Sid Hartman has been a major voice on the Minnesota sports scene for several decades. He writes a column four days a week, and has a weekly radio program on WCCO830 at 9:30 a.m. Sundays. He also can be heard at 7:40, 8:40 and 9:20 a.m. on weekdays.

Gophers and Badgers have history of controversy

Posted by: Sid Hartman under Gophers coaches, Gophers players Updated: November 26, 2014 - 12:12 PM

The Gophers and Badgers have played a lot of crucial football games over the years, just like this Saturday’s meeting where the winner will go to the Big Ten title game.

The teams met in 1962 when Murray Warmath had one of his best teams, and the Gophers were headed for the Rose Bowl – at least until they lost to Wisconsin 14-9 in Madison. There were two crucial 15-yard penalties on the Gophers in that game – one on Bobby Bell for roughing the passer, and the other on Warmath. The Badgers, ranked No. 3 at the time, went to the Rose Bowl ahead of the Gophers, who were ranked No. 5.

Bell was called for roughing Wisconsin quarterback Ron VanderKelen on a play late in the game, with the Gophers leading 9-7. Bell hit VanderKelen to cause a fumble, which the Gophers recovered in midair. The referees penalized Bell for some unexplainable reason, and Warmath protested the call and got another penalty, giving the Badgers the ball on the Gophers’ 13. The Badgers scored with two minutes left in the game for the victory.

Then you have probably the biggest upset by the Gophers in the series when they beat Wisconsin in Madison 17-14 in 1984, when Lou Holtz was coaching the Gophers.  The Badgers that year had three first-round draft choices in wide receiver Al Toon, defensive end Daryl Sims and cornerback Richard Johnson, and a second rounder in lineman Scott Bergold. In all, they had 11 players who would be taken in the 1985 NFL Draft – and 14 others who would drafted over the next three years.

During a practice the week before the game, Holtz called me to the middle of the field and said, “I’m going to give you a little scoop, just between us.  Minnesota is going to beat Wisconsin, and Doug Mueller, one of our defensive tackles, is going to make 12 or 13 tackles.”

Well, the Gophers went into Madison and beat that good Wisconsin team. Mueller, a freshman, made 12 tackles and was instrumental to that victory.

Major League Soccer could be coming to Minnesota

Posted by: Sid Hartman under Target Field, Twins fans, NBA playoffs, NFL draft, NHL news, Wild news Updated: November 20, 2014 - 11:39 AM

There is going to be strong competition for a soccer team in Minneapolis, and I believe the area will get a Major League Soccer franchise.

Two groups are in New York City today to try to persuade MLS that Minnesota should get a team.  Las Vegas and Sacramento are also trying to be the 24th franchise in that growing league.

The Minnesota groups have different agendas. A group representing the Vikings would have the team play at their new stadium.  A group representing Bill McGuire, who runs the Minnesota United; the Twins; and Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor is also making a pitch. Their group would likely have its team play at a smaller stadium that would be built down by Target Field.

The one negative about pro soccer coming to Minnesota is there already is a market of four professional teams where people buy season tickets for ones they prefer. The soccer boosters claim there will be a market for season tickets for their sport. The question will be if having five popular pro teams would cost one of them as far as season ticket sales goes.

If the team played in the new Vikings stadium, they would cover many of the seats to keep the attendance smaller than it would be at Vikings games. The MLS prefers to have its teams play at outdoor, soccer-only stadiums, however. So that brings up the question of whether building another pro stadium in this city would be feasible, an question McGuire's group must face.

The Vikings have been fairly open about their plans to bring in an MLS team.  The other group has been fairly secretive.  But I think both groups will have strong bids.

Yes, this is definitely a vibrant major-league sports area.  It has been amazing to watch the popularity of all these sports grow over the years. In the 1950s, when the NBA’s Minneapolis Lakers were the only team in town, who could have predicted that we’d get an NFL team and that the NFL would become as wildly popular as it has become? And who could have known that the love of hockey by people in this state would enable us to get successful NHL franchises? Or that the Twins would capture the imagination of the fans once they came here in 1961? It has really been amazing to see all this happen during my career.

How will Nebraska respond to humiliating loss?

Posted by: Sid Hartman under Gophers coaches Updated: November 17, 2014 - 11:42 AM

Analyzing the Minnesota-Nebraska game coming up this Saturday, it’s tough to figure out how the two teams will react to what happened to them in their previous games.

Nebraska suffered one of the worst defeats in their history, 59-24 at Wisconsin on Saturday, something that was not expected.  Earlier this season, Wisconsin was having quarterback problems.  But they have found a quarterback in Joel Stave, although against Nebraska only threw for 46 yards.

Melvin Gordon ran for an NCAA-record 408 yards for the Badgers who, as usual, have a great ground game.

So the question is can Minnesota, which lost a one-touchdown margin game to Ohio State, bounce back against the Cornhuskers?  And can David Cobb duplicate, to a point, the rushing totals of one Melvin Gordon against Wisconsin?

The Gophers have taken some awful beatings at Nebraska. But I think it will be hard for Nebraska to bounce back, and I think the Gophers, who performed so well against Ohio State, will play their best of the season.

Of course, it could be the opposite.  Nebraska could take it out on the Gophers, because it is tough to win at Lincoln.

This was the second time that the Badgers have handed the Cornhuskers a big, lopsided loss in a big game. They beat them 70-31 in the Big Ten title game two years ago.

Things turn bleak for Vikings

Posted by: Sid Hartman under Vikings offense Updated: November 16, 2014 - 6:11 PM

After victories over Tampa Bay and Washington, things looked brighter for the Vikings from all angles, including possibly getting Adrian Peterson back for next week’s Packers game.

But negatives have set in. Teddy Bridgewater, who seemed on the verge of a breakthrough at quarterback, struggled on Sunday at Chicago. And the Vikings blew a 10-0 lead against a team that had given up 50 points in back-to-back games, and scored only 13 points against the 32nd ranked defense in the NFL.

Now the Vikings have to face the hottest team in the league, the Green Bay Packers. The Packers did what no other team could do – ran the Philadelphia Eagles off the field -- on Sunday afternoon. The Eagles, with one of the best defenses in the league, were no match for Aaron Rodgers and his buddies.

And all of a sudden Peterson’s return doesn’t look very good, with Peterson blasting the NFL and claiming that they are not playing fair with him. It’s no sure thing that Monday’s scheduled grievance hearing will come off in Peterson’s favor and without him the Vikings are going to struggle because they don’t have a running game.

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