For Glen Mason, Saturday was a new situation. He helped get TCF Bank Stadium built but was never able to coach there despite having the best record of any Gophers coach in recent memory.
Yes, the first chance that Mason had to work in the new stadium was as a color commentator on the Big Ten Network's telecast of coach Jerry Kill's 29-23 victory over Miami (Ohio) on Saturday.
"His players rallied behind him, they won a close game," said Mason, excited about the Gophers victory even though he no longer coaches the team. "Miami comes from the Mid-American Conference ... that's a veteran group right there.
"They played Missouri off their heels [Sept. 3, a 17-6 Missouri victory]. This is a very important, very good win for Jerry Kill and the Gopher program."
This was also Mason's first personal look at MarQueis Gray, who put on a show, rushing for 171 yards on 25 carries. Gray also completed 11 of 21 passes for 163 yards.
"He reminds you of guys like Terrelle Pryor," Mason said, comparing Gray with the former Ohio State quarterback. "He needs to develop that accuracy in passing. A lot of times the receivers are wide open, sometimes he makes great throws, sometimes not so great. Once they get ironed out they're going to be awful tough to stop."
Did Mason have a better quarterback during his 10 years at Minnesota?
"I don't know about that," he said. "I had some pretty good quarterbacks. I don't know if I ever had as athletic a guy as him, but I had a lot of good quarterbacks that won us a lot of games here."
Mason believes that this victory, one over a pretty good team that is favored to win the MAC title, will build a little momentum for the Gophers.Big Ten is down
Looking ahead at the Gophers schedule, Mason said: "They have North Dakota State next week; they win that one and they go into Big Ten play. They play at Michigan, at Purdue. Let's face it, Michigan isn't what we normally think of as Michigan. Purdue is struggling. They could build some momentum."
Mason questioned whether Big Ten teams will be as talented as normal this season.
"I think any time you look at your so-called marquee teams, I don't know how Ohio State will do against Miami [the Buckeyes lost 24-6 Saturday night]. Penn State was very lucky to beat Temple. You look at Michigan, they're not the Michigan of old. The team that is hitting on all cylinders right now is Wisconsin," Mason said.
Mason, who has gotten to know Kill and has spent a lot of time with the current Gophers coach, is very happy for Kill, who a week ago left the stadium in an ambulance after suffering a seizure but was back Saturday.
"I'm very happy. I don't know Jerry Kill that well, but I have a lot of respect for him as a football coach. I've watched his teams play," Mason said. "I've watched how he developed programs. He's not a guy that was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple. He's an honest-to-goodness football coach."Morris enjoyed time here
Pat Morris, who was the Vikings offensive line coach under Brad Childress and now has the same job with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, was impressed by the Vikings defense in their 24-17 loss at San Diego in the opening week of the season.
"They've only had the one game, but they've always played good defense," said Morris, who returns to the Metrodome as an opponent on Sunday when the Buccaneers visit the Vikings. "I think [defensive coordinator] Fred [Pagac] has done a nice job figuring out what they have. As far as the offense goes, we know they can play a lot better."
About Tampa Bay's Josh Freeman, who is considered to be among the better young quarterbacks in the league and will be a challenge for the Vikings pass defense, Morris said: "He's exciting, he's a third-year guy, getting better." Freeman completed 28 of 43 passes for 259 yards in the Buccaneers' 27-20 home loss to Detroit. Still, Morris said that Freeman continues to improve. "You know quarterbacks learn something new every year," he said.
If the Bucs follow the same game plan they used vs. the Lions, don't expect them to run the ball very much.
Both teams averaged about the same rushing the ball last week -- 3.5 yards per carry for Tampa Bay, 3.6 for Detroit -- but the Bucs ran only 16 times for 56 yards, compared to 35 times for 126 yards by the Lions. The Bucs defense really had problems stopping Detroit, which had 431 yards of offense compared to 315 by Tampa Bay.
Morris sang the praises of the Lions, whom the Vikings will play host to next weekend.
"They're really talented on offense and talented on defense," Morris said. "I mean, when you pick first or in the top 10 in the draft, sooner or later you're going to get it right. They are much improved, offensively and defensively."
The Bucs are also an improved football team. After finishing 3-13 in 2009 they went 10-6 last year.
Morris is happy at Tampa Bay but did say how he enjoyed his two stints in Minnesota, with both the Vikings and the Gophers.
• Between Sept. 10, when Jerry Kill suffered his seizure, and Friday, more than 100 cards reached the Gophers football office. There were also 10 big gifts (plants, balloons, flowers, etc.) delivered; more than 50 voice mails were received at the office; and Kill received more than 200 text messages to his cell phone as well as roughly 200 e-mails.
• It was no accident when Duane Bennett blocked the punt that turned out to be one of the Gophers' biggest plays Saturday. They practice that formation every day, and it worked when it was needed vs. Miami (Ohio).
• Only 5,200 of the 10,000 available Gophers student season-ticket packages for football have been purchased.
• There will be no changes among the Twins coaching staff since all of manager Ron Gardenhire's coaches are signed for 2012. Rumors continue that there will be a baseball executive added in the front office.
• Five years ago, offensive lineman Donald Penn was on the Vikings practice squad as an undrafted free agent. The Bucs signed him in 2006 and now Penn is coming off his first Pro Bowl season.
• The word from Baltimore is that former Vikings left tackle Bryant McKinnie, who has earned a starting job with the Ravens, did a great job last Sunday in a 35-7 victory over the Steelers, defeating a team with one of the best pass rushes in the NFL.
• Jamel Harbison committed to the Gophers after the wide receiver from Mallard Creek High School in Charlotte, N.C., visited last week. Meanwhile, Andre McDonald, the Hopkins receiver who is ranked with the top recruits in the state and who at one time was committed to the Gophers, now says he is going to Vanderbilt.
• Hockey player Mark Alt and football player D.L. Wilhite won the most recent Gophers athlete of the month awards, based on their work in academics.