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.

Suddenly Iowa is powerful

Posted by: Sid Hartman Updated: November 1, 2014 - 6:14 PM

The Gophers knew they had a tough schedule at the end of the season with Ohio State, Wisconsin and Nebraska coming up, but nobody in their right mind about Big Ten football, thought that an Iowa team would improve as much as they have since losing to Iowa State and Maryland and barely beating Northern Iowa, in the early part of their schedule.

As it turns out Iowa gave Northwestern one of the worst losses it had all season, beating them 48-7, and moving the Hawkeyes into a tie for first in the Big Ten West. It looks like they have put their running game and passing game together as good as most teams in the Big Ten.

I think the Gophers are very fortunate that they had a week off before they play the Hawkeyes so they can get everybody healthy and be in a position to win this game and stay in contention for the Big Ten West title.

Gopher quarterback Mitch Leidner will have to be at his best when it comes to the passing game, and it appears it will be a high scoring contest with the Gophers most likely to be favored because they have home field advantage.

It’s a much better game than was anticipated three or four weeks ago.

Stay patient with Gophers' Kill

Posted by: Sid Hartman under Gophers coaches Updated: October 27, 2014 - 12:08 PM

The Gophers football team lost at Illinois on Saturday, and it's amazing how all the people who were loving a winner fell off the bandwagon once the team suffered an unexpected loss.

Listen, Jerry Kill inherited a tough situation when he took over the Gophers football program. While a lot of people criticized former coach Tim Brewster, and he had his issues, Brewster had a hard time getting kids into school, and that was one of the reasons he didn’t win much.

It’s not easy to get the average kid into school at Minnesota, and when they cut out the General College at the university in 2005, it was a big blow of the ability of all major coaches at the university – football and basketball especially – to recruit kids who didn’t have strong academic record in high school. General College helped those students get started at the university.

The basketball programs and football programs at Minnesota are still hurting because of the absence of the General College. And Minnesota is one of the toughest schools in the Big 10 to stay eligible because of their rules concerning advancing academically from the freshman year to the senior year each semester.

Jerry Kill needs more time to recruit good players to put Minnesota in a position with Iowa and Wisconsin, similar programs.

One last thing – there is a danger of the Gophers losing a couple of coaches after this year, and that would be a big blow.

Stay patient with Jerry Kill. He will continue to improve the winning records at Minnesota. Just give him time.

Zimmer lauded by Jimmy Johnson

Posted by: Sid Hartman under Vikings coaches Updated: October 26, 2014 - 7:20 PM

On the Fox postgame NFL show following the Vikings’ 19-13 overtime victory over Tampa Bay, ex-Dallas coach Jimmy Johnson sang the praises of Vikings coach Mike Zimmer.

“Zimmer is winning without Adrian Peterson, without a lot of veteran players, and with a bunch of young players like Cordarrelle Patterson, Jerick McKinnon and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater,” Johnson said.

Johnson gave the impression that Zimmer is doing a great job in his first year as a head coach and that, in time, the Vikings will be winners.

On another subject, the Vikings’ schedule now is in their favor. They could get tight end Kyle Rudolph back this week, and a number of other players are healing – like Chad Greenway, who had nine tackles on Sunday, to mention one of many.

They should be able to beat Washington next Sunday and go into the bye week at 4-5, and be a threat to win more games at home then they have in the recent past.

Bridgewater’s real test will come Sunday against the Redskins and we’ll find out more about him. He had a good day on Sunday against the worst defense in the NFL. But we’ll see if Bridgewater is taking to the coaching of Norv Turner, and also Christian Ponder, who spends a lot of time helping Bridgewater. He will need to stay in the pocket and get rid of the ball quickly.

Vikings meet former coach this weekend

Posted by: Sid Hartman under Vikings coaches Updated: October 22, 2014 - 4:08 PM

I’m a great booster of the Wilf family, and I think it was fortunate when they bought the Vikings. Any other owner wouldn’t have gotten a stadium because they wouldn’t have put forth the money that the Wilfs have.

But one thing I disagree with them was the firing of Mr. Leslie Frazier last season. Fortunately, they got a break when they got a great coach in Mike Zimmer. But Frazier, in my mind, did a great coaching job last year. It wasn’t his fault that they lost all those close games in the final minutes, and in my opinion, he shouldn’t have been fired.

Now the Vikings go to Tampa Bay, where they have to play a team where Leslie Frazier is the defensive coordinator. If the way the Vikings players love Frazier is any indication how the Bucs love Frazier, I expect those players to play their best game against the Vikings, and it won’t be an easy game to win.

One favorable thing for the Bucs is they had some defensive linemen injured who will be back for the Vikings game. I look for Tampa Bay to give the Vikings every bit as tough a game as they got from Buffalo.

Losing Sullivan hurt Vikings

Posted by: Sid Hartman under Vikings offense Updated: October 19, 2014 - 5:52 PM

I often have told this story when writing how important the center is for a National Football League team.

The Vikings were another example today, missing injured John Sullivan (concussion) as they scored only one touchdown and lost 17-16 at Buffalo on a last-second touchdown pass by Kyle Orton.

It was a draft I attended in 1968, and Paul Brown was drafting for the expansion Cincinnati Bengals, who had the No. 2 overall pick. The Vikings took USC tackle Ron Yary No. 1. There were some great quarterbacks and running backs available, but when it came time for Mr. Brown to announce his draft choice, he said “The Bengals select Bob Johnson, center of the University of Tennessee.”  Knowing Brown as I did, I asked him, “Why are you doing that?”

He said “Bob Johnson will play a dozen years for me, and without a good center, you can’t win.”

And he was right. Johnson played 12 years, and his No. 54 is the only number retired by the Bengals.

So when Joe Berger, who hasn’t played much center in the NFL, and hardly any for the Vikings, came in at center for the injured Sullivan, the team was in trouble. Rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was sacked five times.

The Vikings just don’t score touchdowns, and until they find a way to score touchdowns without Adrian Peterson and without Kyle Rudolph and without Matt Cassel and without Brandon Fusco, and now without Sullivan, it’s going to be more difficult.

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