Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019


 

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By Land or Air Cook in Vikings Plans

 

A Thursday notes column with the focus on the Vikings and Golden Gophers football.

Dalvin Cook is second in NFL rushing yards with 574 yards. Twice he has totaled 21 carries in a game this season and two years ago he had 27 rushing attempts in the third game of his rookie year. Questioned yesterday if he could handle 30 carries as the team’s prominent runner and emerging main man on offense, Cook said he is ready to do “whatever the coaches” want.

Asked about 20-plus carries a game for Cook, head coach Mike Zimmer said Monday: “I want us to do whatever we have to do to win. I don’t really care how many carries he gets or how many times we throw the ball. It’s all about trying to do the best that we can do to win.

“When he has the ball in his hand, he’s very dangerous as you can see on that tape. There’s so many ‘wow’ plays when he has the ball in his hands that he can do so much damage. When we get the passing game going like we did yesterday (last Sunday) and him running, I think it’s a good mixture.”

Cook not only had 132 yards rushing on Sunday against the New York Giants but a career high 86 yards in pass receptions. He has rushed for over 100 yards in three of the team’s five games and was questioned about the possibility of going over the 100 mark in receptions for the first time as a pro. “It would be great,” Cook said.

The Eagles, who the Vikings play Sunday in Minneapolis, are the NFL’s No. 1 ranked defense against the run, allowing just 63 yards per game. Philadelphia ranks No. 27 against the pass, giving up 271.2 yards. Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins and Cook figure to be main contributors to an offense that will balance the run and pass.

“For whatever reason he tends to make that first guy miss on the tackle,” Cousins said in evaluating Cook. “That’s the mark of a great running back. (I am) so encouraged to see the way he not only runs the ball, but you have to remember he catches the ball. It’s just as important that he’s effective there as well (pass receptions), and he has been. …He can still have the same effect after a catch as after a handoff.”

Cousins praised Cook as a player with stamina, someone who can handle a lot of carries and still perform. “He’s right back (running), again and again,” Cousins said.

Matt Birk told Sports Headliners his new Unity High School in Burnsville has 14 students enrolled and will grow in the years ahead. The former Viking center predicts his former team will defeat the Eagles by seven points Sunday.

Vikings defensive back Mike Hughes, who missed most of last season with a torn ACL, has played in the last three games. He told Sports Headliners he is playing without a brace in both games and practices.

Former Viking Andrew Sendejo is listed as a second team safety with the Eagles defense, while ex-Gopher Craig James is a third team cornerback.

Looks like the 5-0 Gophers will be playing in temperatures in the mid to upper 30’s Saturday night at TCF Bank Stadium against Big Ten West Division rival Nebraska, 4-2. The team has been practicing in cooler temps in its practice facility and using other ploys to prepare for the weather conditions, per head coach P.J. Fleck.

P.J. Fleck

Gophers offensive left tackle Sam Schlueter, a redshirt junior from Victoria, Minnesota, has improved from being a marginal performer to outstanding. Fleck said Schlueter’s commitment and maturity in the process has been impressive.

“He’s been the (Gophers’) Offensive Line Player of the Week four straight weeks,” Fleck said. “This is a guy that needed some time off for a while a few years back, was going through some really tough times. It’s fun to watch guys like that go through that. That’s why you coach.”

Players on Fleck’s roster who aren’t seeing game action participate in Sunday scrimmages. Among those who are impressing the coach is 6-2, 310-pound freshman defensive lineman DeAngelo Carter from Leesburg, Georgia.

“If you look at the defensive line (among reserves), there’s a plethora of guys.” Fleck said. “DeAngelo, he is going to be a special football player. His motor never stops. His first step off the ball is scary quick and fast.”

Among the traditions of Gophers football are the Goal Line Club sponsored Friday lunch programs at Jax Café. This Friday the booster club has arranged for Minnesota defensive line coach Jim Panagos and former Gopher offensive lineman Tommy Olson to speak. More at Goallineclub.org.

Gophers basketball fans need encouragement this week after hearing redshirt junior Eric Curry has sustained another knee injury, casting doubt about his future availability with the program. But fans won’t find much to be happy about reading college basketball preview magazines.

Street & Smith’s publication forecasts a 10th place finish and of course that was written before news concerning Curry, a 6-9 experienced forward expected to be one of the team’s better players. Lindy’s college basketball issue projects an 11th place Gopher finish in the 14-team Big Ten.

Wisconsin, with Minnesota natives Brad Davison and Nate Reuvers among the team’s key players, will finish fifth in the Big Ten, per Street & Smith’s. Lindy’s projects the Badgers seventh, with both publications predicting Michigan State and Maryland will be No. 1 and 2 in the league.

Kylie Miller, the Gophers volleyball transfer from UCLA, hasn’t played in a match since September 27 because of “medical issues,” Hugh McCutheon told Sports Headliners this morning. The coach said “it’s day-to-day” on her return to game competition.

John Gilbert, the former Minneapolis hockey writer now living in Duluth and still following the Gophers, refers to Minnesota’s Bob Motzko as a “great coach.” He thinks Motzko’s second season Gopher team will be improved after not qualifying for the NCAA Tournament last winter.

Years ago the Gophers won with a roster of all-Minnesotans. Gilbert believes a return to that policy would elevate the program’s success. “Make it the beacon where all the (Minnesota) kids want to go,” he told Sports Headliners.

It was 63 years ago this week that New York Yankees pitcher Don Larsen threw the only no-hit perfect game in World Series history. On October 8, 1956 Larsen shut down the Brooklyn Dodgers, 2-0, in a game that lasted 2:06.

While MLB playoff games elsewhere have struggled to draw capacity crowds, the Twins’ attendance of 41,121 Monday night was a sell-out and the 11th largest ever at Target Field.

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David Shama

David Shama is a former sports editor and columnist with local publications. His writing and reporting experiences include covering the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Gophers. Shama’s career experiences also include sports marketing. He is the former Marketing Director of the Minnesota North Stars of the NHL. He is also the former Marketing Director of the United States Tennis Association’s Northern Section. A native of Minneapolis, Shama has been part of the community his entire life. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota where he majored in journalism. He also has a Master’s degree in education from the University of St. Thomas. He was a member of the Governor’s NBA’s Task Force to help create interest in bringing pro basketball to town in the 1980s.

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