For a score as lopsided as it was at 42-13, a Gophers team couldn’t play much better at Michigan than it did Saturday when it trailed 14-7 at halftime and it was in the game until the fourth quarter.
The score was tied 7-7 until the final minutes of the first half, and Michigan had scored its other touchdown after a fumble by quarterback Mitch Leidner deep in Gophers territory.
The Gophers, who were playing without Jerry Kill after the coach suffered a seizure Saturday morning, were still in the game late in the third quarter, trailing 21-10 but moving the ball.
Yes, there were some positives in this game for the Gophers. Look at how the offense performed for three quarters, compared to what it did against Iowa last weekend.
Against the Hawkeyes, the Gophers ran 27 times for 30 yards and passed for 135, a total of 165 yards of offense. Against a Michigan team that is no doubt superior to Iowa, which lost at home to Michigan State on Saturday, the Gophers ran for 136 yards and passed for 145 for a total of 281 yards.
Leidner, a surprise starter, rushed 18 times for 66 yards, more than double what the entire Gophers team did at home last week. And Leidner, who doesn’t have a great reputation as a passer, completed 14 of 21 passes for 145 yards, with a touchdown to Maxx Williams and one interception.
But the Gophers had no defense for Devin Gardner, who was supposed to be struggling for Michigan. He had thrown for 801 yards in the first four games this year but had seven touchdowns to go against eight interceptions. His previous game at UConn was easily his worst as a Wolverines starter, when he completed only 11 of 23 passes for 97 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions.
But against the Gophers he was playing like he did last season. Gardner went 13-for-17 for 235 yards passing with a TD and no interceptions. His 212.0 efficiency rating was the second highest in his career as a starter.
So if you want my opinion, after last week it looked like a hopeless finish to the season. But if the Gophers, led by Leidner at QB, can play like they did for three quarters Saturday, they will win some conference games.
U’s price tag for Vikings won’t change
While the Vikings are set to play their next two seasons at TCF Bank Stadium, don’t bet against them playing more games in London.
The Vikings’ 34-27 victory over Pittsburgh last weekend in London was so successful financially and otherwise that the team might play again in London, most likely in 2015, with 85,000 seats available at Wembley Stadium.
Even if the Vikings do travel overseas for one of their eight home games, they still will have to pay the University of Minnesota $3 million for each of the two seasons scheduled. That price is firm, regardless of the number of games played at the Gophers stadium.
“If we play in a playoff game we still pay $3 million, plus the gameday expenses,” said Lester Bagley, Vikings vice president of public affairs/stadium development. Those gameday expenses are about $500,000 per game, he said.
Meanwhile, while there was the big announcement Thursday of the agreement between the Vikings and the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, most everything was locked up before last weekend’s trip to London.
Two key members of the negotiation for the Vikings — Steve Poppen, VP of finance and chief financial officer, and Kevin Warren, vice president of legal affairs and chief administrative officer, didn’t go so they could help iron out some details.
“We finally agreed the day before the meeting,” Bagley said. “The final details, I mean the big issues, we were all agreed.”
Seat licenses expected, cheaper
While there are a lot of complaints about the $125 million that the Vikings will charge for seat licenses, Bagley said: “The last four [NFL] stadiums have all used them. The other four are three to four times larger than what we have in our market.”
Fans in those cities have paid a far greater price: San Francisco generated $514 million, Dallas $550 million, the New York Giants $400 million and the Jets $325 million.
The next move for the Vikings is for Mortenson Construction to present a guaranteed maximum price to build it. That figure gives the Vikings a firm number for what the overall cost will be for construction.
Next week, Vikings ownership and Poppen are scheduled to go before the NFL Finance Committee at the league meetings in Washington to get approval for the financing.
The MSFA already is bidding for a BCS national championship game in 2017 and a Super Bowl for 2018, and representatives have been to Indianapolis to meet with the NCAA and are discussing a bid for an NCAA Final Four.
There were concerns by some that certain legal issues the Wilfs had in their other businesses would affect the stadium construction. But believe me, when somebody can buy an NFL franchise for $600 million, they have to have the financial power to do so, otherwise the NFL wouldn’t sign off on it. Well, the Wilf family has it and then some.
• Michigan’s Brady Hoke was one of the top college football coaches the Gophers looked at for their vacancy after the 2010 season before Jerry Kill was hired. Hoke, who was at San Diego State at the time, landed at Michigan about a month after the Gophers hired Kill.
• Kill and Twins manager Ron Gardenhire have become close friends, and nobody was happier to see Gardenhire stick around than Kill. Incidentally, Twins President Dave St. Peter had Kill make a motivational speech to all the Twins employees.
• The Wilf family paid the travel expenses to London for all the Vikings employees involved in the organization of the trip, plus more than 50 relatives and friends.
• One pitcher who might wind up back with the Twins is Scott Baker, who, because of delays in his comeback from 2012 elbow surgery, pitched only three games for the Cubs, posting a 3.60 ERA.
• Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman on improving the team’s defense: “We’ve talked to the whole team already that our bigs need to talk more. I think when you see the good defensive teams in the league, who maybe their big men aren’t great defenders — I look at Memphis with [Marc] Gasol and [Zach] Randolph, they talk and let their team know what’s going on because they see what’s going on in the game. Our guys don’t do it enough.”
• The Gophers men’s basketball team is scheduled to have two games on either ESPN or ESPN2: Jan. 16 vs. Ohio State and Feb. 13 at Wisconsin.
• With the Metrodome not available anymore, the Gophers baseball team will play 20 road games before playing its first game on Siebert Field vs. St. John’s on March 26. The conference opener comes two days later against Michigan State.