Jerry Kill made what I am sure is his last visit on the sidelines of TCF Bank Stadium, when the Gophers handed the Badgers a 31-21 victory by turning the ball over five times, on three interceptions and two fumbles.
Yes, the Gophers didn’t live up to their normal defensive performance by allowing the visitors 224 yards in the first half, primarily on the ground. The Gophers defense did bounce back in the second half, holding the Badgers to 112 yards and a single field goal.
Wisconsin running back Dare Ogunbowale rushed for 132 yards of his 161 yards in the first half, an indication how the Gophers defense shut down the Badgers in the second half, but they beat themselves with the turnovers, which derailed their first half. The Maroon and Gold now have to wait and see if it can get into a bowl despite a 5-7 record.
A Gophers team that had turned the ball over only twice in the past four games combined turned charitable on this day and did something you don’t do if you want to win football games.
The turnovers led to two touchdowns and field goal for Wisconsin.
“I thought we competed well in the second half,” Gophers coach Tracy Claeys said. “The defense gave us a chance in the second half. Needed to make a few more plays. In the second quarter, with their turnovers and not stopping them on the short field, we just got too much separation and couldn’t get back into the football game.”
Clayes added: “There’s always two ways to look at it. People on the outside, you don’t go to a bowl, so you’re not very good and had a bad year. And they’re right to say that. On the inside, it was injuries, and it’s part of the game. And you can’t use that as an excuse. But it’s a year where we’ve had a lot of kids miss multiple games. I think we’re moving in the right direction. Wins and loss-wise, it’s a setback, but I feel like we’ve got good kids coming back. Those seniors have done a tremendous amount. It’s a hell of a lot better place today than it was when I got here, but we do have some work to do, and I know that.
“It’s always disappointing to lose a trophy game, but I’m not going to fault the effort. We’ll be back and ready to compete.”
You have to give the Gophers credit: they lost, but they had the Badgers reason to worry in the second half when they completely shut down their ground game.
Fusco overcame odds
There is perhaps no player on the Vikings roster who has overcome greater odds to become a starter in the NFL than left guard Brandon Fusco, who is just the fourth player in Division II Slippery Rock’s history to be drafted, and the first since running back Greg Paterra in 1989 by the Falcons.
The Vikings selected Fusco in the sixth round with the 172nd pick in the 2011 draft and he has started 44 games since the 2012 season.
Last year was a tough one for Fusco, as he suffered a torn pectoral against the Saints in Week 3.
“I had a down block and the play was going to the right,” Fusco recalled. “I got caught in a bad position and felt my chest kind of pop. It was uncomfortable.
“I got to the sidelines and knew something was wrong. The doc looked at it and assumed it was a torn pec. From that point, I was pretty upset and I knew my season was over.”
The recovery time was around six to seven months, which left Fusco fully recovered for the start of this season.
Still, the offseason was an interesting one for Fusco as he was moved into a new position, playing left guard alongside left tackle Matt Kalil.
“They told me about [changing positions] at the beginning of OTA’s,” Fusco said. “It would help everyone out, and I’m a team player and willing to do anything it takes to help the team win and it was their decision.”
Still, the transition has had some difficulties.
“I think it has been tough in the pass game, just my balance and the sets and the technique is the same, but it’s getting comfortable just switching your feet,” he said.
Fusco said that one thing he has enjoyed is having the chance to line up next to Kalil.
“Playing next to Matt is fun,” he said. “He’s a physical, great athlete, great football player. We have fun playing on the left side. He’s very smart, good football knowledge, so we try to help each other out and make our jobs easier.”
Twins in London?
It’s notable that Twins President Dave St. Peter is in London when the Telegraph is reporting that Major League Baseball could play games in Europe as early as 2017, and that London is a likely destination. Games would be played in Olympic Stadium, which is big enough to hold a baseball game and seats 54,000 fans for soccer.
St. Peter returns from England next week, at which time more information on his trip will be available.
Meanwhile, the Twins have invited all the coaches who served on the Paul Molitor’s staff this past season to return, and it is expected that they all will come back.
• Vikings coach Mike Zimmer has a lot of respect for the Atlanta Falcons and their offense. “To me, they are extremely explosive,” he said this week. “[Quarterback] Matt Ryan is the guy who you always concern yourself with because of his ability to change things at the line of scrimmage. He has a fantastic arm.” However, Atlanta’s recent struggles have been caused by turnovers. “They’ve had 18 fumbles, they haven’t lost all of those, but they’ve had 18 fumbles,” Zimmer said. “They’ve had some interceptions, so typically when you get turnovers it’s pressure on the quarterback, it’s hitting the ball, the second guy in hitting the ball.” And the Falcons won’t have breakout star Devonta Freeman available, as the running back has been sidelined by a concussion.
• The Vikings rank 10th in the NFL in total defense with 334.9 yards per game, one spot ahead of the Falcons, who are allowing 335.7 yards per game. “They’re big up front,” Teddy Bridgewater said of the Falcons defense. “They have some playmakers on that defense and those guys are playing well as a unit.”
• Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner donated 50 pies for Thanksgiving to Joseph’s Storehouse in Brooklyn Center, which is run by Rev. Lester Williams and feeds families around the north Minneapolis area.
• The Scottsdale Scorpions claimed the championship in the Arizona Fall League last weekend, beating Surprise 6-4 with five of the Twins’ seven prospects contributing in the title game. Outfielder Adam Brett Walker drove in three runs. Taylor Rogers pitched three scoreless innings to start before being relieved by Trevor Hildenberger, who pitched a scoreless fourth inning. Jake Reed had three strikeouts in the eighth inning and Nick Burdi overcame a solo home run to earn the save.