Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019


 

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Craig Leipold’s House Dodges Dorian

 

Enjoy a Thursday notes column with news about the Wild, Twins, Gophers and Vikings.

Dorian, the hurricane that has ravaged parts of the Caribbean this week including the Bahamas, didn’t damage Great Exuma Island in the Bahamas where Minnesota Wild owner Craig Leipold has a home. Abaco Island in the Bahamas, located about 200 miles from Leipold’s home, was devastated. Leipold was told there was a lot of rain in recent days on Great Exuma, but no property damage.

“We were lucky we dodged it,” Leipold told Sports Headliners yesterday. “The next one, who knows?”

Leipold is looking forward so much to the start of the Wild’s 2019-2020 season he has decided to postpone his fourth hip replacement until January. He was scheduled for September surgery on his right hip but with the doctor’s approval decided to wait until next year.

The Twins have a Cleveland stopper in right-hand starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi. He is 2-0 this season against the Indians who come to Minneapolis for a three-game series starting Friday. He has a 1:04 ERA in 17.1 innings pitched versus the Indians, who as of this morning are 5.5 games behind the Twins in the race to win the American League Central Division title. The Indians lead the season series so far 7-6.

In Odorizzi’s last Cleveland start he pitched 5.2 shutout inngs with six strikeouts. That August 10 win at Target Field was pivotal because it broke a first place tie with the Indians and provided Minnesota a one game lead in the division.

Odorizzi has a career high 14 wins (14-6 record) and will make a Saturday start in the upcoming series. In his last seven starts, he is 3-1 with a 3.00 ERA.

A spokesman in the Twins ticket office said yesterday only ballpark access tickets ($25) remain for Saturday night’s game, with greater inventory available for Friday evening and Sunday afternoon.

The Twins will make an announcement Monday regarding playoff tickets for the general public. Details have already been provided to season ticket holders. The club is also renewing season tickets for 2020 and selling to new account holders.

P.J. Fleck

The football Gophers are 1-6 in games on the West Coast (in California, Oregon, Washington) during the last 50 years. The only win came at Oregon State two years ago in coach P.J. Fleck’s first season. Saturday night Minnesota plays at Fresno State, with a 9:30 p.m. Minneapolis time kickoff and temps expected in the 80s.

Talking on his weekly KFAN Radio show Tuesday, Fleck said he will keep his players on Central Daylight time and not reset watches while in California. For preparation, the heat has been turned up in the Gophers’ practice facility.

Fresno State is one of the best teams in the Mountain West Conference, a league that experienced an impressive opening weekend several days ago. Fresno State lost but was competitive at USC (31-23), while rival power Boise State defeated Florida State from the ACC in Tallahassee. The Mountain West’s Hawaii, Nevada and Wyoming staged upset wins over three Power Five teams, Arizona, Purdue and Missouri respectively.

Minnesota has been one of the least penalized teams in the nation dating back to the 2017 season, Fleck’s first with the Gophers. In the past 26 games the Gophers have been penalized 93 times for 888 yards. In 2016 Minnesota was penalized 88 times for 743 yards in 13 games.

SI.com’s NFL power rankings of 32 teams posted on Tuesday offered this top 10: Patriots, Chiefs, Saints, Rams, Eagles, Cowboys, Packers, Falcons, Steelers and Chargers. The Vikings ranked No. 14, with the Bears at 11. NFC North rivals the Packers, Bears and Vikings made the top 15, with the division’s fourth team, the Lions, at No. 22.

The Vikings, 8-7-1 last season, start their regular season Sunday at home against a Falcons team that also disappointed in 2018 with their 7-9 record. The Falcons have perhaps the NFL’s best unit of wide receivers led by the great Julio Jones, but quarterback Matt Ryan, 34, doesn’t have a strong arm and that may cue the Vikings safeties to play nearer the line of scrimmage and more easily stop the run.

Not much is being said about it, but the Vikings seem likely to often use a two tight ends formation this season with Kyle Rudolph and Irv Smith Jr. Such a scheme changes the technique of defensive linemen and makes them wonder whether the offense will attack with a run or pass.

Vikings running back Dalvin Cook is counted on to have a breakout season after being held back by injuries in 2017 and 2018. Statistics support his reputation as a playmaker. He has a career rushing average of 4.7 yards, with nine runs of 20-plus yards or more. As a pass receiver he is averaging 7.7 yards, with six receptions of 20-plus yards.

Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer after being asked what needs to happen for this season to be a success: “I would say the biggest thing is…if we go out and we play really smart football, (and) we don’t beat ourselves. We control the explosive plays in the game, on both sides of the ball. We have them and they (opponents) don’t. …I think if we are effective in the last 10 minutes of the fourth quarter in ball games, I think we’ll be good.”

New this year at U.S. Bank Stadium is having a young Vikings fan push the button that opens the massive doors and allows fresh air into the facility. The facility opened in 2016 and late last month was ranked No. 1 among NFL stadiums by Dan Graziano writing for SI.com.

Former Viking Adrian Peterson, now with the Redskins, is tied with Jim Brown for the fifth most rushing touchdowns in NFL history, 106 each. The all-time leader is Emmitt Smith with a 164.

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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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