Jim Souhan analyzes the local sports scene and advises you to never take his betting advice. He likes old guitars and old music, never eats press box hot dogs, and can be heard on 1500ESPN at 2:05 p.m. weekdays, and Sundays from 10 a.m.-noon.
Find him on Twitter
If I had been guaranteed that the Gophers were going to beat UNLV by 28 points on Thursday night, I would have guessed that Donnell Kirkwood and the other backs would have run wild.
It was quite the opposite. The Gophers beat UNLV, 51-23, in the season opener because of big plays. They scored thusly: Three touchdowns on quarterback runs, one kickoff return, one return of a blocked field goal, one touchdown pass, an interception return and a field goal.
What they lacked in line-of-scrimmage domination, they made up for with versatility.
No Gopher rusher other than quarterback Philip Nelson amnaged more than David Cobb's 69 yards, and Kirkwood rushed for just 30 before leaving with an ankle injury.
No Gopher receiver managed more than K.J. Maye's three catches and 30 yards.
The Gophers won because of big and often wild plays. Nelson rushed for 83 yards and two scores and threw for 99 yards and another, but this game wasn't won in the trenches.
UNLV seemed to baffle the Gophers early with the shortest passing game I think I've ever seen. UNLV could have been a dangerous opponent if any of their receivers were capable of getting downfield separation or breaking tackles.
Here's what stood out to me:
-Marcus Jones is a dyanamic player and a great interview. Please read my piece on him in the Friday Star Tribune.
-Freshman tight end Maxx Williams looks like a player. He has size, good hands and a lot of aggression. He made a beautiful catch of Nelson's touchdown pass near the sideline of the end zone, and when he took a short kickoff late in the game he ran over two defenders.
-The heat affected the Gophers. Jones and other players mentioned having cramps. The Gophers' return touchdowns forced the defense to stay on the field, and fatigue became a factor.
-Cole Banham, who got two carries late in the game, is the brother of Gophers basketball star Rachel Banham.
-Nelson produced three touchdowns. He also threw one interception and almost had another picked off and returned for a touchdown. It will be interesting to see how he handles stouter defenses and better pass rushes. He may need Williams to develop quickly to give him a Kyle Rudolph-like outlet.
-Jerry Kill seemed happy with the performance, and spoke highly about a lot of his young players.
-Here's my Nitpick of the Night:
Late in the first half, the Gophers had a first down at the UNLV 10 as the clock ticked under 40 seconds. The Gophers had one timeout remaining. They lined up, as UNLV's defense looked out of whack, and...spiked the ball?
This is one of my many pet peeves about football coaching and thinking. If you have time to line up, and you have the defense at a disadvantage, and there is plenty of time on the clock, downs are more valuable than a few seconds. Call a play and run it.
It didn't hurt the Gophers. They scored on a third-down pass from Nelson to Williams. But if Williams had come down out of bounds, it would have cost them at least four points.
-I'll be on 1500ESPN at noon tomorrow with Judd&Dubay. Sunday, on that station, we'll have the Gardenhire Show at 9:30, then we'll run Sunday Sports Talk from 10-noon with me and Scott Korzenowski, with special guest Tom Linnemann for our NFL picks. I think Korzo The Lawyer and me are going to end up agreeing on the winner of the NFL's settlement with former players.
Yes, I stole that line from John Gordon. Saw Gordo in Fort Myers, and he's doing well.
To the new stuff:
-Good luck, Pedro Florimon. With Florimon started at shortstop today, the Twins haven't had the same starting shortstop in consecutive years on Opening day since Cristian Guzman had the job in 2003-2004.
The starters: 2005 Jason Bartlett; 2006 Juan Castro; 2007 Bartlett; 2008 Adam Everett; 2009 Nick Punto; 2010 J.J. Hardy; 2011 Alexi Casilla; 2012 Jamey Carroll; 2013 Florimon.
And somewhere in there someone named Nishioka played a few games, too.
-Justin Verlander has never won on Opening Day, although he had a lead that was blown last year. The Tiwns' hope today is that he's overly emotional after signing his new contract and a combination of emotions and cold keeps him from being himself.
Verlander is 0-1 with four no-decisions in five Opening Day starts. He's pitched more than six innings only once, when he went eight innings last year.
-Tigers manager Jim Leyland pregame on expectations: ``I've managed some teams people didn't expect to do very well at all, and we didn't let 'em down.''
-Spoke with Torii Hunter, who raved about the Tigers' ``first-class'' operation. He noted he's been as healthy the last two years as he's ever been, and said he undergoes ART therapy on his muscles, and that has kept him feeling loose and healthy. He's cut out heavy weight training.
``I haven't had an ache or pain the last two years,'' he said. ``Except when I ran into that wall.''
It's Active Release Therapy, and Hunter described it as chiropractic for muscles.
-Joe Mauer batting second is a good idea. It's also been a good idea for a long time. Mauer might be the big-league player most-suited to batting second. Having anything but a good on-base-percentage hitter in the 2 hole is a terrible idea.
-As listeners to Sunday Sports Talk and my noon hits with Judd&Dubay on 1500ESPN know, I'm glad Flip Saunders didn't take the Gophers' job, and I don't mind waiting another week or two for Norwood Teague to land a coach. What matters is the result, not the process.
Teague was hired because of his exhaustive knowledge of college basketball. To settle for a 58-year-old guy who is not a college basketball coach would strike me as giving in to public sentiment, which is usually a bad idea.
-Jim Leyland smokes in his office. That's got to be a violation of some kind. Then again, in baseball, you're grown men are allowed to spit in the faces of umpires.
-Leyland, looking typically grizzled, said that nobody who works in baseball - including writers and broadcasters - should look good the last day of the season. ``If you're not tired at the end,'' he said, ``you probably didn't do your job very well.''
-Yes, expectations are low for the Twins this season. My sure-to-be-wrong prediction is 73 victories. But at least the Twins have a better lineup than the Yankees for the first time I can remember.
-I'll be running Sunday Sports Talk this week by myself, with Tom Pelissero on vacation, so I'll take calls and do a little different show than usual. That's 10-noon Sunday, preceeded by the Ron Gardenhire Show at 9:30 on 1500ESPN.
I'll be doing noon appearances with Judd and Dubay on 1500ESPN all week, as well. Thanks for listening.
Doug Mientkiewicz wanted to add one thing to our conversation that was the basis of today's column: ``My biggest regret in baseball is that we didn't win a World Series when I was with the Twins. We thought we would.''
On to today's Local Power Ranking of the seven local revenue sports, which have shifted since the last time I did them:
1. Gopher men's hockey
This team is skilled enough to win the national title. Is it tough enough?
2. Minnesota Wild
I'm quite impressed with the way Mike Yeo has melded incoming stars, holdover veterans and promising youngsters. He's gone from hot seat to coach of the year candidate in my book. Ryan Suter has played brilliantly ever since his first two, quite nervous, weeks in a Wild uni.
3. Minnesota Vikings
Didn't like seeing a team in a passing league lose its only dynamic receiver and best cornerback, but Rick Spielman has a chance to make his plan work. If he can complement Greg Jennings with another quality receiver or two (I vote for Cal's Keenan Allen and one more free-agent pickup), the offense could be better, and if he can use the draft to land a couple of defensive starters, the defense could be more talented.
His plan will only be as good as his execution.
4. Gopher basketball
I'm rooting for Minnesota facing VCU in the first round. Tubby vs. Shaka Smart. Tubby vs. the man who should replace him. Bring it on, please.
5. Minnesota Twins
I'm encouraged by a handful of individuals in spring camp, but not by the pitching staff, and the pitching staff will determine this team's fate.
6. Minnesota Timberwolves
I love the way Ricky Rubio has played, knowing the season is lost and his teammates aren't good enough.
7. Gopher football
Jerry Kill is 4-12 in the Big Ten. Facts are so annoying.
Today's local power rankings look far different than my last attempt to rank local revenue-generating sports teams:
1. Minnesota Vikings
Great week for the local NFL franchise, and its legacy. Adrian Peterson wins the MVP Award, then admits he played at the end of the season despite a sports hernia.
When I was talking to him Saturday night, I asked when he'd work out again. He said ``In four weeks.'' When I asked whether that was doctor's orders, he said, ``You got that right.'' Of course, I thought we were talking about his knee. Wish I had asked whether it was his ``abdomen,'' as the Vikings listed the injury.
Cris Carter made the Hall. Matt Birk won a ring.
2. Gopher hockey
Fun team to watch. Why No. 2? Because the Gophers need to win the WCHA to fulfill their potential, and until they move into first in the conference, they don't move into first here.
3. The Wild
Disappointing start, but the team's at .500 while sorting out a lot of new combinations in a season without a true training camp.
4. MInnesota Twins
Fans are going to get sick of me saying `Wait until next year,'' but...wait until next year.
5. Gopher basketball
They're at .500 in the Big Ten, which would be fine for a team lacking such high expectations. But it's to the point now where this team isn't even fun to watch. They can't get a clean look in the half-court offense, and they refuse to run, so they're stuck with their lousy half-court offense.
Next time they play a quality opponent that slows down the pace, count how many baskets they score that aren't a result of a covered three-point shot or an offensive rebound. You won't need both hands.
It's sad, seeing what has become of such a promising roster. Wait til next year. Again.
7. Gopher football
I think the idea that the Gophers can't win because there isn't enough talent in the state is bogus. If the Gophers consistently landed a good percentage of the best players in Minnesota, the Dakotas and Western Wisconsin, and occasionally landed an out-of-area gem like Maroney, they'd have more than enough talent to compete.
-Sunday Sports Talk will run from 10 to 12:30 this week on 1500ESPN.
My Twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.
Time for the latest edition of the Local Power Rankings, my highly irrelevant look at the key revenue Twin Cities sports teams. Things are looking up:
1. Minnesota Vikings
Overachieving at 8-6, they have a chance to make the playoffs at least one year ahead of a realistic rebuilding schedule.
2. Gopher basketball
This is not only a good team, it's a team that quite obviously likes to play together. Andre and Austin Hollins play together like twins, even though they're not.
3. Minnesota Timberwolves
What's one common thread between the two local basketball teams? Both rid themselves of a big man who contributed next to nothing. The Wolves got rid of Darko, to their benefit, and the Gophers got rid of Ralph Sampson, to the same effect.
The Wolves are struggling to score at the rim and from the three-point line. While that's troubling, it's also somewhat due to Kevin Love's struggles to regain his shooting touch. That will come in time.
4. Gopher hockey
The boys are talented but slightly underachieving. They can be better than this.
5. Minnesota Twins
I know, I know, you want them to spend more money. But that's not the issue. Over-spending on a pitcher just to prove you're willing to spend money will not fix what's wrong with this team. Terry Ryan's plan is obvious and logical: Try to get through the 2013 season with a rotation that gives the team a chance to compete, and then be set up to win in the following years as the best players in the farm system reach the majors.
That plsn isn't guaranteed to work, but neither would have over-paying Anibal Sanchez have guaranteed success.
6. Gopher football
Jerry Kill might have caught quite the break, with Wisconsin changing coaches. Then again, Barry Alvarez seems to know what he's doing.
7. MInnesota Wild
It's a terrible negotiation when someone who is terrible at his job (Gary Bettman) sits down across from someone who is very good at his job but cares more about his legacy than the sport (Donald Fehr.) I feel for all the businesses and working-class people who are taking a financial hit because these fools can't cut a deal.
I'll be at Winter Park today for Vikings interviews, then will join Reusse&Mackey on 1500espn at 2:05. I'm also on WJON in St. Cloud every morning at 7:15 with Jay Caldwell. Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.
|Professional baseball (163)||Vikings (259)|
|Gopher coaches (57)||Gopher quarterbacks (14)|
|Gopher recruiting (4)||Gopher road games (5)|
|Gophers disciplinary action (3)||Gophers injuries (1)|
|Gophers recruiting (3)||Gophers spring football (6)|
|TCF Bank Stadium (24)||The Big 10 (26)|
|NCAA: football (17)||Gophers coaches (66)|
|Gophers players (45)||Tubby Smith (39)|
|Williams Arena (18)||Gophers post season (8)|
|Gophers roster moves (5)||Golf (38)|
|Soccer (4)||Twins news (39)|
|WNBA (8)||Wild news (61)|
|AFC (14)||Bears (35)|
|Ex-Vikings (29)||Football on TV (118)|
|Lions (31)||NFC (97)|
|NFL draft (48)||NFL post-season (55)|
|Packers (65)||Super Bowl (68)|
|Vikings coaches (138)||Vikings defense (68)|
|Vikings fans (49)||Vikings injury report (19)|
|Vikings management (91)||Vikings off the field (36)|
|Vikings offense (77)||Vikings quarterbacks (46)|
|Vikings road games (16)||Vikings rookies (4)|
|Vikings roster moves (3)||Vikings special teams (2)|
|Vikings training camp (6)||Off the field (6)|
|On the road (26)||Quarterbacks (44)|
|Rookies (7)||Roster moves (1)|
|Vikings draft (42)||Ron Gardenhire (122)|
|Target Field (161)||Twins fans (169)|
|Twins management (220)||Twins offense (119)|
|Twins transactions (99)||NBA playoffs (42)|
|Wolves coaches (77)||Wolves draft news (35)|
|Wolves guards (43)||Wolves injury report (10)|
|Wolves management (84)||Wolves players (65)|
|Wolves trade talk (16)||Wolves training camp (14)|
|All-Stars and honors (95)||Fighting (2)|
|Wild coaching (49)||Wild management (62)|
|Wild off-season news (12)||Wild player moves (10)|
|Adrian Peterson (84)||Anthony Herrera (2)|
|Antoine Winfield (16)||Ben Leber (1)|
|Bernard Berrian (7)||Brad Childress (30)|
|Brett Favre (58)||Brian Robison (3)|
|Bryant McKinnie (3)||Cedric Griffin (5)|
|Chad Greenway (18)||Chester Taylor (5)|
|Chris Kluwe (3)||Darrell Bevell (8)|
|E.J. Henderson (4)||Jared Allen (29)|
|John Sullivan (6)||Kevin Williams (6)|
|Leslie Frazier (55)||Madieu Williams (2)|
|Pat Williams (3)||Percy Harvin (29)|
|Phil Loadholt (3)||Ray Edwards (1)|
|Ryan Longwell (9)||Sage Rosenfels (1)|
|Sidney Rice (10)||Steve Hutchinson (7)|
|Tarvaris Jackson (12)||Tyrell Johnson (2)|
|Visanthe Shiancoe (5)||Brad Childress (30)|
|Darrell Bevell (8)||Leslie Frazier (55)|
|NHL news (11)||2010 Winter Games (13)|
|Olympic curling (1)||Olympic hockey (8)|
|Olympic skiing (5)||Olympic speedskating (1)|
|Olympic village (11)|