Wilf hasn't lost hope after Vikings' start

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 19, 2008 - 8:12 AM

The team's owner isn't thrilled to be sitting 0-2, but he's seen enough glimpses of the Purple's potential to remain encouraged about the season.

Vikings owner Zygi Wilf

Vikings owner Zygi Wilf

Photo: Stormi Greener, Star Tribune

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Vikings owner Zygi Wilf was not happy to see his Vikings lose to the Packers and Colts, but he still has complete confidence in coach Brad Childress and his staff.

The 0-2 start is not what he expected after spending so much money this past season on free agents.

"They were certainly two tough losses, but the team that we put together, I think, showed what great potential we have," Wilf said. "[Against the Colts] the defense played a hell of a game and the offense is running the ball, being able to do the things we want to do.

"You can't keep on putting field goals up against a guy like Peyton Manning. He's just too good a quarterback. But we had it, and we blew it, but we have a big game [Sunday]. And I think right now we'll be able to step up. ... I just think we have to really make sure that we get plays executed. It's a team effort, and I'm very proud in the way they've played."

Wilf said he believed the tough schedule will help the team in the long run.

"I look back to last year and how the Giants came back from an 0-2 start, got things working well and went on to win the championship," Wilf said. "I know this team has the potential to do that. So I don't think anyone can fault us for not having the heart and the ability to be able to win the games. It's just going to have to come our way, and we're just going to have to change the momentum starting this week."

Not finishing games

Wilf said the Vikings have failed to put teams away when they had the chance.

"I just think that we have to make sure that on the field we take advantage of the situations when we have them, and not give teams a second life," he said. "Because when you do it against the good and the bad teams in the league, they'll get you like they have. We just have to be able to make those plays and put the teams away."

Wilf said there wasn't any excuse for losing to the Colts after taking a 15-0 lead.

"We have to just put them away," he said "We had our chances and going down and getting field goals is not putting them away. But all I can say is that the way we played defense and the way Adrian played and the line being dinged up a little bit, I think we have great potential. We're just going to have to break the schneid [Sunday] against Carolina."

He said it is not his job to single out individual performances.

"I just know that as a team we put everything out there," he said. "I'm proud of the way they play. I just think it's going to have to wait until [Sunday] and we'll see how the team responds. I know they responded, they were up for the game ... we just didn't put them away when we should have and we let a great quarterback and a Super Bowl team come back and catch us.

"It was a tough loss, no doubt about it, but I know this team, I know the character of this team. I know that [Sunday] will be a different ballgame, and I'm looking forward to showing our true potential."

He is confident the team has great personnel.

"Absolutely ... there is no question in my mind that this team has the capability, has the talent, has the character, has the team that can win the division," he said. "There [have been] two tough games [against] two tough teams.

"I think everyone knows what their responsibility is and how important it is that [Sunday] it's as important a game as we can ever have. I'm very confident they're going to step up and win it."

Wilf is a little disappointed with ticket sales so far this season. He pointed out that the team needs the fans' support now more than ever.

FAU competitive

The Gophers were defeated 42-39 by Florida Atlantic last season, and the word is veteran coach Howard Schnellenberger has a much improved team this season. This season the Owls lost 52-10 at Texas, beat Alabama-Birmingham 49-34 and lost 17-0 at Michigan State.

The Gophers will try for a 4-0 start Saturday against FAU in the Metrodome.

"We now have demonstrated in that [Michigan State] game that the game against Minnesota is within our reach," said Schnellenberger, who called his team's defense the best since FAU moved into the NCAA Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A) in 2005.

The game with Michigan State was played in the rain, with both teams punting 10 times. FAU had 143 yards passing to only 88 for the Spartans.

The teams combined for six fumbles. Michigan State rushed for 259 yards.

FAU quarterback Rusty Smith is ranked as the 11th-best college quarterback in the country by The Sporting News.

This will be the toughest test yet for the Gophers, with a number of talented athletes on the Owls.

Jottings

Look for the Vikings to dispose of the 1,400 tickets they have available for Sunday's game against Carolina, so the game definitely will not be blacked out. But the next two home games against the Detroit Lions (Oct. 12) and Houston Texans (Nov. 2) are strong candidates for blackouts. Around 7,000 tickets are left for each of those games.

It will be called Tubby's Tipoff, after Gophers men's basketball coach Tubby Smith, and the first appearance of the 2008-09 team will be at 9 p.m. Oct. 17 at Williams Arena. ... Visiting the Minnesota campus this week with Rodney Williams, the outstanding Cooper guard, will be Justin Cobbs, a versatile point guard from Torrance (Calif.) Bishop Montgomery. ... Smith is making a determined effort to get outstanding Chicago Marshall Metropolitan point guard Darius Smith to commit to Minnesota. The recruit recently visited the campus, and the Gophers coach then visited the recruit's home.

Jamal Abu-Shamala, the Gophers guard/forward who played in Jordan this summer, said he had a great experience. "Hopefully it opened up some doors for my future and [I'll] be able to play somewhere after [college]," he said. "I want to play basketball when I'm done, so I was hoping for that by going over there and playing." ... Mike Broghammer, the 6-7 Hopkins forward who has committed to Notre Dame, is a nephew of former Timberwolves player Christian Laettner. Laettner played at Duke when Notre Dame coach Mike Brey was an assistant at Duke.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on his Podcast once a week at www.startribune.com/sidcast. shartman@startribune.com

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Vikings owner Zygi Wilf