Redskins

Oregon up 15-7 over K-State at Fiesta Bowl

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Oregon up 15-7 over K-State at Fiesta Bowl

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) DeAnthony Thomas returned the opening kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown and scored on a 23-yard pass, helping No. 5 Oregon take an early 15-7 lead over No. 7 Kansas State at the Fiesta Bowl on Thursday night.

Heisman Trophy finalist Collin Klein scrambled for a TD run shortly into the second quarter to keep Kansas State close.

Teams that had that national title aspirations end on the same day, Oregon and Kansas State ended up in the desert for a marquee matchup billed as a battle of styles: The fast-flying Ducks vs. the execution-is-everything Wildcats.

Thomas offered the first flash of speed, crossing into the end zone like a sprinter taking the finish-line tape after picking up a couple of blocks and racing past Oregon's bench for a touchdown on the opening kickoff. The Ducks, are they are apt to do, went for 2 on the point-after and converted on a trick play to go up 8-0 in the game's first 12 seconds.

It was the second straight day a BCS bowl began with a quick strike. On the first play in the Sugar Bowl on Wednesday night, Louisville returned an interception for a touchdown against Florida.

Thomas hit the Wildcats again late in the first quarter, breaking a couple of tackles and dragging three Wildcats into the end zone for a catch-and-run TV that put the Ducks up 15-0.

It's nothing new for Oregon's sophomore sensation: He had touchdown runs of 91 and 64 yards in the 2012 Rose Bowl.

Kansas State had a hard time matching Oregon's quick-strike capabilities early.

The Wildcats turned the ball over on downs at the Oregon 39 on their first drive and had to punt after Klein was sacked by Oregon linebacker Michael Clay on the second.

Last year's Fiesta Bowl was an offensive fiesta, with Oklahoma State outlasting Stanford 41-38 in overtime.

The 2013 version was an upgrade: Nos. 4 and 5 in the BCS, two of the nation's best offenses, dynamic players and superbly successful coaches on both sides.

Oregon has become the standard for go-go-go football under Chip Kelly, its fleet of Ducks making those shiny helmets - green like Christmas tree bulbs for the Fiesta Bowl - and flashy uniforms blur across the grassy landscape.

Their backfield of Thomas, Kenjon Barner and Marcus Mariota made up a three-headed monster of momentum, each one capable of turning a single play into a scoring drive of 60 seconds or less.

Mariota has been the show-running leader, a question mark before the season who ably ran Oregon's octanated offense as the first freshman quarterback to start for the Ducks since Danny O'Neil in 1991.

Oregon won the Rose Bowl for the first time in 95 years last season and was in position for a spot in the BCS title game this year before losing a heartbreaker to Stanford on Nov. 17.

Whether Kelly leaves for the NFL or not, he had a good run, leading the Ducks to four straight trips to BCS bowls.

Kansas State had gone through its second revival under Bill Snyder, the studious coach who never lost touch with the game or players young enough to be his grandchildren during a three-year retirement.

The 73-year-old followed up the Manhattan Miracle by returning to lead the Wildcats back to national prominence with his attention-to-detail ways.

Klein has led K-State's meticulous march this season, a fifth-year senior who plays in the mold of the college version of Tim Tebow: Gritty, humble, finds a way to win, whatever it takes.

Like the Ducks, the Wildcats had their national-title hopes stamped out on Nov. 17, blown out by Baylor with a rare letdown on both sides of the ball.

Both ended up with a nice consolation prize, playing each other in one of the most anticipated games of the bowl season.

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Kyle Shanahan admits he knew Kirk Cousins was leaving Washington after the 2017 season

Kyle Shanahan admits he knew Kirk Cousins was leaving Washington after the 2017 season

Kyle Shanahan has never hidden the admiration he has for Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. 

The two worked together for two seasons with the Redskins in 2012 and 2013, when Shanahan was the offensive coordinator and Cousins was the backup to Robert Griffin III.

In his third year as the San Francisco 49ers head coach, Shanahan's squad is facing the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl, led by third-year quarterback and reigning MVP Patrick Mahomes. Shanahan had the opportunity to draft Mahomes in 2017, his first draft as the helm in San Francisco.

So, why did Shanahan pass on Mahomes? Enter Cousins.

"It's pretty well documented the relationship I had with Kirk," Shanahan said. "Just being in Washington and everything, I felt confident he wasn't going to stay there."

It was expected that Shanahan's 49ers would be making a run at signing Cousins the following offseason before they traded for Jimmy Garoppolo at the 2017 trade deadline. Garoppolo won all five of his starts in 2017, and the 49ers signed him to a five-year extension the following offseason.

Cousins, who spent his final two years in Washington playing under the franchise tag, departed from the nation's capital to Minnesota, where he signed a three-year, $84 million fully-guaranteed deal with the Vikings.

"Any time you go into a season and know a franchise quarterback is going to be available the next year, it made me a lot more picky with what we were looking at," Shanahan said.

The 49ers decided to trade back with the Chicago Bears (who traded up to No. 2 to select UNC quarterback Mitch Trubisky), and San Francisco ended up selecting defensive lineman Solomon Thomas. San Francisco took Iowa signal-caller C.J. Beathard in the third round, and he competed with veteran Brian Hoyer for the 49ers starting job in 2017. 

Shanahan expanded on his decision to pass on Mahomes, emphasizing the difficulty in scouting college quarterbacks in certain systems. Mahomes' system under Kliff Kingsbury at Texas Tech was named the "Air Raid' due to the high-volume of passes. 

"There were a bunch of talented guys in that draft," Shanahan said. "But it's very tough when you watch college systems and stuff, you don't really know until you get somebody in the building.

"You can see ability. You can see talent," he continued. "But how's the mind? How's the play in the pocket? How do they process? That's not just an IQ score. That's stuff that I don't think you can totally test."

The 2017 draft wasn't just Shanahan's first with the 49ers, it was his first draft as a head coach, ever. Thomas was a highly-rated prospect and was a relatively safe pick.

Looking back, it makes sense that the rookie head coach did not want to take a risk on a rookie quarterback, especially if he felt the team had a good chance at landing Cousins, someone he was familiar with.

But San Francisco ended up sticking with Garoppolo, and now the 49ers are 60 minutes away from their sixth Super Bowl title.

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Ryan Zimmerman on electronic sign stealing: ‘It’s the greatest sin that you can do’

Ryan Zimmerman on electronic sign stealing: ‘It’s the greatest sin that you can do’

When the Nationals faced the Astros in the 2019 World Series, the public didn’t yet know Houston’s electronic sign-stealing scheme helped propel the club to its first championship just two years prior.

But less than two weeks after Washington beat the AL West champs in seven games and claimed a World Series title of their own, The Athletic reported that Houston had in fact been using a live camera feed to steal opposing catchers’ signs and report them back to their hitters in real time by banging on a trash can behind the dugout.

Although Houston was only found to have used the scheme in 2017 and not against Washington this past October, the Nationals changed up their signs frequently and used plastic cards to create intricate sets of signals that could be alternated from inning to inning or batter to batter.

Recently re-signed first baseman Ryan Zimmerman spoke with reporters on a conference call Tuesday just a few hours after the team made his new one-year deal official. When asked about his thoughts on the Astros scandal—one that has also stretched to Boston, where the Red Sox are being investigated for an alleged scheme they carried out in 2018—Zimmerman took a definitive stance against people within the game who use technology to steal signs.

“I think first and foremost, the integrity of our game and any professional game is the thing that matters the most,” Zimmerman said. “Rules are put in place to guard the integrity of the game for people to enjoy it and for just the fairness of play. I think any time that is compromised, people should pay the ultimate price.”

Commissioner Rob Manfred dealt significant penalties to the Astros, fining them for the maximum $5 million, stripping them of their first- and second-round picks for the next two years and suspending manager A.J. Hinch and GM Jeff Luhnow for one year. Astros owner Jim Crane held a press conference later that day and announced the team would be firing both Hinch and Luhnow outright to give the organization a clean slate to move forward.

However, critics of the ruling have pointed out that none of the players involved were held responsible for their actions. Only Carlos Beltran, who had been hired by the Mets to be their next manager but was let go after the findings were released, was mentioned in the commissioner’s report at all.

“Sign stealing and things like that have been a part of baseball for a long time,” Zimmerman said. “Technology, obviously, makes it easier and there’s always a line about how much you can use it, how much you can’t. I think the players and the field staff and the video people have to use their moral judgement and their respect of the game to know how much is too much.

“If there’s a camera in center field in real time giving people what pitch is coming, that’s obviously crossing the line. I don’t think you would find anyone who would disagree there.”

The Nationals and Astros share a Spring Training facility in Florida. Although the players themselves occupy opposite sides of the complex and won’t see each other too much, national reporters on the Grapefruit League tour will have plenty to write about when they pass through West Palm Beach.

“I don’t think there’s any place for it in the game,” Zimmerman said. “I think mostly that the players would respect the game enough to not partake in that stuff and then moving up from there the managers, the field staff, front office people, would obviously stop it if they saw it.

“There’s reports that it wasn’t handled like that in Houston. I don’t know enough about it to really comment on it but all I can say is obviously I think it’s completely wrong when you start messing with the integrity of the game in any aspect. It’s the greatest sin that you can do.”

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