There are some favorable things to say about a Gophers football team that has had many critics despite the fact it is 3-1 with its only loss a close one to TCU, one of the top-ranked teams in the country. The Horned Frogs were held to 23 points here but have averaged 60 points in their other three games, including a 55-52 victory over Texas Tech on Saturday.
One big reason the Gophers eked out a 27-24 victory over Ohio on Saturday was the great performance by Mitch Leidner, who has been everybody’s favorite scapegoat. But in this game, iun which the offense rang up 468 yards total, the junior quarterback completed 22 of 32 passes for 264 yards and at one time in the second quarter kept the Gophers in the game by completing 10 of 12 passes for 113 yards.
Leidner completed four of six passes on the Gophers’ final winning 11-play, 78-yard drive for 42 yards. The drive ended with freshman Shannon Brooks scoring his second touchdown of the game on a 3-yard plunge with 30 seconds to go. Brooks ran for a total 82 yards, while Rodney Smith ran for 94.
“It feels good,” said Leidner, whom many fans and media members have wanted benched for true freshman Demry Croft. “I talked about it during the week about me never losing my confidence in myself. I’ve been a competitive kid my entire life, and at no point was I going to back down from any type of competition.
“To be in a situation like I was this past week and angry after the Kent State game and to bounced back, both myself and offensively as a unit, it’s huge for us.”
Leidner also talked about the great play of Brooks.
“It took me back to I think the first or second scrimmage, we scrimmaged at Concordia back in camp and the kid ran like a crazy man,” Leidner said. “He was running everybody over, juking everybody out, and seeing him back out there today getting a good opportunity, he was doing the same thing. An explosive, explosive player.”
The Gophers won despite several players getting hurt. But when they open Big Ten play at Northwestern next week they won’t win if they play as poorly as they did on special teams Saturday, when they fumbled two punts and two kickoff returns, including touching a kickoff at their own 6 moments before the ball would have gone out of bounds.
Peterson happy to be back
Adrian Peterson’s 134 rushing yards and 192 total yards in the Vikings’ 26-16 victory over the Lions last week were his highest totals in both categories since Week 13 of the 2013 season, when he rushed for 211 yards in a 23-20 overtime victory over the Bears.
While Peterson was happy with his performance he said that the reception he received from fans was just as important to him. Peterson was showered with cheers in his return to the team after missing almost all of 2014 because of his felony child abuse charge in Texas.
“It felt good,” Peterson said. “You can see as I ran through the tunnel, the energy that you see as I was running, that came from the fans. Just that warm welcome, it felt good to be back home.”
Peterson said that without a doubt it meant a lot to him to receive that ovation in his first home game in over a year.
He also talked about the experience of playing for only the first time at TCF Bank Stadium. He was injured and missed the 2010 game there against Chicago after the Metrodome roof collapsed, then missed the 2014 home schedule.
“It felt good coming out and seeing all the fans, knowing my family was here supporting me,” he said. “The weather was beautiful. It was a great day for football. The crowd was excellent, into the game, and they helped us win this game. They kept the energy alive when we made big plays.”
When asked if he felt the crowd had changed toward him, Peterson didn’t believe so.
“The crowd never really changed. I just didn’t have the opportunity to run at all last year,” he said. “But it felt good to get back and feel the home excitement and energy surrounding me.”
Tarkenton in town
Former Vikings quarterback Fran Tarkenton, who has been one of Teddy Bridgewater’s biggest boosters, will get his first look this season at the second-year QB when he attends Sunday’s game against the Chargers.
Tarkenton is in town doing a book signing at 4 p.m. Sunday at the Vikings Locker Room store at the Mall of America.
Tarkenton’s new book is called “The Power of Failure: Succeeding in the Age of Innovation.” Tarkenton continues to follow and write about the Vikings, but he also has his business offices in Atlanta, where he runs Tarkenton Financial and GoSmallBiz.com.
• Not only will the Wilf family likely develop the former Northwest Airlines headquarters area in Eagan, but don’t be surprised if the Wilfs also get involved in a big development at the site of the Vikings’ present headquarters in Eden Prairie. Incidentally, last week the Eagan city advisory planning commission recommended to the city council that it approve the Vikings’ plan for development.
• The Vikings gave up only 38 rushing yards to Detroit last week, the fewest of any Mike Zimmer-led defense since Cincinnati held Chicago to 35 rushing yards in October 2009.
• Teddy Bridgewater has completed at least 70 percent of his passes in six of his past seven games. His 72.6 completion percentage over that time is the second-best in the NFL.
• Chargers college scout Regis Eller is the son of Vikings great Carl Eller. The Minneapolis native was an interim linebackers coach for the Vikings in 2005 and coached at Breck High School.
• There is still a good chance that the new Gophers men’s and women’s track winds up at the site of the grain elevators across from TCF Bank Stadium. The plan for the new facilities for the Gophers athletic department includes keeping the Bierman and Gibson-Nagurski buildings. Also, there’s money set to build a Gophers baseball batting cage, but for some reason construction hasn’t started.
• With multiple outlets reporting that point guard Tre Jones has received a scholarship offer from Duke, where his brother Tyus played, it means that Blue Devils men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski has two Apple Valley recruits he is trying to bring in, Jones and junior Gary Trent Jr. The word is that Trent was in attendance for the Gophers football game with Ohio on Saturday. His father was a star for Ohio from 1992 to ’95.