Hartman: Wilson impresses as an NFL QB, too

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 4, 2012 - 11:58 PM

After torching the Gophers last year for Wisconsin, Russell Wilson threw three touchdown passes against the Vikings.

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Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson (3) evaded the grasp of Vikings defensive end Jared Allen in the third quarter. Seattle beat Minnesota 30-20.

Photo: Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune

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Russell Wilson had a big game at quarterback against a Minnesota football team for the second year in a row.

Playing for Wisconsin last Nov. 12, the transfer from North Carolina State completed 16 of 17 passes for 178 yards and four touchdowns in the Badgers' 42-13 victory over the Gophers at TCF Bank Stadium.

And Sunday as a rookie starting his ninth NFL game, Wilson completed 16 of 24 passes for 173 yards, three touchdowns and a fantastic 127.3 rating as the host Seattle Seahawks dominated the Vikings to the tune of 30-20.

If it wasn't for former Vikings coach Bud Grant, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll might have taken a pass on selecting Wilson, a third-round draft pick. Some members of the Seahawks staff were of the opinion that Wilson -- listed at 5-11 -- was too short to play in the NFL.

Carroll, who was on the Vikings staff as an assistant coach from 1985 to 1989 before being named defensive coordinator for the New York Jets, consults with Grant on a regular basis. One of the subjects Carroll called Grant about was whether or not the team should select Wilson based on his height.

Well, Grant pointed out that Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton, who took the Vikings to three Super Bowls and holds most of the franchise's passing records, was only 5-11.

And Wilson, who can cause a lot of trouble running the ball, again showed he is a capable NFL passer Sunday. The Vikings had no defense for him and the Seahawks, as the home team piled up 385 yards of offense to the Vikings' 287.

One-man offense

It wasn't a good day for the Vikings offense outside of Adrian Peterson. The running back gained more than two-thirds of the Vikings' yards (182 rushing, 11 receiving). The rest of the team had 94 yards.

Peterson and Seattle's Marshawn Lynch are 1-2 in the NFL in rushing, with Peterson at 957 yards and Lynch at 881. Sunday, Peterson won the individual matchup, rushing 17 times for 182 yards and two touchdowns. Lynch was a workhorse, carrying 26 times for 124 yards and one score.

While the Vikings had no defense overall for the Seahawks passing game and the three touchdowns they scored, what killed them as much as anything was that the defense couldn't get off the field. Seattle had the ball 36 minutes to the Vikings' 24. In the fourth quarter, when the Vikings were still in the game, Seattle maintained possession for 12 minutes, 10 seconds.

It's pretty tough to make a comeback under those circumstances.

You can blame the quarterback, but Christian Ponder, who did get banged up early in this game, can't do anything if he and the offense can't get on the field.

And unfortunately for the Vikings, they also lost on a day when the Bears, Lions and Packers all won.

Opposite game for U

After looking at the film of the Gophers' 35-13 home loss to Michigan from Saturday, coach Jerry Kill concluded that what happened was the complete opposite of the previous week's victory over Purdue.

"We made all the plays a week ago. And against Michigan, they made the plays and we didn't. That's as simple as it gets," Kill said.

Kill said Wolverines quarterback Devin Gardner -- who up until Saturday had been a wide receiver this season -- is a lot like the Gophers' MarQueis Gray in that he can play both wide receiver and quarterback and that he was able to make some plays with his feet.

"[Gardner] did a good job," Kill said. "I'm sure [Michigan starting QB] Denard [Robinson] would have been a difference for them. And [Gophers receiver A.J.] Barker would have been a difference." Both Robinson and Barker were sidelined by injuries for Saturday's game.

"We moved the ball. That defense is a very good defense. I think we only punted three times," Kill said. "We moved the ball, but they were great [defending] inside the red zone. They're stiff in there."

Then, referring to the failed fake field goal the Gophers tried, Kill said: "That's why you wanted to try anything you could do to get in there. They want you to kick field goals. We knew we had to get into the end zone to win the game. We just didn't get into the end zone. Like I said, they threw it up into double coverage and caught the ball. We did that a week ago, we couldn't do it this week."

Incidentally, ESPNU was here over the weekend and will feature the Little Brown Jug for its "Road Trip" show at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Offensive line young

Addressing the young roster the Gophers have, Kill said: "I think we're probably one of the younger teams in the country, to be honest with you. Our kids are playing hard. The good teams -- Nebraska, they found a way to make a play. Notre Dame, the guy misses a field goal for Pittsburgh.

"I think it's part of youth, it's part of paying your dues. You're going to have some up and down times. But as far as the effort the kids are giving, I can't complain about that. As we get older, we're going to get better. We'll get better this week. I know the kids will come back and work."

There is no doubt where the Gophers are hurting as far as youth goes is the offensive line, where four of the more experienced starters are missing, including brothers Ed and Tommy Olson, the left tackle and guard, respectively. The Gophers' patchwork offensive line had to go against a Michigan defensive line that started two seniors, a junior and a sophomore.

The Gophers had at center redshirt freshman Jon Christenson, their third starting center this year. They also started three redshirt sophomores -- Marek Lenkiewicz at left tackle, Zac Epping at left guard and Caleb Bak at right guard. Epping also has started at right guard and center this year. Only right tackle Josh Campion, another redshirt freshman, has started every game at the same position on the offensive line. Bak and Christenson are walk-ons.

However, one positive from all this is that Christenson has played so well that he might be the starter at center for years to come.

It will be difficult for the Gophers to beat such teams as Michigan, Nebraska and Michigan State with the offensive line as inexperienced as it is.

But the Gophers should have a chance to beat Illinois, the worst team in the Big Ten, this weekend. And that would be big for the program, because the Gophers would qualify for a bowl and thus also get 15 extra days of practice for a squad that has only eight seniors playing.

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. shartman@startribune.com

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