With the Vikings at 2-8 and six tough games remaining, coach Leslie Frazier was asked if his team will win another game or if more losses are coming.
Frazier is not only confident the Vikings will win several games, but he believes that with no runaway leader in the NFC North, a playoff berth still is possible if the team can finish 8-8. Detroit and Chicago currently are tied for the division lead at 6-4.
“We get this win against Green Bay and you see where our division is, it can keep hope alive with a win on Sunday,” he said. “It’s a big game for us. We get some momentum with this win, who knows what’s going to happen with the way the NFC is set up this year?”
Frazier said a big emphasis for the team going into the Green Bay game is to limit mistakes if they want to have a chance to win.
“When you travel on the road against a good football team like we’re going to play on Sunday,” he said, “you can’t turn the ball over and you have to take the ball away to have a chance to win. So we have to find a way to secure the football and then take it away.”
Frazier was asked if he’s gotten any closer to understanding why this team is struggling so much after having a playoff team last season.
“It’s not the exact same team,” he said. “There are some new people on our team. But there are so many factors. I mean there are other teams that are going through it that were playoff teams a year ago.
“You need your best players to play well every single week in order to be successful, and we haven’t played, as a group across the board, well every week — on offense, on defense, on special teams — we haven’t been able to put a consistent four quarters together. That has cost us.”
Still Frazier said he believes he has the right coaching staff to continue leading the team not only for the rest of this season, but for next year as well.
“I think we have a good staff,” he said. “It’s the same staff that coached the team to the playoffs a year ago. We’ve fallen short up to this point this season, but as you mentioned, there’s still some other games to play so we have to find a way to get a win on Sunday and get some momentum.”
Frazier said he is hoping quarterback Christian Ponder, who will start Sunday, performs well enough that the media can stop criticizing his performance.
“We’ll see how things go in this ballgame,” Frazier said. “Hoping that he does well so that we don’t have to keep talking about the quarterback position, but we’ll evaluate it on Sunday.”
What needs to change for the Vikings to win next season?
“I haven’t thought a whole lot about next year,” Frazier said. “I’m really focusing more on this Green Bay game and how can we get a win at Lambeau Field? That’s where my focus has to be.”
One thing the Vikings have going for them Sunday is that Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is out because of a broken collarbone.
“He’s a great player,” Frazier said. “Anytime a great player is not on the field, it makes a big difference.”
Battling run games
The Gophers football team has turned its season around with a greatly improved running game. They are averaging 218.5 yards per game, good for fourth in the Big Ten.
They will have to be even better Saturday if they want to beat Wisconsin at TCF Bank Stadium. The Badgers have been even more impressive, averaging 307.9 yards per game (second in the Big Ten to Ohio State’s 315.1 ypg). They are 231 yards from breaking the Badgers’ single-season team rushing record with two regular-season games remaining. They rushed for 554 yards last week against Indiana.
The Wisconsin State Journal pointed out this week that the Badgers’ rushing average of 7.01 yards per carry is the second-highest mark in the Football Bowl Subdivision since 1996.
Gophers coach Jerry Kill said in his Big Ten news conference this week that he has shaped much of his offensive philosophy on the Badgers.
“This thing all started with coach [Barry] Alvarez,” Kill said. “Watched them all the way, when [former Heisman Trophy-winning running back] Ron Dayne played. There’s no question we’ve always tried to play a physical brand of football, wherever we’ve been, even at Northern Illinois [when] we played Wisconsin.”
He later added: “There’s no question, even our administration, you look at Wisconsin and what it has done, you have to respect it.”
No doubt the Gophers will have to play the best game ever played at TCF Bank Stadium on Saturday if they want to beat the Badgers.
TwinsFest has had a great history in the Metrodome, but the Twins will not be able to hold it there this winter because the dome will be being demolished to make way for the new Vikings stadium.
“We’ve moved the event to Target Field and we’ll certainly take advantage of some of the things Target Field has, but it ultimately will change the scope of the event,” Twins President Dave St. Peter said. “It will become a smaller, more intimate event, and because of that ticket sales will be a little bit different. You’ll buy a specific ticket for a specific day versus a ticket that could be used all three days; you’ll either have a Friday, Saturday or Sunday ticket.
“Those tickets will be somewhat limited per day, so I think buying tickets early is going to be important. We have moved up our announcements in terms of player availability. That will all come out over the next couple of weeks.”
Tickets for TwinsFest, which is scheduled for Jan. 24-26, will go on sale Dec. 11.
• One of the reasons Wisconsin’s defense is so improved is the play of senior nose guard Beau Allen. Allen, a Minnetonka native, was a preseason first-team All-Big Ten selection.
• Look for an announcement in the near future that the Timberwolves will take over a big part of the vacant space in the Block E facility as a basketball practice facility and likely Wolves and Lynx office space.
• Gophers men’s hockey coach Don Lucia was asked how it felt to go against his son, Mario, in the recent Notre Dame series in South Bend, Ind. “You know, I think it was a little bit hard on everybody, maybe more so for my wife than she anticipated going in for the weekend,” he said in a Sunday interview. “But I guess it worked out well. We ended up splitting [the Gophers lost 4-1 on Nov. 8 and won 5-4 the following night] and both sides could be happy.”
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. firstname.lastname@example.org