Yes, I know Vikings coach Mike Zimmer is a fierce competitor who doesn’t believe in moral victories.
But even so, he should be proud of his team after it lost 23-20 Sunday at Denver, which seldom ever loses at home and has the top-ranked defense in the NFL.
Former Broncos player John Lynch, one of the NFL’s all-time great safeties, did the color commentary on the Fox telecast and had nothing but good words to say about the poise shown by Teddy Bridgewater among other complementary words about the Vikings, who were stung by a missed Blair Walsh field goal in the second quarter that was immediately followed by a 72-yard touchdown run from Denver’s Ronnie Hillman.
“This team has great resolve, they are going to win a lot of games,” Lynch said during the telecast.
However, the Vikings are only going to beat the NFL’s top teams when Adrian Peterson has big days. Peterson was responsible for 260 yards in two previous games, home victories over Detroit and San Diego. This wasn’t the story Sunday, with Peterson being credited with 33 yards on 15 carries, averaging 2.2 yards per carry, until he broke loose on a fourth-and-1 situation for a 48-yard touchdown run. For the day he carried 16 times for 81 yards, a 5.1-yard average brought up by the long run.
It was unfortunate that the team didn’t get a chance to send it into overtime because of a fumble by Bridgewater on T.J. Ward’s sack. But the quarterback had a fantastic day, even though he was sacked seven times and was involved in 12 QB hurries as the great Broncos defense took advantage of the inexperience of right tackle T.J. Clemmings, the fourth-round draft choice filling in for the injured seven-year veteran Phil Loadholt.
Bridgewater, who completed 27 of 41 passes for 269 yards, one touchdown, no interceptions and a 92.4 passer rating, performed like a real pro despite the constant pass rush. His 10-yard scramble for a first down on the last drive was another example of how well he played.
A potential new standout emerged on offense in fifth-round pick Stefon Diggs, a receiver who caught six of the 10 passes thrown to him for 87 yards. Veteran Mike Wallace also had his best day with the Vikings, having 10 balls thrown at him and catching eight for 83 yards, including a 4-yard touchdown.
On defense, the Vikings limited the Broncos to 144 yards rushing, 72 coming on the run by Hillman, who scored only because of a key block by left tackle Ryan Harris, the former Cretin Derham-Hall and Notre Dame star.
Linebacker Anthony Barr, who set up a touchdown just before the half with an interception, and Harrison Smith, whose interception set up the tying field goal to make it 20-20, were the big stars on the Vikings defense, which performed reasonably well against superstar quarterback Peyton Manning.
As usual, after the Gophers football team lost 27-0 to Northwestern, quarterback Mitch Leidner took the blame, but he had no chance to do anything with the offensive line already crippled before losing Joe Bjorkland, and playing some inexperienced players.
So now freshman Demry Croft has gotten an opportunity, it’s the same old song and dance, just like with the Vikings when Fran Tarkenton quit winning and everyone wanted Tommy Kramer to play in the 1970s.
Gophers coach Jerry Kill said, “Tuesday I’ll make a lot more of a comment on [the quarterback situation], but I thought [Croft] was put in a bad situation where they’re playing different types of coverages, but he needed to play some because he’s our backup quarterback, been getting repped and that’s nothing against Mitch or anything like that. I talked to Mitch in the fourth quarter that we need to have somebody ready to play in case something happens. We repped him and I think it was good for him and we’ll see as we go here.”
I would be surprised if Leidner didn’t start at Purdue on Saturday. If he doesn’t produce, you will probably see Croft earlier, with him getting more ready to play than he was against Northwestern.
Will approve facilities
Dean Johnson, chair of the University of Minnesota Board of Regents, confirmed what was reported here last week, that the board will look to approve a Gophers athletics facilities plan this week.
“It’s never done until it’s done, but our plans are on Thursday, in the facilities operation committee of the regents, to finalize the schematics in regards to the athletics village, and Friday at our full board meeting … our hope is to take the final vote and pass it,” he said. “We’ve been holding briefings with individual regents and the administration and department of athletics, moving forward on the plan and the financing, and I would say that we’re 95 percent sure that it’s going to happen now this week.”
This news is very big for the school and its athletics department, enabling the Gophers to be more competitive with recruiting. It also will allow them to keep some of their stellar staff, including Kill.
Johnson said the nutrition center, weight rooms and academic center will be important for every Gophers athlete. He also talked about the importance of building a new track and field facility.
“Part of the proposal will be to make sure that the new track will be on the East Bank, which is in Minneapolis,” he said. “There had been some discussions about the St. Paul campus around the soccer stadium, but that is not going to happen. …
“That addresses another very important matter, and that is the Title IX issue that we want to subscribe to fully and move forward, so that when we begin the process and eventually name the new athletic director, hopefully the department of athletics will be in good shape and Title IX, we’ll be subscribing to that. And the athletics village, hopefully they will break ground sometime this fall.”
One big reason this deal got done was the work of Eric Kaler, who has been one of the best university presidents in school history in regards to athletics. Johnson talked about the difficult decisions a president has to make when it comes to funding.
“It is always a balancing act,” Johnson said. “We have a huge number of requests for facilities from Morris to Crookston and Duluth, Rochester, St. Paul, Minneapolis, all of our respective campuses. We are always in this balancing act, no doubt about it, because we have to remember what the tenants of the university are, and that’s outreach, academics and research.
“Contained within that, I think President Kaler does a very good balancing act of all these matters. We’re pleased with President Kaler. It’s very difficult these days to be the president of a major university. In fact he told me the other day that of the 14 Big Ten schools, he was first in seniority because of how fast presidents come and go. It’s a tough job to satisfy.”
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. firstname.lastname@example.org