Hartman: U's Wettstein learns kicking on the job

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 6, 2012 - 7:07 AM

The senior, who never had kicked in a football game before joining the Gophers in 2010, was clutch vs. UNLV.

Jordan Wettstein, the senior who kicked three field goals, including the game-winner in the Gophers' 30-27 three-overtime victory over UNLV on Thursday, never had kicked in high school or in any type of competitive football game until he walked on at Minnesota and sold former football coach Tim Brewster on giving him an opportunity.

"I've always wanted to [kick], it's always been a dream of mine," said Wettstein, a graduate of De Pere High School in Wisconsin. "I've always loved watching the ball go through the uprights.

"I came in when the old coaching staff was here and I said, 'I'd love to kick a football.' I came in and kicked for three different coaches the first week of school and unfortunately their roster was filled up with three kickers already. They asked me to come back in the spring, and I said, 'Absolutely.' I came and kicked in the spring, and they asked me to join the team."

Wettstein recalled his conversation with a Gophers assistant coach when he was allowed to join the team in the spring of 2010.

"I said, 'No coach, I've never kicked in a game before.' ... I'll never forget the first practice, I didn't even know how to put my helmet on. From there until now, it has been a dream come true with [current Gophers] Coach [Jerry] Kill giving me the opportunity. Hopefully I can take advantage of that. I can't thank him enough for that."

A year ago Wettstein got his chance to be the team's placekicker for the final six games of the season and did not waste the chance. He went a perfect 6-for-6 on field-goal attempts, including a 51-yarder against Illinois.

So Kill has complete confidence in Wettstein handling field goals and kickoffs this season.

Looking back to Wettstein's performance against UNLV, Kill said: "You know what the great thing about Jordan's situation is, is that he missed a field goal early in the game and then he comes back and hits all the critical kicks in overtime.

"That's the thing that we have not, since I've been here -- I can't speak to any other time [in program history] -- but we haven't been really good at fighting back or overcoming things or hanging in a game and going on to win it. If there's a positive about UNLV, it's being able to come back the way we did when things didn't go our way and win the game.

"I think that will build us confidence that we can do that later on down the road. You win it by four touchdowns and maybe we think we're pretty good, and we're not good enough yet."

Kill said Wettstein's ability to mentally bounce back is "a great lesson for all our kids. You have to go on to the next play. If you make a mistake, you can't worry about the last play, go to the next play. Hopefully our kids have learned that. Winning that way is sometimes not a bad way to do it, but we don't want to do it every week, that's for sure."

Peterson speculation

The speculation continues about whether Vikings running back Adrian Peterson will play Sunday at home against Jacksonville. Peterson continues to practice but hasn't scrimmaged. It appears Peterson will not play unless he can convince coach Leslie Frazier that he is 100 percent healthy.

I don't think Peterson will play unless his presence late in the game will mean winning or losing to the Jaguars.

After going 3-13 last year, the Vikings can't afford to start this season by losing at home to a team that finished 5-11 in 2011.

Jottings

• According to Forbes Magazine, securing a new stadium has elevated the value of the Vikings franchise to $975 million -- a 22 percent increase over the previous value of $760.5 million a year ago while playing in the Metrodome. The Vikings franchise is valued at 22nd in the league, behind all other NFC North teams except the Lions at $855 million. ... The Cowboys, who are valued at No. 1 at $2.1 billion, are listed at having $500 million in income compared with the Vikings' $227 million, along with an operating income of $226.7 million compared with the Vikings' $7.2 million.

• The Gophers are predicting ticket sales of 42,000 for Saturday's home football opener with New Hampshire. However, look for maybe 7,000 no-shows who have tickets but aren't interested in watching the Gophers play New Hampshire. So 35,000 is a good guess for Saturday. Some 3,100 student tickets had been sold as of Wednesday, plus 5,500 freshmen were given free tickets to the student section for Saturday's game.

• The Vikings, who have around 7,000 tickets to sell for the Jacksonville game, will have players giving out free tickets for the game this week at the Mall of America.

• Kill said there is a reason why senior Troy Stoudermire had a rough game against UNLV, being called for two serious penalties and dropping a punt that led to a ULV score.

"I think you have to understand, Troy has truly played five games at corner and then he never played last year," Kill said. "He played two or three ballgames and hadn't played. We had a lot of kids who truly haven't played in a college football game. Troy will rebound and get back, hopefully get that out of the system and move forward. He's competitive enough, he'll do that."

• The Gophers football team starts every practice with a prayer for Gary Tinsley, the former Gophers linebacker who died because of an enlarged heart in April.

• The Gophers men's basketball team can now practice two hours each week until the actual season opener for full practices on Oct. 12. Coach Tubby Smith has divided the two hours and is working one-third of it three days a week.

In Wednesday's drills Mo Walker, the redshirt sophomore forward who has been idle because of injuries the past two years, went full speed. However sixth-year senior forward Trevor Mbakwe, who is still rehabbing his knee after surgery in December, was limited in contact and spent most of his time during the practice lifting weights.

• It's unusual for St. John's football coach John Gagliardi to have transfers, but this year the Johnnies have five, including wide receiver Peter Vakulskas of Chaska, who transferred from Augustana, and Edward Vasquez, a defensive lineman who played at Los Angeles Harbor College.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 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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