Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.


Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.


Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


Extra points: Cole's heroics, Ponder’s dive, Simpson’s leap and the longest wave in history

Posted by: under Vikings, Leslie Frazier, Jared Allen, Leslie Frazier Updated: August 18, 2012 - 12:18 AM

Five fun topics to discuss following the Vikings’ 36-14 preseason blowout of Buffalo …

The start of Cole-mania?

We’re obligated to start with rookie linebacker Audie Cole, aren’t we? Hey, the kid ended Friday’s game with not one, but two interception returns for touchdowns. Within 13 seconds of each other. The first one was a 20-yard return of a Brad Smith pass. The second, on Buffalo’s next snap, was a 30-yard return after Cole jumped an out route. For a seventh-round pick fighting his butt off to make the team, those big plays certainly won’t hurt his cause.

Said head coach Leslie Frazier: “To see Audie do what he did, that’s a big deal. You could see the jubilation from his teammates. Everyone on the team was in the end zone with him on that second one. It was pretty impressive. We’re excited for him. He seems to be one of those guys who may be someone who has a knack for the big play.

What is he doing?

Did that 3-yard first-quarter run by Christian Ponder make your heart skip a beat? You know, the one on third-and-2 from the Buffalo 4 during which Ponder fled the pocket, had little space, yet picked up the first down with an athletic sprint and a seemingly dangerous headfirst slide? Well, that little Rickey Henderson move is something Ponder has actually been coached to do by offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave.

“Coach Musgrave made this cut-up about sliding headfirst versus sliding feet first,” Ponder said, “and we’ve never seen someone get hurt sliding feet first. So it’s on purpose. When you slide feet first, you’re exposing your body to get hit. And like we saw at Washington with me last year, I got pretty jacked up that game [sliding feet first]. People were Tweeting at me [tonight] like, ‘Dude, slide feet first. What are you doing?’ But it’s a planned deal”

Jerome being Jerome

No recap of Friday’s game would be complete without at least some discussion of Jerome Simpson’s acrobatics. Man, this guy should be fun to watch. His biggest highlight Friday night was a 33-yard catch that included a jaw-dropping leap over Bills safety Jairus Byrd.

“It just comes naturally to me,” Simpson said. “You know, if it’s time for me to juke, I juke. If it’s time for me to jump, that’s when I jump.”

Ponder also had a good view of the play. “I was like, ‘Dude, why didn’t you score a touchdown and give me a long touchdown pass?’”

As for the worry about what Simpson’s absence during the first three weeks of the regular season will mean as he serves a three-game NFL suspension? Well, it’s worth nothing that Ponder had 10 completions Friday to eight different receivers.

The wave goes to a new level, Jared Allen approves

When Friday’s game grew dull in the second half – let’s face it, all preseason games do – fans at Mall of America Field initiated the wave. And then they added to the wave by throwing program pages and other debris into the air. And then they kept doing it for probably around 15 or 20 minutes. On the sidelines, Vikings defensive end Jared Allen was entertained by the spectacle.

“That was awesome,” Allen said. “It all started because they wanted a [pass interference call]. It never ceases to amaze me. Though, at the end, I thought there were probably some fans who weren’t really cool with it, some grumpy people in the crowd getting confetti on their head. I thought it was hilarious. Well done. Somebody, I don’t know who threw it. But they should measure. I saw a paper airplane come from the top deck and land on the 50-yard line. That’s impressive. That’s got to be some kind of record. It’s gotta be.

Something to build on

Want a few last statistical nuggets on the productivity of the first team offense through two preseason games? Ponder and the first unit have been on the field for five possessions now. Those drives have averaged nine offensive plays and 59 yards. The Vikings have penetrated the opposition’s 35 yard line every time and haven’t punted. Overall, Ponder is 14-for-22 for 216 yards and a touchdown. He has yet to turn the ball over and has been sacked twice. Those five series have ended with a touchdown, three field goals and a missed field goal.

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