If you are looking for positives in the Gophers football team’s 35-24 victory over Middle Tennessee State on Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium, there are many, the most important being that they won the game.
That David Cobb outrushed the entire visiting team by a margin of 222 yards to 190 was another positive factor.
And then you have the situation to sing the praises of a team that could score two touchdowns in the space of 72 seconds, on a 31-yard interception return by Jalen Myrick and a 27-yard pass from quarterback Mitch Leidner to Maxx Williams to give the home team a commanding 21-0 lead at the time.
But then you have the second-half letdown, and that has to concern coach Jerry Kill and his staff. The Gophers were outscored 24-7 after halftime, had a blocked punt that led to a touchdown and saw their offense get outgained 288-132 in the second half after a first-half advantage of 219-157. Then you have the Blue Raiders passing for 255 yards to the Gophers’ 67, and last but not least, your quarterback suffers a knee injury in the fourth quarter that might keep him out of next week’s game at Texas Christian.
But Kill is always looking at everything from a positive perspective, and the Gophers coach said: “It was a tough second half, but a good first half. The second half got off to a slow start, but we won the game. That’s the bottom line, we’re 2-0. Coming out in the second half, being up like we were, we just didn’t come out with a lot of zip and they found momentum. Part of it is we were playing seven freshmen on defense, and when you’re playing freshmen, it’s a learning experience. The good thing is we are learning and we are winning.”
Continuing about the Gophers’ poor play in the second half, Kill said: “We have to come out [in the second half] like we came in to start the game. We got a little confident on both sides of the ball including the special teams. It’s one of those things where you want to start fast finish faster. So we will go back to the drawing board and we will watch film. We are happy with the wins but we certainly have a lot of corrections to make.”
Well unfortunately, the Gophers have suffered a lot of injuries in their first two games, and now with Leidner hurt, it will be a road game that should have never been scheduled, especially after North Carolina was bought out.
Looking for Pat Williams
When defensive tackle Pat Williams was manning the Vikings run defense from 2005 to 2010, the team averaged out as the fifth best run stopping unit in the NFL, including three seasons as the No. 1-ranked squad and one season ranked second.
But over the past three seasons the Vikings have finished 11th in 2011 and ’12, and 16th last season in run defense. So the front office went out and signed Linval Joseph hoping that his similar size and style of play can help replicate some of their past success in shutting down the run.
Williams was 6-3 and 317 pounds. Joseph is 6-4 and 323 pounds and plays in a similar vein. He recorded 59 tackles, three sacks, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery last season for the Giants. In 2012 he recorded 59 tackles, four sacks, one forced fumble, and two fumble recoveries.
Joseph was asked about leaving the Giants organization following four successful seasons.
“Well it’s not really up to me,” he said. “It’s up to the team and they had to make a business decision. They wanted more players at other positions and that left me a little short.”
Joseph said that when the Vikings made their initial offer of five years and $31.5 million the Giants backed off from negotiations. “They didn’t really make an offer,” Joseph said.
Joseph said that he felt like he had a “great year” last year and is excited to work under coach Mike Zimmer and defensive coordinator George Edwards, because they allow him to defend multiple positions.
“I like it because you’re very athletic and it makes you move, do a lot of, you just have to be ready for everything,” he said about the defensive line scheme. “You play a lot of positions in this defense, and I love it.”
Joseph, who was injured after being shot in the thigh as an innocent bystander at a Minneapolis nightclub last month, said that he is 100 percent healthy and ready to play.
Did missing practice affect his ability to understand the defense? “No, I had mental reps, so just watching, learning the defense, and when I got back on the field I was caught up to speed and I was just as fast and ready to go,” he said.
While Joseph acknowledged that stopping the run is why he was brought to the Vikings, he thinks he can be a three-down player who also rushes the quarterback.
“I’m good in both [pass defense and run defense] but for right now they have me in for a run-stopper, and that’s what I’m going to do, is run-stop,” he said. “Then I’ll get the opportunity to make some sacks on third down.”
• Twins owner Bill Pohlad’s “Love & Mercy,” a biographical film about Beach Boys lead singer Brian Wilson, will premier at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sunday night. It’s the first movie Pohlad has directed since 1990 and is considered an awards contender. It tells two stories of Wilson’s life, one set in the 1960s and one in the 1980s.
• Vikings defensive coordinator George Edwards on studying former Vikings quarterback Shaun Hill, who will start for the Rams on Sunday: “He’s had quite a few reps through the preseason. We’ve got a chance to look at him, we’ve had a chance to look at him back in Detroit. We’ve got a good feel for him. He’s an experienced guy, he manages the game well, he does a good job in their offense of getting the ball out, not sitting back there holding the reads.”
• Bears coach Marc Trestman said to expect former Gophers safety Brock Vereen to play at safety in Chicago’s opener against Buffalo. “If Chris [Conte] is [available], we’re going to rotate the safeties,” Trestman told the Chicago Tribune. “Are we set on who we’re going to start? No, but I expect all three of them will play, and Brock will get some work as well.”
• Junior center Steven Fogarty was named captain of Notre Dame hockey. He’s the fourth Irish player from Edina to be named captain since 2001, joining Anders Lee, Ryan Thang and Dan Carlson.
• The Gophers added a hockey player with two years of juniors experience in defenseman Nick Seeler, who is from Eden Prairie and was drafted by the Wild in 2011.
• Timberwolves guard J.J. Barea had a fantastic FIBA World Cup, though Puerto Rico didn’t advance to the knockout stage. Barea averaged 22 points, 3.2 rebounds and 3.2 assists.