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Gophers Need to Make ‘Statement’

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August 29, 2012

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The way Troy Stoudermire looks at things it’s time for the Gophers to break away from the past.  The assignment starts tomorrow night on the road against UNLV in Minnesota’s 2012 opening game.

“It means a lot to go win this game,” Stoudermire told Sports Headliners.  “Winning this game is just one step to what we’re trying to accomplish.  We gotta come make a statement.

“Every year we’ve been having a team full of talent but we never could get that done.  That’s the way we gotta look at it.  But this year we’re gonna get that done.”

No player on Minnesota’s roster has more perspective about the program than Stoudermire, a senior cornerback and record-setting kickoff returner.  He was a freshman on the 2008 team and was granted a fifth season of eligibility in 2012 by the NCAA because a broken arm limited him to four games last season.

Minnesota’s season records during the Stoudermire era are 7-6-, 6-7, 3-9 and 3-9.  That adds up to 19 wins, 31 losses and the record of the last four years has a lot to do with why the college football world has low expectations again for the Gophers.  Stoudermire said nobody outside the program gives the Gophers “a chance” to accomplish much in 2012 “but we gotta make a name for ourselves.”

He has been impressed with his teammates during August practices leading up to tomorrow night’s game when the Gophers are expected to win by a touchdown or more.  He said the offense is “really good,” led by senior dual-threat quarterback MarQueis Gray who “can do anything.”

The defense?

“This has been the lowest penalty rated camp that I’ve been at on defense,” Stoudermire said.  “…I’ve seen the defense improve way more than any other year I’ve been here.  We’ve just been on point.  Everyone is making calls.  Everyone is in the right spot and doing what they’re supposed to do, and not trying to do a little extra, and that’s all you need to have a really good defense.”

Gophers, Vikings & Other Notes:

UNLV is a struggling program like the Gophers.  The Rebels were 2-11 last season, winning games at home against New Mexico (45-10) and Wyoming (42-16).  Third-year coach Bobby Hauck is 4-21 at UNLV.

Among NCAA teams last season the Gophers ranked 110th in total offense, UNLV 117th.  In total defense Minnesota ranked No. 77 with the Rebels at No. 105.

Kickoff for the Minnesota-UNLV game is 10:04 p.m. tomorrow.  A daytime high of 102 degrees and overnight low of 79 in Las Vegas is forecast by weather.com.  Gophers coach Jerry Kill will “play a lot of kids” and the players were told starting last week to consume plenty of fluids.

Quarterback MarQueis Gray had to leave the opening game at USC last year because of heat-induced arm cramps.  That’s something Kill expects Gray to avoid tomorrow night.  “We’ll take care of that,” Kill said.  “MarQueis sweats a ton so we’ll have to make sure he takes plenty of fluid in.”

Kill plans to redshirt all his freshmen offensive linemen including Isaac Hayes and Jonah Pirsig, the two highly publicized Minnesota natives.  He will also redshirt former Lakeville South High School quarterback Mitch Leidner.

That means Philip Nelson, the freshman from Mankato West, along with sophomore Max Shortell will be the backup quarterbacks to Gray for the UNLV game.  Kill didn’t say so but he probably hopes to redshirt Nelson too.

Kill brought in outside speakers to address the team during August practices including former Gophers All-American safety Tyrone CarterDon Banham, former Minneapolis police officer and father of Gophers football player Cole Banham and Gophers women’s basketball star Rachel Banham, also spoke to the team.

The Big Ten Network is celebrating its fifth anniversary this month.

The Vikings need a win tomorrow night in Houston over the Texans to finish the preseason at 2-2.  Last Friday night at Mall of America Field the Vikings lost 12-10 to the Chargers and it looked like about 65 percent of the seats were filled.

With new automated parking meters near the stadium, the city was charging a Vikings game night rate of $3 per hour Friday.  Unless you pay by credit card, that’s 48 quarters to park for four hours.

Merchandise sold in the stadium concourse Friday night included a Christian Ponder jersey for $115 and a limited edition Adrian Peterson jersey for $155.

Former Vikings linebacker Ben Leber, who has been doing TV-radio sideline reporting during the team’s preseason games, told Sports Headliners he will be a game analyst for Conference USA football games on Fox.  He will also provide game analysis on two Western Michigan games for ESPNU.

Red McCombs, who sold the Vikings in 2005, has mixed feelings about not having the franchise anymore, according to Chad Ostlund who worked for McCombs and remains a friend.  Ostlund said McCombs was “frustrated” about the team’s new stadium efforts when he, McCombs, owned the team.

The Twins, who lost a second consecutive game last night to Seattle at home, haven’t hit a home run in 10 of their last 11 games.  They have been out scored 47-19 in their last eight games (seven losses).

Joe Mauer has now caught 833 games for the Twins, surpassing Earl Battey’s franchise record for a catcher of 831.

The St. Thomas football team, recently ranked No. 4 nationally by Lindy’s Sports and No. 7 by USA Today, begins its season on Saturday at UW-Eau Claire.   The Division III Tommies are coming off consecutive 10-0 regular seasons.

St. Thomas’ Curtis James, Riley Dombek, Chinni Oji, Harry Pitera and Garrett Maloney, Augsburg’s Adam Carl, Saint John’s Bobby Fischer, Bethel’s Josh Wolfe and Concordia’s Tom Knowlton were selected preseason Division III All-Americans by various sources.  Saint John’s kicker Jimmie Mattson was named to the Fred Mitchell Award Watch List for the second consecutive season. The award is annually presented to the nation’s top collegiate kicker, regardless of division.

Schools and other non-profit organizations serving youth located within a 50 mile radius of Target Center can enter a contest to win a $10,000 donation for basketball court renovation.  www.timberwolves.com/community

Lindsey Berg, who helped the USA volleyball team to the silver medal in the 2012 Olympics, is among nine women and men who will be inducted into the Gophers Sports Hall of Fame on September 20 at TCF Bank Stadium.  Ticket information about the event is available by calling 1-800-U-Gopher.

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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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