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Patrick Reusse has been covering sports in the Twin Cities since 1968.

Reusse: Boykin and Leidner both disappoint in their own ways

There were 54,000 people in TCF Bank Stadium on Thursday night and I would guess that many left saying, “That was a great football game.’’

And if that was accurate, then this was truly a case of you-had-to-be-there.

The Gophers’ most-ballyhooed season opener in decades was a disappointment in several areas from the distance of a TV room in Golden Valley.

Yes, the tackling and coverage of Minnesota’s secondary was often stellar. Freshman Julian Huff appeared to be the Gophers’ greatest defensive Julian since Hook. And TCU’s rebuilt defense also showed off some impressive newcomers.

Beyond that … well, I expected much more from both teams.

TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin arrived as the preseason favorite to win the Heisman Trophy. He left having missed two ridiculously open receivers for touchdowns that would have made the evening much easier than the 23-17 victory for the No. 2-rated Horned Frogs.

I don’t think it’s too early to say that rating is a mirage. Offensively, the Froggies might have set a world record for fewest yards gained after contact. You get a bump on one of these swift TCU lightweights and they crumple right there.

Coach Gary Patterson was so impressed with the physical might of his offense that, on fourth and 1 from the Gophers’ 38 with a chance to put away the game in the middle of the fourth quarter, he ordered a punt.

You have the Heisman Trophy favorite at quarterback, you need a yard to run down the clock to under 5 minutes with a 10-point lead, and you punt?

The Frogs might be fun to watch, but they need someone to run through a tackle and get a yard.

As for the Gophers, we all were suspicious Jerry Kill and the offensive coaches were blowing smoke when they talked about the big improvements that junior quarterback Mitch Leidner had made as a passer.

If you’re a season-ticket holder and had 10 bucks for every time you heard about all that Mitch gained by attending the Peyton and Eli Manning quarterback camp, you would have had enough to pay the premium charge for your seat.

Yet, when you’ve watched a guy for two years have many more poor passing games than adequate ones, there’s not really an expectation that he’s suddenly going to turn into a Manning – unless it’s Archie, at his current age of 66.

Mitch has that hitch, that hesitation, on the short and mid-range throws, and it might disappear on a fall Saturday or two, but he is what he is, and that’s unreliable as a passer.

I don’t start the game ready to moan about Mitch after the first robotic throw, as do many Gophers followers. I actually thought Thursday might be a night when Leidner would contribute to a power-running game that would help the Gophers hold the ball against TCU’s new, not-too-large defense.

He didn’t do that. He didn’t do much of anything, until a consolation touchdown in the final two minutes.

I thought Leidner actually went backwards as a passer in his first game as a redshirt junior. It was painful to watch, even from the distance of Golden Valley.

If this is what Leidner is going to offer, he won’t make it to midseason as the Gophers’ starter.

And if this is what Boykin has to offer, he won’t make it to one of the three spots on my Heisman ballot.

Reusse: Comparing Sano to Oliva, Hall (and a Gophers-TCU prediction)

I’ve been asked this several times per week for the past month: When was the last time the Twins had a hitter break in with the same impact as Miguel Sano?

I get the impression that, when asking this, the newer generations of Twins followers are hopeful that “never’’ will be the answer.

I’d say it’s close to never, depending on your definition of “break in.’’ If you mean from a hitter’s first chance to be in the lineup on a regular basis, I would say there is one greater force. If you mean a season in which a hitter had his first big-league at-bat, there is one challenger.

Sano hit his 14th home run in 50 games and 176 at-bats on Tuesday night. Roy Smalley, the best analyst that FSN has to offer, was on the set rather than in the booth. He eloquently made the point that came through watching on television:

No matter what the Twins might have had to say about it later, it was a rattled ballclub after rookie Tyler Duffey and then reliever Casey Fien gave away the 4-0 lead that had been built against Chicago’s great lefty, Chris Sale.

The Twins were down 5-4 and looking at what would have a terrible loss to start September. And then Sano tied it in the seventh with the two-out blast into the mezzanine in left field, and as Smalley said, the tension was gone and the Twins knew they were going to win the game.

“Knew’’ in this case should be interpreted as “felt very strongly,’’ as opposed to the doubts that had to creep in after seeing the lead go away against Sale.

That’s what Sano has done for this team: He has brought danger to the lineup, and he’s done damage in the clutch.

The comparatives to what Sano has brought to the Twins are ancient when it comes to the franchise history in Minnesota.

For the impact of a rookie season, I would put only Tony Oliva in 1964 in the same category. There was no free agency, no arbitration and no concern over service time back then, so we had seen glimpses of Tony O. -- a total of 19 at-bats – in the two previous Septembers.

He started off hitting second as a rookie in 1964 and did amazing things: leading the league in hits (217), runs (109), doubles (43) and batting (.323). He also had 32 home runs and 94 RBI. He received 19 of the 20 votes for American League Rookie of the Year, with one foolish vote being cast for Baltimore pitcher Wally Bunker.

OK, Tony O. didn’t hit Sano’s mammoth home runs, but his impact was enormous and he captured the locals’ imagination as quickly once we got to see him in the lineup on a regular basis.

As for seeing power from a hitter with no previous big-league at-bats, the challenger to Sano would be Jimmie Hall in 1963. He came out of two years spent mostly in military service to hit 33 home runs with 80 RBI in 497 at-bats for that collection of slugging Twins.

The 33 home runs were the most-ever in the American League for a player without a previous at-bat in the big leagues.

As with Sano, Hall was embraced quickly by Twins fans when the home runs started to fly. Still, it was tough to stand out in the crowd for the ’63 Twins, with Harmon Killebrew hitting 45 home runs, Bob Allison 35, Earl Battey 26 and Don Mincher 17 (in 225 at-bats).

As a team, the 1963 Twins hit more home runs (225) than doubles (223).

Right now, Sano has the Twins’ stage to himself much more than did Hall when it comes to bringing danger to big moment

*IN AN UNRELATED MATTER, I have to get this out there before kickoff. The Gophers are going to knock off TCU on Thursday night.

Late kickoff, the visitors sitting around all day feeling more and more pressure from that No. 2 rating, facing a Gophers secondary that can cover the receivers and a Gophers offense that is going to hold the football …

TCU is in trouble. I feel it.

Sano, Teddy Bridgewater, all our young heroes, are going to have to stand aside as this becomes a Gophers’ football state again for a few days.

No satire, no sarcasm.

Gophers 31, TCU 30 (just like Miami over Nebraska in the 1984 Orange Bowl).

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