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.


Vikings lead at the half, but Smith tossed for pushing an official

Posted by: Mark Craig under Vikings, NFC, Antoine Winfield, Percy Harvin Updated: October 7, 2012 - 4:56 PM

The Vikings are winning the game (13-0), but have lost a starting safety.

Rookie Harrison Smith, who already was establishing himself as an NFL enforcer with a nasty side, was disqualified from today's game against the visiting Titants for pushing an official following an interception by Antoine Winfield with 11 minutes, 24 seconds left in the second quarter. As the Vikings were turning the turnover into a 42-yard Blair Walsh field goal for a 10-0 lead, Smith was walking to the locker room, his fifth NFL game prematurely over.

With Mistral Raymond (ankle) and Andrew Sendejo (ankle) inactive, the Vikings plugged in rookie Robert Blanton, a teammate of Smith's at Notre Dame, in at safety. Blanton and starting strong safety Jamarca Sanford are the only safeties active and eligible at this point. The team's emergency safety is Winfield.

Replays of Smith's actions were shown only once in the press box. The official is seen grabbing Smith and walking him back a few steps. Smith then pushes the official aside.

The Vikings took a 7-0 lead on Percy Harvin's first touchdown of the season. He scored on first-and-goal from the 4 with 2:31 left in the first quarter. Not many 185-pouders can run between the tackles, making one player (linebacker Colin McCarthy) miss at the 4 and then running over two more players at the 2 (cornerback Ryan Mouton) and goal line (cornerback Alterraun Verner).

The run capped a nine-play, 91-yard drive in which quarterback Christian Ponder ran for 15 yards, lofted a perfect pass over the DB's head to Harvin for 45 yards and hit Michael Jenkins for a 12-yard gain on third-and-10 from the Tennessee 16.

Winfield's interception gave the Vikings the ball at the Tennessee 43. With the help of an unnecessary roughness penalty on Sen'Derrick Marks, the Vikings moved into position for Walsh's field goal for a 10-0 lead with 10:27 left in the half.

The Vikings added a 36-yard field goal with 1:52 left in the half.

Ponder's streak of passes without an interception ended at 144 with 15 seconds left when safety Robert Johnson caught a tipped ball inside the Tennessee 5-yard line. It was Ponder's first pick of the year. It also kept the Vikings from attempting what would have been a 42-yard field goal had they not gained another yard.

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