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Rematch of emotional game as Cowboys face Cyclones

Rematch of emotional game as Cowboys face Cyclones

STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) The memories of Oklahoma State's trip to Iowa State a season ago are etched in Richetti Jones' memory in an aura of sadness and spookiness.

It's not just the fact that the Cowboys' dream season and national championship bid got derailed with a loss, but the circumstances that surrounded that Friday night game. That morning, the team learned of the crash that killed women's basketball coach Kurt Budke, assistant Miranda Serna and two others on a recruiting trip to Arkansas.

The game still went on.

``That was the weirdest day ever,'' said Jones, a senior defensive end for the Cowboys last season. ``It was like it wasn't real life.''

What was terribly real seemed to Jones like it was right out of a tragic movie. Carrying a 10-0 record and needing two more wins to reach the national championship game, the Cowboys lost 37-31 in double overtime to a Cyclones team that had never beaten a team ranked in the top six in 58 previous chances.

``Not so much physical as emotional, it hurt,'' linebacker Alex Elkins said. ``I don't like to lose and after everything we'd been through that season, for us to come that close and lose, it hurts.''

The rematch of that game comes Saturday in Stillwater, and the memories are still fresh from a day of jubilation for Iowa State's football program and a diametrically opposite feeling for Oklahoma State.

Coach Mike Gundy remembers telling his team about the plane crash tragedy during a meeting in a banquet room and how quiet they remained while at the team hotel, during meetings, on a bus ride to the stadium and in the locker room before the game.

After watching TV news reports about the plane crash throughout the day, the Cowboys boarded three buses for what Jones remembers as about a 30-minute drive through pitch black fields to get to the stadium.

``It's eerie, it's creepy and all you can think about is death ... because of what happened - these people are actually gone. And then you stop at a stop sign and make a left and there's only one bus behind you,'' Jones said. ``We get to the stadium and we're warming up with only half the team.''

One of the team buses had broken down on the way to the game, adding another layer of complication for players who were already emotionally rattled. Jones won't argue that turnover problems did in Oklahoma State on that night, but there was something else to it, too.

``You can say that it didn't affect us, but it did. It did,'' Jones said. ``You can say whatever you want, but these people died. They're dead. They're not coming back.''

Considering all of the circumstances, there's absolutely no comparison between last year's game and the one on Saturday. This time, it's a somewhat routine midseason game with Oklahoma State (3-2, 1-1 Big 12) and Iowa State (4-2, 1-2) slugging it out for position in the middle of the conference standings.

Both Gundy and counterpart Paul Rhoads downplayed the revenge factor.

``Coach Gundy is a very smart coach and he doesn't need extra motivation for his team,'' Rhoads said. ``He knows the importance of this game because it's the next game, and I'm sure that's how he's preparing them, just like that's how we're preparing our football club.''

Gundy continued to withhold whether his starting quarterback would be freshman Wes Lunt, who won the job in the spring, or J.W. Walsh, who replaced him after an injury last month. Walsh got the call last week at Kansas even though Lunt was able to play, and the Cowboys had their NCAA record-tying run of 22 straight games scoring at least 30 points snapped in a 20-14 win.

Oklahoma State had only 24 points in regulation at Iowa State last season.

``We'll have our hands full to do anything close to that, like we did last year,'' Rhoads said.

The Cyclones cracked the top 25 in the first BCS standings of the season after losing 27-21 to then-No. 6 Kansas State last weekend in their bid to upset a second straight ranked opponent.

``They just don't make any mistakes,'' Gundy said. ``They play good football and they don't turn it over. They're sound. From this season and even back into last season, you can see that they've competed against good offenses and played much better than what people would have expected them to.

``We're to the point now that everybody realizes that it doesn't happen by accident that Iowa State is a good football team and worthy of the consideration that they're getting.''

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MLB All-Star FanFest: Searching for a jersey from every team

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USA Today Sports

MLB All-Star FanFest: Searching for a jersey from every team

A sea of red and white Nationals jerseys flooded toward the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. But there wasn’t a Bryce Harper signing. And there wasn’t even a game. The Nationals are in New York to play the Mets. 

Then, as I turned and walked down the street I began to see random jerseys: Phillies, Yankees, Astros and Mets, among others.

It all clicked.

Ah, yes, the MLB All-Star weekend and its annual FanFest

As I walked inside the building and looked around, there was everything from memorabilia to interactive games like a speed gun, home run derby and more. 

MLB fans filled the building and the once-sea of red and white thinned out into a blob of colors. Fans from all different teams came out for the weekend’s festivities.

This left me curious: Could I find a jersey for every MLB team?

It was easy to find the big name teams. Going down the escalator, I was hit with a couple Jacob deGrom jerseys and a Carlos Correa one, as well. 

Mets, check. Astros, check.

A right turn and there was an Aaron Nola jersey, the All-Star phenom who surprised this year for the first-place Phillies. Check.

The Yankees and Red Sox weren’t far behind. 

As the day went on, my notepad of teams kept getting crossed off. The National League Central was the first division to go, and the American League Central followed suit. Surprisngly, it took me a couple hours — of course, I wasn't searching the whole time — to find the Marlins. Every other NL East team was easy.

Three hours later, I had found all but five teams: Colorado Rockies, Arizona Diamondbacks, Oakland Athletics, Tampa Bay Rays and Los Angeles Angels. 

I decided to take another lap before I left. And standing, right by the stolen base activity, stood a man in a Randy Johnson throwback Diamondbacks jersey. 

We both look at the kids running down the line toward the base before a purple jersey caught my eye. It was another kid, waiting in line, wearing a Nolan Arenado jersey.

That left me with just three more teams. As I headed toward the exit, I was shocked I had not seen a Mike Trout jersey. One of the greatest players in modern baseball and not one Angels fan.

Then a co-worker pointed toward the MLB shop area. Finally, a Trout jersey. And then I turned around to grab my backpack and notebook. Another Trout jersey. Weird. I crossed off the name and looked up. Another Angels jersey. OK, enough. 

With just two more jerseys left and me being the stubborn person I am, I walked around the FanFest for another 20 minutes, looking for that green A’s jersey, or dark blue Rays one. 

Then, I finally found Stomper, the Athletics mascot taking photos with kids. On him was an A’s jersey — ironic, right? 

After about 10 more minutes I gave up. There were no Rays jerseys. The best I could do was a Tampa Bay tank top a woman was wearing while her kids played. But, that doesn’t count. We’re looking for jerseys.

Oh, and here are other sports apparel that I saw before that non-existent Rays jersey.

  • Atlanta Falcons Matt Ryan t-shirt
  • San Francisco 49ers Jimmy Garoppolo jersey 
  • A Texas Longhorns athletic shirt
  • France soccer jersey
  • Philadelphia 76ers shirt
  • Montreal Expos Vlad Guerrero jersey
  • Oakland Raiders Bo Jackson jersey
  • Golden State Warriors Steph Curry jersey
  • DC United Wayne Rooney jersey

And so, the search for a Rays jersey continues. 

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Austin Rivers believes he can help the Wizards on defense as much as anything

Austin Rivers believes he can help the Wizards on defense as much as anything

When asked at his introductory press conference for how he will fit on the Wizards' roster from a basketball perspective, guard Austin Rivers didn't first cite his three-point shooting, his ability to affect games scoring off the bench or his speed to run the floor with John Wall and Bradley Beal. The first thing he point to was his defense.

That may have surprised some people out there as Rivers has long been known for his scoring ability and not so much his skills on the other end. It's not that he can't play defense, it's just that most of the highlights he's produced over the years have been due to his high-flying finishes at the rim and wicked pull-up jumper from three-point range.

Defense, though, is something Rivers takes pride in and he hopes to continue developing as a defender in Washington.

"With how much Brad and John have to do every night, for them to not have to always guard the best guard on the other team, that's something I can come in here and do. Try to bring that competitive spirit and be one of the defenders on the team," Rivers said.

Rivers' defensive ability has produced some controversy among Wizards fans and media members on social media. Some insist he does not bring value on that end of the floor, while some numbers suggest he does have some defensive potential.

Last season, Rivers averaged a career-high 1.2 steals per game. He was tied for fifth on the Clippers in defensive win shares.

However, his 113 defensive rating was his worst since 2013-14. It was an outlier on the Clippers and not in the good way. He also ranked nowhere near the top of the league in deflections or contested three-point shots, two hustle stats that guys like Wall and Beal fair well in.

Rivers points to two attributes that he believes make him a strong perimeter defender. One is his versatility and the other you could call scrappiness.

"On defense [the Wizards] can switch one through three or one through four. I think that gives us a lot of dangerous options," he said.

As for his scrappiness, Rivers says it comes from the early days of his career.

"I had to figure out ways to be effective without [a jumpshot] and that's how I became a defender. I guess everything happens for a reason, right? I'm happy I did have those early career struggles because it made me find a side of me that I didn't do [early on]. Because I promise you I didn't play any defense at Duke," he said.

The last line drew laughter from those gathered at his introductory press conference. Rivers insists that he now takes that end of the floor very seriously. The Wizards certainly hope he can back up his words.

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