Hartman: Ponder hopes Vikings build on momentum

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 12, 2012 - 10:49 PM

After struggling in the first half vs. Jacksonville, the second-year QB sparked the team to an overtime victory.

Christian Ponder believes Sunday's 26-23 overtime victory over Jacksonville could set the tone for the rest of the Vikings season. The quarterback said that while the game was flawed offensively, he hoped the momentum from the end of the game would carry over.

"Oh yeah, I mean a heck of a win. We're excited," Ponder said. "We knew going into the game that it was going to set the tone for the rest of the season, and it came down to overtime. These are the ones that you remember, so this is fun.

"I don't think I've ever had overtime. I don't think I've ever played in an overtime game until now, and we won it."

Ponder took the blame for the offense's poor start, but in the second half, he played as well as any Vikings quarterback has played, including Brett Favre when he was healthy. He finished with a 105.5 passer rating.

As for the poor first half, when he completed seven of 11 passes but didn't really shine until he led the offense into the end zone for a touchdown with 41 second to play, Ponder had this to say:

"It starts with me. I didn't play with a great enough sense of urgency early on and I really took it upon myself to change that and change the tempo and play better.

"The quarterback sets the tone for the rest of the offense. So I changed that and turned it around and we started playing better."

Ponder said the Vikings didn't change anything in the second half and overtime to spark their comeback.

"I mean we just ran what our regular game plan was for the game," he said. "A lot of guys made clutch plays, especially on offense. But we can't say enough about Blair Walsh. For him to come in and kick the field goal to tie it and then the field goal to win it, that was big by him."

Ponder said this was a very important victory.

"It will give us a lot of confidence, but we have to remember that it's just one game," he said. "The two words that coach [Leslie] Frazier has been preaching, execute and finish. That's the motto of this team, that's the emotion of this team. We go out and play well and execute and finish and we'll see what we can do."

As for the final drive in regulation to set up the tying field goal with four seconds left, Ponder said: "We were in the two-minute offense and we had to finally put points on the board and turn the game around and we were able to do that. That changed the momentum and changed the tone of the game. That was very important for us."

The Jacksonville game was an example of how much more mature Ponder is this season.

"From this year compared to last year, it's going to have to be [better] decision-making," Ponder said. "I'm just so much more comfortable in this offense, spent a lot of time learning the offense and learning the reads a lot better and getting more comfortable with everything. I really understand where to go with the ball, a lot better than I did last year, that should pay off."

While he won't make any excuses for last year, Ponder did battle through a tough hip injury to end the seaso n and also suffered a concussion.

Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said he believes Ponder can be just as good as Matt Ryan, whom he coached at Atlanta, and that is a pretty good compliment, because Ryan is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL.

Work on facilities

Associate Gophers athletic director Scott Ellison and others members of the athletic department put together a book in 2000 containing a master plan that included what facilities the department needed to be on par with other Big Ten schools. Because of a shortage of revenue, not many facilities were added.

But under new athletic director Norwood Teague, the department is going to hire one of eight firms to put together another master plan for what new facilities the school needs. That company will be hired in the near future and get to work.

Jottings

• Frazier, in an interview with the Indianapolis media Wednesday, said one of the toughest career decisions he's had to make was when he was offered the Vikings defensive coordinator job in 2007 and had to leave the Colts, where he was very happy.

• Steve LaCroix, Vikings vice president of sales and marketing, said there was about 10 percent no-shows for Sunday's game, and thus the Vikings met the 90 percent blackout minimum and didn't have to pay the visiting team money beyond the regular 34 percent of the gate. LaCroix also said the Vikings also have offered package deals for home games with the Packers and Bears; purchasing a ticket to either of those games requires also buying a ticket to another game.

• Architects for the new Vikings stadium initially were to be chosen by Sept. 24, but now it appears the selection will be delayed. The cost of getting the plans made for the stadium is expected to be in the area of $20 million, according to a Vikingsofficial.

• Matt Kalil is not only the fifth rookie offensive tackle to start the first game of the season for the Vikings, but the former Southern California All-America became only the third player in the history of the franchise to block a point-after kick in the opening game.

• Ex-Viking Randy Moss had a big day as the 49ers defeated the Packers 30-22, catching four passes for 47 yards and a touchdown.

• The offensive coordinator for the No. 22 UCLA football team that edged No. 16 Nebraska 36-30 on Saturday is Noel Mazzone, who was the Gophers quarterback coach under Jim Wacker from 1992 to '94.

• Gophers pitching coach Todd Oakes will receive a bone marrow transplant this week from his brother, Gerald, as he continues his treatment for acute myeloid leukemia.

• Quentin Mege, a Gophers hammer thrower from Chelles, France, who finished fifth in the NCAA tournament and won the Big Ten title in his event last year, has changed his mind about leaving school and will take advantage of his final year of eligibility. ... Logan Connors, who was the top junior college thrower in the javelin with a personal best of 219 feet, 10 inches while competing for Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, Calif., is transferring to Minnesota. ... Emmanuel Onyia, also in the Gophers' 2012 track recruiting class from Montego Bay, Jamaica, is expected to be a factor in the shot put.

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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