Vikings center John Sullivan, who is looking like a candidate for the Pro Bowl by the way he is playing, described the team's 24-13 victory over the 49ers on Sunday as a big building block for the rest of the season.
"It's huge. It's a huge confidence-builder," said Sullivan, who is healthy this season after suffering a concussion and playing on an injured ankle last season. "In the grand scheme it counts for one number in the win column, but at the same time, beating a good football team like the San Francisco 49ers in a game where nobody gave us a chance shows us that we can go out there and beat anybody."
Sullivan said he believes the Vikings will have to continue to earn respect on Sundays.
"If you're in the NFL and there's any team you don't respect, you're crazy, because the talent is so close across the board," he said. "This is obviously a momentum-builder but we've got to go out and capitalize on it [against Detroit on Sunday] and keep this thing rolling."
Sullivan praised the job Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder did in completing 21 of 35 passes for 198 yards and two touchdowns.
"Very accurate, led our offense, got first downs, scoring in the red zone, those two touchdown passes to Kyle [Rudolph] were excellent," Sullivan said.
And now the Vikings can prove they are a contender for the NFC North title if they can beat the Lions, a team that gave up 44 points last week in losing in overtime to the Tennessee Titans.
Gophers defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys, who has been a member of Jerry Kill's coaching staff for 17 years, ranks redshirt junior Ra'Shede Hageman "as good a defensive tackle as we've been around. He can be as good as anybody around; I really believe that. He has the size [6-6, 305 pounds] and athletic ability and continues to improve each week."
Claeys added: "He has that explosion and [is one of] those D-linemen that can get off the ball when it moves. I think his vertical [jump] is like 37 inches and for a 305-pound guy, that's an explosive person. Very quick, uses his hands, gets off the block well. He's everything you look for in a D-tackle."
Claeys said the former Minneapolis Washburn star, a converted tight end, is constantly drawing double teams.
"We've tried to do some slants and stunts and do some things to help him out so they can't double him. We'll have to continue to look at that and don't let them put two people on him because one-on-one he'll get [past] most people."
Personal problems almost ended Hageman's football career, but he has really got his life straightened out and is doing great not only on the football field but in the classroom.
"I was just being immature. I was trying to really get my life together," Hageman said. "I really wanted to play football and do college. Coach Kill gave me a second chance and, I mean, it was more of a chance that if I mess up, I'm done. It was a tight chance, but he really gave me a chance to turn my life around.
"Football really saved me and just school-wise, I'm more into it and willing to get my head into it to play football. I'm taking things more seriously."
Hageman was arrested in May of 2010 on a misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge after a fight broke out in Dinkytown. The media played the story up in a big way at the time, but the charges were dropped in June because of insufficient evidence. Hageman was said to have actually been trying to break up the fight instead of participating in it.
But Hageman, who has 14 tackles, three sacks and a forced fumble in four games, said he understands why his involvement was misinterpreted.
"That's just the part of [the media] doing their job," he said. "Everybody wants to hear about the negative things you do because you're an athlete and kind of under the microscope, [but] because I was innocent, it made me feel a lot better. I just kind of moved on and am not really worried about that."
Mark Wilf, owner-president of the Vikings, said "We're hoping this week we'll work with the sports commission, and together we'll coordinate to hire an architect. We're close to picking an architect. We're down to several finalists and again, hopefully this week we'll engage with one of the architectural firms and move on to construction managers. And once we have that team assembled, we'll get to work on designing a stadium and start building, hopefully, next year."
Vikings offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave in describing the play of Ponder to date: "Christian has just done such a good job of playing within himself. And I think if you have a guy that's doing that and playing at a high level, teams feed off their quarterbacks. He's a leader whether he likes it or not, and I think that's important to realize."
The Gophers are 4-0 and, despite their record, Kill said they still have a lot of work to do after beating Syracuse 17-10 last weekend.
"We have a long way to go, which is good because we need to continue to get better," he said. "But we did play hard. I felt like it's the hardest we've played since I've been here. We want to get that across to our kids and I liked the way they played as far as [effort]. Didn't play very smart, but played hard."
It's hard to understand why Iowa -- which has lost to Iowa State and Central Michigan and defeated Northern Iowa after trailing into the second quarter -- is favored by Las Vegas oddsmakers, who have the Hawkeyes as 6 1/2-point favorites over the Gophers at Iowa City on Saturday.
Last Saturday was a big visiting day for recruits on the Minnesota campus for basketball and football. Tedric Thompson, a safety at Valencia (Calif.) High and brother of Gophers sophomore defensive back Cedric, watched his brother intercept a pass against Syracuse on Saturday. Other visitors included Drew Wolitarsky, who is a top receiver from Canyon High School in Santa Clarita, Calif.; Hunter Jarmon, one of the fastest receivers in Texas at Midway High School in Waco, and Eric Carter from Lake Gibson High School in Lakeland, Fla., who caught 49 passes and scored six touchdowns last year.
Gordie Roberts, former North Stars hockey player and NHL scout, is the new hockey coach at Elk River.
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. email@example.com