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How about 10-6 Record for Vikings?

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September 13, 2017

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News about the Vikings, Gophers, Lynx and Twins in today’s notes-focused column.

Vikings rookies Dalvin Cook and center Pat Elflein impressed in Monday night’s opening game win over the Saints. Cook broke Adrian Peterson’s opening game rushing record for a Vikings rookie with his 127 yards and Elflein became the franchise’s first rookie starter at center since Mick Tingelhoff in 1962.

Dalvin Cook (photo courtesy of Minnesota Vikings)

Cook was the best running back in Monday night’s game that included the return of Peterson in a Saints uniform. The No. 2 draft choice showed speed, power and moves. Former Viking Bob Lurtsema said the elusive Cook can even make a 90 degree change in direction without slowing down.

Elflein, who looks like a draft day steal after being chosen in the third round, kept pass rushers away from quarterback Sam Bradford and showed his mobility on run plays. “He is the real deal,” Lurtsema raved. “He played so well. His awareness and peripheral vision is spectacular.”

Lurtsema is known for his accurate predictions about Vikings regular season records for wins and losses. He is forecasting 10-6 for this year’s team and a spot in the playoffs after the regular season ends on December 31. He believes Minnesota will either win or tie for the NFC North title.

Most everyone sees the Vikings and Packers at the top of the division but Lurtsema labeled the Lions a potential surprise team. “They know they got something cooking there,” he said about the Lions who signed quarterback Matthew Stafford to a contract extension making him the highest paid player in the NFL.

Bradford was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week this morning after his career record 143.0 passer rating performance against the Saints. He completed 27 of 32 passes and threw three touchdown passes.

For those who like to speculate about coaching changes, it seems probable Saints boss Sean Payton has to do better than a fourth consecutive 7-9 record. His team was unimpressive in Monday night’s 29-19 loss, and Peterson had what appeared to be an emotional exchange with the head coach on the sidelines.

Jim Carter sent text messages to a half dozen football Gophers earlier this week about Jerry Kill, their former head coach. Carter, a close friend of Kill and wife Rebecca, wanted to assure the players Kill was okay after minor seizures on Sunday.

Carter, captain of the 1969 Gophers, said the players were grateful for the communication and relieved to receive an update about Kill. “I heard back from everyone,” Carter said.

Kill has been seizure free in recent years but Carter said the now Rutgers offensive coordinator had a “couple of quick seizures” on Sunday and was hospitalized that night. Carter spoke with Rebecca on Monday and learned the coach was back at work.

Kill was coaching on the sidelines when hit by a player last Saturday. The blow may have contributed to the seizures on Sunday. “I and others have urged him to go to the press box because it’s safer,” Carter said.

Kill, though, prefers the sidelines where he can be close to his quarterbacks. He is in his first season at Rutgers and coaching for the first time since resigning as Minnesota coach during the 2015 season because of health issues. He is expected to coach in Rutgers’ home game Saturday against Morgan State. The Scarlet Knights are 0-2 following losses to Washington and Eastern Michigan.

Andrew Harte, the former Gophers kicker under Kill, transferred to Rutgers where he has made two of three field goal attempts this season. Harte, 22, is from Downers Grove, Illinois and joined the Gophers program in 2013.

Jeff Jones, who was on Kill’s staff at Minnesota, is assistant director of player development at Rutgers.

Gopher redshirt senior linebacker Cody Poock, who had 14 career starts under Kill and Tracy Claeys, is now a reserve behind sophomore Thomas Barber.

Redshirt sophomore wide receiver Isaiah Gentry, who was a much anticipated recruit from Cincinnati in 2014, left the Gophers program last month after having two career catches for 36 yards.

M Club director George Adzick said more than 40 members of the 1967 Minnesota Big Ten championship team have committed to attending a 50-year celebration in Minneapolis later this month. Players will be honored during the Minnesota-Maryland game at TCF Bank Stadium on September 30.

Williams Arena air conditioning.

Credit Lynx owner Glen Taylor with approving the temporary installation of air conditioning for his team’s WNBA playoff games at Williams Arena. “Glen was driven by two distinct motives, and none were financial,” said Lynx president Chris Wright. “No. 1 was the safety of players. No. 2 was the comfort of fans.”

The Lynx won its opening playoff game in nearly 90-year-old Williams Arena last night against the Mystics. Without a temporary air conditioning system that could cost nearly $1 million before the WNBA playoffs end in a few weeks, the temperature in the building would have been about 85 degrees.

But with air conditioning temps will be in the 61 to 71 degree range for all playoff games. The Aggreko company based in Houston has contracted with the Lynx to cool Williams Arena. The company has provided forced air for Olympic and PGA events in the past.

Wright said WNBA bylaws require that playoff games be scheduled in facilities with air conditioning. With Target Center’s renovation not completed, and Xcel Energy Center unavailable, the Lynx considered various options for home playoff games including locations outside Minneapolis-St. Paul. Taylor, though, didn’t want the team playing away from its home market.

The Lynx expect crowds of 8,000 to 10,000 for early playoff games but if the team qualifies for the WNBA Finals capacity crowds of 14,625 at Williams Arena are possible. Single game ticket prices for first round home games start at $6 for a college student.

Starting pitcher Kyle Gibson, 10-10, will be a key to whether the Twins qualify for the playoffs. He has a 4-0 record with a 1.38 ERA in his last five starts. Last night he pitched six innings, giving up four hits and no walks in Minnesota’s 16-0 win over the Padres.

The Twins won’t have to worry about cold weather postponing two of their Target Field games next April. The club will be the host team in two games in Puerto Rico against the Indians on April 17 and 18, with off days before and after the series. The Twins will play 79 home games instead of the usual 81.

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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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