It's interesting that the Vikings' two losses this season have come against the two rookie quarterbacks selected No. 1 and No. 2 overall in the 2012 draft in Indianapolis' Andrew Luck and Washington's Robert Griffin III.
But Griffin wasn't the main reason the Vikings lost Sunday, 38-26 at Washington.
In the NFL, everyone knows that you can't go on the road, march into the red zone three times in the first quarter and have your scoring consist of only three field goals.
They had a chance to take a huge lead in the first quarter as they marched inside the Redskins 20-yard line three times only to settle for nine points. They went for 78 yards on their opening drive, for 44 yards after a bad Washington punt gave them the ball at midfield and then for 26 yards after Antoine Winfield made a nice interception along the sidelines.
The Redskins defense hadn't been impressive. Coming into Sunday, it was the 27th-ranked defense in the NFL and 31st against the pass at 328.6 yards per game.
At one time early on, the Vikings had an edge of 142 yards to 7 for Washington, which had lost its previous eight games at FedEx Field and hadn't won on its own turf since Week 2 of last season.
A fumble by Christian Ponder that was recovered by Lorenzo Alexander led to a touchdown in the Redskins' 17-point second quarter, which didn't help.
The other reason the Vikings lost is because the defense had no way to stop a great young quarterback in Griffin.
Last year's Heisman Trophy winner was questionable coming into the game after suffering a mild concussion last week against the Falcons, but he rushed for a career-high 138 yards on 13 carries. His longest run of the year had been for 19 yards against the Bengals in Week 3, but he was able to run for a 76-yard touchdown on the deciding play of the game in the fourth quarter, when Washington was trying to protect a five-point lead and was facing a third-and-6. That 76-yarder was also better than any run he had in his four years at Baylor.
On top of his phenomenal rushing day, Griffin completed 17 of 22 passes for 182 yards and a touchdown.
The defense did shut down the Redskins some in the second half, but on that crucial third-down play with the Vikings down 31-26, they called a blitz and some missed assignments that led to Griffin's long run, ending any thoughts of a comeback.
The Vikings certainly didn't perform Sunday like they did in chalking up three consecutive victories.
One of the real leaders on the Gophers football team, in addition to being one of the top linebackers in the Big Ten, is former Edina standout Mike Rallis.
When it comes to the Gophers defense, Rallis blamed missed assignments for the past two losses to Iowa and Northwestern.
"In both games, we had missed assignments and missed alignments that they ended up exploiting us for big plays," said Rallis, one of the few seniors playing for the Gophers. "You make a mistake like that, a small mistake against a good team, and they're going to exploit it. That's what both teams did. In the second half [of both games] we just tightened up [and played better], but we have to find a way to come out in the first half and play mistake-free."
In both losses, the Gophers shut down the opposition after halftime. Iowa had 44 second-half yards and Northwestern had 77 second-half yards and no points. (Iowa did score one touchdown, but it came on a 68-yard interception return.)
"Honestly, it hasn't really been many adjustments at all. It's on the players," said Rallis about second-half changes in the game plan. "We have to find out, as players, a way to come out and play mistake-free football from the very first play."
Coming off Saturday's 21-13 home loss to Northwestern, the Gophers are at Wisconsin this week. It appears as though the Badgers, after a poor start to the season, have found themselves, as indicated by their 38-14 victory at Purdue on Saturday.
The Gophers will be big underdogs in Madison, having won only twice in their past 17 games at Camp Randall Stadium.
But Rallis still has hope that the Gophers will win some games.
"We have to just come back today, we have to look at the film, get better, correct our mistakes and move forward from there," he said. "We're going to have a great week of preparation in every day of practice. You have to love playing these rivalry games, and we're looking forward to getting over and getting a chance to play Wisconsin."
Rallis looks for quarterback MarQueis Gray, who was injured again Saturday, to give every effort to be ready to play. If he can play, the Gophers have a much better chance of making a good showing.
"MarQueis is a tough kid, and the one thing I know is he's going to get in here and do everything he can to get better and try to help us on the field," Rallis said. "Whether he can or not, that remains to be seen, but I know he's going to give everything he can to this team and this program."
Rallis said all the players are very concerned about Jerry Kill, who suffered another seizure after the game. The Gophers coach spent Saturday night in the hospital but returned home Sunday.
"We all love Coach Kill and we're worried for him, but the staff has done a great job preparing us for these situations, and I know Coach Kill is a fighter, he's going to keep fighting, and we're going to do the same thing for him here," said Rallis, who is not only a great football player but a great student, one who represents the school with class.
Taylor delays sale
At one time, Glen Taylor had a buyer for the Timberwolves pretty well set. But for estate reasons, he wanted to sell the team to a buyer who would allow him to keep a minority interest. The buyer also would have to guarantee not to move the team.
Unfortunately, none of the current owners wants to own a majority share, and Taylor has not been able to find any interested local sports nuts able to own an NBA franchise.
However, in a visit with Taylor on Sunday, he reported that while at present he doesn't have a buyer in waiting, he is also in no hurry to make a sale.
"I just think it's a good business decision that I should be working out," Taylor said. "If it doesn't work out that I find somebody, I love the activity of the team and I love the people who I work with and just the competitiveness of it. I'm not going to hurry just to do a deal."
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. firstname.lastname@example.org