoken for.


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What’s Christmas like in North Pole, Alaska? Cold, says Pheonix Copley of his hometown

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What’s Christmas like in North Pole, Alaska? Cold, says Pheonix Copley of his hometown

Ever wonder what Christmas at the North Pole is like? Just ask someone who’s been there like Capitals goalie Pheonix Copley.

Copley calls the North Pole home. North Pole, Alaska that is.

North Pole is a small town outside of Fairbanks (population of 2,232). Copley wears two candy canes on the bottom of his goalie mask in tribute to his hometown.

As you would expect, Christmas is a big deal back home, not just in December but year round. Santa Claus Lane cuts through the center of town and visitors can see the Santa Claus House located on St. Nicholas Drive.

“They definitely try and make it a theme in the town,” Copley said. “Light poles and stuff are candy canes, Christmas lights year round at places, businesses.”

Christmas itself, however, is more low-key for the people there than you would expect, according to Copley. As fun as the town name may be, there is one big drawback to December in North Pole: the weather.

“It's so cold up there, it's like not much really to do outside [at Christmas],” Copley said. “They do do ice sculptures and stuff so they go a little bit with it, but it's so cold and dark that not a whole lot going on up there.”

According to The Weather Channel, the forecast for Christmas day calls for a high of -8 degrees. That is a veritable heat-wave considering it is not supposed to get above -13 degrees in the five days leading up to Christmas. You can also expect there to be less than four hours of daylight.

That may sound miserable to some, but Copley always enjoyed making the trip home for the holidays.

“Especially growing up when I first started leaving, I was going home at Christmas and it was nice to see the whole family again and get to celebrate the holidays and stuff,” he said. “For myself, Christmas has always been a fun time. Just being from North Pole, I always get a lot of jokes and stuff about it.”

Now on the other side of the country and with only a few days between games, Copley will not make the long trip back home during the team’s Christmas break. Instead, he will remain in D.C. and, as he admitted, will enjoy a warmer Christmas.

But he still wouldn’t mind a little snow.