Monday, Feb. 26, 2018

Murray's Restaurant


Van Clemens

Latest News

Test Your Vikings Trivia IQ Here

December 27, 2017 - (0) comments


How is everyone’s holiday season? Just sitting around this week? While you huddle near the fireplace, space heater or stove, consider testing your knowledge with this year-end Minnesota Vikings Holiday Trivia Quiz?

Earn a nifty score and impress your friends at a New Year’s party. No party plans? Well, take the quiz anyway. The following 20 questions could be a nice diversion from playing Solitaire.

Score 16 or more correct answers and qualify as a consultant for future quizzes. Answer 12 to 15 right and I am still impressed. Get half correct, or fewer? Well, as they say in sports, “There’s always next year.”

Here are the questions, with the answers following after question No. 20. Later your hands might be quivering from the cold weather, but send an email and let me know your score.

1. If the Vikings win Sunday against the Bears, Minnesota’s final regular season record will be 13-3. What year did the Vikings last lose only three games or fewer in a season?

2. Who are the three teams that have defeated the Vikings during the 2017 regular season?

3. Name the Vikings players invited to participate in the 2018 Pro Bowl in Orlando.

4. Wide receiver Adam Thielen, 27, is having a breakout season for his home state team. Name the Minnesota town where he was a four-sport prep athlete.

5. What’s the name of the Vikings’ practice facility and front office headquarters in Eden Prairie?

Mike Zimmer

6. How many surgeries has Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer had on his right eye?

7. Name the Viking offensive coordinator who resigned his position during the 2016 season.

8. Who was the Viking that tackled Aaron Rodgers and the hit resulted in a broken collarbone for the Packers’ great quarterback?

9. The Vikings have two starters and one reserve that played college football at Notre Dame. Can you name the three players?

10. Since the franchise’s first season in 1961, the Vikings have played the majority of their home regular season games at Met Stadium and in the Metrodome. Name the other facilities in Minnesota where they have played during the regular season.

11. What was the final score last Saturday night when the Vikings defeated the Packers in Green Bay?

12. After Vikings long snapper Kevin McDermott was injured during the Packers game, who took over his duties?

13. Where did Vikings’ quarterback Case Keenum play his college football?

14. The Wilf family has owned the Vikings since 2005. Who did the Wilfs purchase the franchise from?

15. What is Bud Grant’s real name?

16. Back in October the Vikings defeated the Bears 20-17 in Chicago. How many times have the Vikings won in their last 10 games at Soldier Field?

17. When the Vikings defeated the Redskins this season, how many different players scored touchdowns for Minnesota?

18. Sam Bradford’s knee has been the subject of much angst this fall. Is it the left or right knee that has been so troublesome?

19. This ex-Viking punter is heard on the team’s gameday radio broadcasts and shows. Who is he?

20. A former Vikings first round draft choice, this athlete also played baseball for the New York Mets. Who is he?

Trivia Quiz Answers

1. Who could forget (hopefully not you) that the 1998 Vikings went 15-1 during the regular season before “crashing” in the NFC title game at the Metrodome.

2. The 2017 Vikings have been defeated by the Steelers, 26-19; the Lions, 14-7; and the Panthers, 31-24. They have won 10 of their last 11 games heading into Sunday’s season-closing game against the Bears.

3. Linebacker Anthony Barr, defensive end Everson Griffen, cornerback Xavier Rhodes and wide receiver Adam Thielen are the four Vikings selected for the Pro Bowl. Admirers of safety Harrison Smith lie awake at night trying to figure out how he was left out.

4. Thielen’s home town is Detroit Lakes, Minnesota where he played football, basketball, baseball and golf. Three other native Minnesotans on the Vikings roster are wide receiver Michael Floyd, fullback C.J. Ham and kick return specialist Marcus Sherels.

5. Winter Park is the name of the team’s practice facility and front office headquarters. The Vikings will move into a new state-of-the-art complex in Eagan next year.

6. Mike Zimmer has reportedly had eight surgeries on his right eye in the last 12-plus months. A difficult ordeal, but he’s a tough guy.

7. With the Vikings offensive struggling in November of 2016, Norv Turner resigned as offensive coordinator. Assistant tight ends coach Pat Shurmur was promoted to coordinator, and this year his name is mentioned for possible 2018 head coaching vacancies in the NFL.

8. It was, of course, Anthony Barr who made the now infamous tackle on Rodgers that has sidelined him for most of the season. This was a “layup” answer so presumably most everyone scored a point.

9. The three former “Golden Domers” are wide receiver Michael Floyd, tight end Kyle Rudolph and safety Harrison Smith. All are 28 years old and were teammates in South Bend.

10. You are a Purple trivia genius if you got this one correct. The answer is TCF Bank Stadium (2014 and 2015 seasons), U.S. Bank Stadium (2016 to present) and Memorial Stadium. The Vikings were forced to play one regular season game at the University of Minnesota’s old Memorial Stadium in 1969 because of a scheduling conflict at Met Stadium.

11. I am guessing that five years from now a lot of Vikings fans will still remember Minnesota dominated the Packers last Saturday night in a 16-0 win. Christmas came early for all Green Bay-hating Vikings fans.

12. Kevin McDermott’s replacement was David Morgan, a backup tight end and the reserve long snapper. Morgan got the job done without a miscue at Green Bay.

13. Case Keenum was an NCAA record-setting quarterback at the University of Houston where his coaches included former Gopher wide receiver Tony Levine who was assistant head coach of the Cougars.

14. Red McCombs, who made his fortune in the car business in Texas, sold the Vikings in 2005 for a reported $625 million after purchasing the franchise for supposedly $250 million about seven years earlier. McCombs used to preach that the Metrodome had “the loudest fans in the NFL.” Would you buy a used car from this man?

15. The legendary former Vikings head coach has been known as Bud for most of his 90 years but his real name is Harry Peter Grant.

16. The Vikings’ win at Soldier Field this fall was only the team’s second in the last 10 games there. The other victory was in 2015.

17. Five Vikings scored touchdowns in the team’s 38-30 win against the Redskins. That is the second highest total in team history.

18. Sam Bradford set an NFL record for completion percentage last season after being acquired by the Vikings but this year his troublesome left knee has kept him sidelined for all but two games.

19. Greg Coleman, who punted for the Vikings from 1978-87, is heard on gamedays giving his analysis including his “Sunday Sermon” where he mixes Biblical and football metaphors.

20. Ouch. I couldn’t resist ending with a difficult question. D.J. Dozier, a former Penn State running back drafted No. 1 by the Vikings in 1987, later played outfield for the New York Mets.


Fleck Talks Up New Wide Receiver

December 21, 2017 - (0) comments


The 26-man Gophers football class announced yesterday on National Signing Day is ranked the best in the Big Ten West Division but that doesn’t mean the majority of players will be ready to make an impression on the field next fall.

The surest contributor could be four-star wide receiver Rashod Bateman from Tifton, Georgia. “I think he can make the biggest impact for us right now because we need some speed, some explosiveness, some playmaking ability on the outside, and I think he does that,” Gophers coach P.J. Fleck told the Big Ten Network yesterday.

Minnesota had one of the more unproductive passing offenses in major college football last season. The issue wasn’t just the quarterbacks, it was the inability of receivers to get open.

Playing for Tift County High School this year, Bateman had 83 receptions for 1,539 yards and 21 touchdowns. He was good enough that national power Georgia tried to persuade him to change the verbal commitment he made to the Gophers in June.

Allen Trieu from 247Sports, the recruiting authority that gives the Gophers 2018 class a composite No. 30 national rankingy, talked about the 6-2, 185-pound Bateman on the Big Ten Network yesterday. “Rashod Bateman is one of the best athletes in this class,” Trieu said. “A kid that Minnesota got on early, got him committed after one of their satellite camps, and had to hold off Georgia, Texas A&M, a bunch of schools…late.

“…Really athletic kid. He was a high school basketball prospect. Penn State, Virginia Tech, both offered him. His basketball (team) won a state title. I think you’ll see him out there on the field next year.”

Bateman is one of 10 candidates for the American Family All-USA Offensive Player of the Year award reported on this fall in USA Today. Ryan Burns, publisher of GopherIllustrated website affiliated with 247Sports, refers to Bateman as the “crown jewel” of Minnesota’s 2018 class.

Fleck photo courtesy of Minnesota Athletic Communications

After being hired in January of this year, Fleck and his assistants had to scramble in signing their 2017 recruiting class last February which had a No. 59 composite ranking from 247Sports. From that 25-man group, only a few earned significant minutes including wide receiver Demetrius Douglas and safety Ken Holly-Handy.

But more players are likely to emerge from the 2018 class to help next fall. Minnesota has needs not only at receiver but in the offensive line and at quarterback, and a number of recruits are intriguing at those positions.  Names include junior college tackle Jason Dickson and four-star prep guard Curtis Dunlap. Vic Viramontes, labeled by 247Sports as the best dual-threat junior college quarterback in the country, could emerge from spring practices as Minnesota’s No. 1 quarterback.

Worth Noting

Fleck signed five state of Minnesota players yesterday and signed the same number last February. Big Ten recruiting has become such a national hunt for talent that signing a small number of Minnesotans isn’t unusual. Ohio State has signed four Ohioans in a state long known for its high school football excellence, according to a listing by 247Sports which also ranked the Buckeyes class No 2 in the nation.

Among Fleck’s five Minnesotans, Josh Aune is the first player from the St. Paul public schools to sign a National Letter of Intent with the Gophers in 15 years. The athletic Aune may become a safety at Minnesota.

Jerry Kill, who announced his resignation this week as Rutgers offensive coordinator because of health concerns, told Sports Headliners he will take some time off to decide about future plans. The 56-year-old former Gophers coach and his wife Rebecca are returning to their home in Illinois. They recently became grandparents for the first time.

Fleck announced today that defensive backfield coach Maurice Lindguist, known for his teaching skills and ability to recruit players in Texas and Georgia, will now have the title of assistant head coach.

Anthony Barr has to be a focus of security protection when the Vikings are in Wisconsin for Saturday night’s game with the Packers. Barr has been threatened by fans since he tackled quarterback Aaron Rodgers, resulting in a broken collarbone in the Vikings-Packers game in Minneapolis October 15. forecasts a Green Bay temperature of 16 degrees and wind gusts of 14 MPH nearing kickoff at 7:30 p.m. Saturday night.

There’s fond reminiscing about cold weather Vikings games in the 1960s and 1970s at the old Met Stadium but because of shorter NFL seasons and earlier playoff dates, only one game was ever played in January. That was the January 4, 1970 NFL championship game.

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer responding yesterday to a question if there is a difference in playing a team like the Packers that is eliminated from qualifying for the playoffs, and if he talks to his players about it: “…It’s a division game. We have a lot to play for. What I talked to them about was two weeks ago we lost. We had a new sense of urgency and a new focus, and that’s what we need to do again.

“Just because we won this last week doesn’t mean, ‘Ok, we can go back to how we were,’ and end up getting beat. We just try to stay on point with everything we do, and continue to move forward and continue to try to get wins.”

A factor in the Twins’ reported willingness to spend big money in pursuit of free agent pitcher Yu Darvish could be that Joe Mauer’s $184 million contract expires after the 2018 season. It wouldn’t be surprising if Mauer, who will be 35 by then and is a committed family man, retires in the fall of 2018. But if he decides to play a 16th season with the Twins he will be taking a “haircut” in compensation.

Mauer’s grandfather, Jake Mauer, was friends with the late Ralph Jon Fritz, the former WCCO TV sportscaster who passed away earlier this month. After Fritz moved to Florida years ago, he and Jake played golf together.

FOX Sports North will televise “Twins Town Hall” live from the Target Field Champions Club tonight starting at 7 p.m. A discussion will include Joe Mauer, manager Paul Molitor, and team executives Derek Falvey and Thad Levine. The group will be in front of a live studio audience consisting of season ticket holders and select fans. Fans may submit questions for the panel via Twitter: @fsnorth, #TwinsTownHall.

The basketball Gophers are 3-0 historically against Oral Roberts, the team they play tonight at Williams Arena. The Tulsa-based school is named after the late Oral Roberts who was known as a TV faith healer.

The Golden Eagles are 4-10 this season, including a 104-69 loss to Arkansas Tuesday night. The Razorbacks defeated Minnesota 95-79 earlier this month.

ESPN NBA analyst Jeff Van Gundy said during last week’s Minneapolis telecast of the Timberwolves-Sixers game he was surprised about local concerns regarding the Wolves’ performance this season. His take is positive, noting this is a franchise that hasn’t had a team in the playoffs since 2004. The Wolves, who are 19-13 and in first place in the Northwest Division, have the fourth best record in the Western Conference.


P.J. Fleck Reeling in Hyped Reruits

December 19, 2017 - 2 Comments


It sounds improbable but indefatigable P.J. Fleck will likely have an extra bounce in his step tomorrow when announcing his 26-man 2018 recruiting class. The first-year University of Minnesota head football coach and his staff will land a group on National Signing Day that recruiting evaluators believe is the school’s best this decade and could rank No. 1 in the Big Ten West Division.

Ryan Burns, the college football recruiting authority and publisher of, has studied Fleck’s recruits all year. “This is a different kind of recruiting class,” he told Sports Headliners during an interview last weekend.

How so?

Burns said the 24 high school and two junior college student-athletes expected to sign their paperwork committing them to the Gophers were pursued by more Power Five Conference schools than the 2013-2017 Minnesota recruiting classes combined. That’s an indication of the quality, he said, of Fleck’s 2018 class, that so many of the players were also recruited by schools from the ACC, Big-12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC conferences.

Ryan Burns

“That’s a big deal,” Burns said. “For people who say P.J. is all smoke and mirrors, I don’t know how you can say that (now).”

Fleck, 37, came to Minnesota last January from Western Michigan with a reputation for recruiting and being one of college football’s rising stars among coaches. It certainly looks like Fleck, with his energy and ability to woo teenagers in person and via social media, is living up to his brand as a salesman. Fleck also has a staff of assistants who are known for their recruiting prowess, including Matt Simon and Ed Warinner.

Recruiting authorities like use a star system to label prep and junior college prospects. 247Sports analyzes information from other recruiting services and offers composite rankings. As of today, the Gophers have a 247Sports composite ranking of No. 28 in the country. ranks the Minnesota class No. 27.

Ohio State is ranked No. 1 nationally by 247Sports. Five of 14 Big Ten programs, including Ohio State, are ahead of Minnesota but all are from the Big Ten’s East Division. Wisconsin, the 2017 West Division champion, is No. 2 in the division rankings at No. 33.

There have long been skeptics about how much credibility there is in recruiting rankings. It’s obviously not a perfect predictor of a team’s future success but many of college football’s best programs—from Alabama to Washington—often are top-ranked in the recruiting game.

The Gophers need better talent to catch the Badgers, not just in the 2018 class but beyond. From a division perspective, they’re also looking up at a Northwestern team that finished 9-4 overall last season and has won seven consecutive Big Ten games. Iowa is always competitive and sometimes rises up for a breakthrough year like 2015 when the Hawkeyes earned their way to the Rose Bowl.

Minnesota has plenty of work ahead to compete against the Badgers, Wildcats, Hawkeyes and the other teams in the West Division. Upgrading personnel is where it starts for Minnesota and in the Internet era of recruiting rankings, the Gophers’ 2018 class is second only to the school’s 2008 class.

In next year’s class the Gophers have four athletes who have been labeled four-star recruits and they play positions of priority for Fleck. Wide receiver Rashod Bateman, offensive guard Curtis Dunlap, offensive tackle Daniel Faalele and quarterback Victor Viramontes could all become impact players for Minnesota.

Bateman, from Tifton, Georgia, is one of 10 candidates for the American Family All-USA Offensive Player of the Year award reported on this fall in USA Today. “Rashod Bateman is the crown jewel of this (recruiting) class—someone that we have rated as the No. 200 player overall in the country,” said Burns whose website is affiliated with 247Sports. “He is a four-star (out of five) wide receiver, and for him being an out of state recruit to turn down four different SEC schools in Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee and Ole Miss, that’s a really big deal. That hasn’t happened for Minnesota recruits in quite some time.”

The Gophers have been struggling to find quality and depth among their pass receivers for awhile now. Burns believes help is on the way, and not just with Bateman who he expects will compete for a starting position as a freshman.

Jornell Manns, from Mansfield, Ohio, caught over 30 touchdown passes as a senior and was a Mr. Football candidate in his state. Burns foresees Manns as a slot receiver “who can make an immediate impact.”

Brevyn Spann-Ford

Among receivers, Burns also highlighted Brevyn Spann-Ford from St. Cloud Tech. Spann-Ford is 6-6, 237 pounds and Burns sees him as a “red zone threat” as either a wide receiver or tight end.

Minnesota’s lack of depth on the offensive line was an ongoing story in 2017. Dunlap and six other offensive linemen in the 2018 recruiting class are expected to help fix the depth problem and also upgrade the talent level. It’s been more than 11 years since a Minnesota offensive lineman has been drafted by the NFL.

Dunlap, 6-4, 368 pounds, is from the IMG Academy in Florida. Burns said Dunlap is Minnesota’s highest ranked offensive lineman commit in memory. Dunlap’s IMG teammate, the 6-8, 400-pound Faalele, was pursued by Alabama and Georgia, but he will play for Minnesota as one of the biggest Gophers in program history.

Burns said Texas prep offensive tackle Jack York was extended scholarship offers in recent weeks by multiple SEC schools but is keeping his commitment to Minnesota. Grant Norton, an offensive tackle commit from Missouri, turned down Nebraska and Wisconsin, according to Burns.

Burns believes junior college transfer Jason Dickson from California could soon be Minnesota’s starting right tackle. Dickson reportedly declined offers from Arizona State and UCLA.

“You just don’t find seven offensive line commits like this—that are all some of the hottest names—for schools trying to come and flip them,” Burns said.

While receivers and offensive linemen have commanded attention in the past, it’s been the quarterback position, more than any other, which has often had Minnesota fans on edge and reaching for Maalox. Next year the Gophers go into spring practice without any significant game experience at the position. There are, however, two quarterbacks in the 2018 recruiting class who are much anticipated and will likely be in a spring battle with redshirt freshman Tanner Morgan.

Already the favorite for the job, at least among fans, is Viramontes who coming out of high school committed to Michigan. He ended up at California and instead of being Jared Goff’s successor as the Golden Bears’ quarterback got caught up in a coaching change. This fall, after playing for Riverside Community College in California, he was rated by 247Sports the best junior college quarterback in the country.

Viramontes, 6-2, 230 pounds, has been compared with former Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow. He has that kind of athleticism and showed skills running and passing at Riverside.

“You’re going to see the read-option make a triumphant return with Viramontes there (at Minnesota),” Burns predicted. “He is one of the best athletes I think we’ve seen at Minnesota in quite some time. He is going to have the ball in his hands every snap of the game.”

Burns said Viramontes must improve his decision making when passing. “He only did throw eight interceptions this year but I think he is going to be a big boom or bust player in the passing game. He is either going to be hitting big shots or he might be throwing an interception or two, which…is something Minnesota fans are used to.

“But I think you’ll also see a Minnesota passing game—which…stop the presses—completes more than nine passes a game with Viramontes. I think that he has a very high ceiling here at Minnesota and he’s going to have three years to accomplish that.”

It’s uncommon for a preferred walk-on to be a candidate to become the starting quarterback at a Big Ten program but Zack Annexstad might be the exception. The Mankato, Minnesota native was outstanding this fall playing at IMG Academy in Florida. Burns said by mid-season the pro-style quarterback had won the starting job, beating out Artur Sitkowski, a 247Sports four-star commit headed to Rutgers.

Annexstad reportedly had scholarship offers from other programs but chose to walk-on with his home state team. Burns points out how unusual that is and said it’s an indication of both Annexstad’s abilities and Fleck’s persuasiveness.

Like Viaramontes and several others, Annexstad will enroll in school in January and be preparing for the 2018 Gopher season. “Annexstad is going to have every opportunity (to start),” Burns said.

The Gophers have a large class they are hoping to finalize tomorrow and it includes defensive players who Burns raves about. Names include defensive tackle Elijah Teague from Chicago who reportedly had offers from Oklahoma and Wisconsin. Georgia cornerback Terell Smith has exceptional speed and Burns said Smith will remind Gophers fans of a bigger Jalen Myrick.

Then there is Eden Prairie High School cornerback Benny Sapp III who despite missing most of the season with a knee injury received a scholarship offer recently from new Nebraska coach Scott Frost. Sapp is keeping the commitment to Minnesota he made last winter.

What Fleck and his assistants know is that the 2018 class will have to be the first of many exceptional recruiting groups for them to build not only a winning season or two, but more importantly to sustain a successful program. “You always want to out recruit the class you just signed,” Burns said.

Burns predicts the 2019 class will be smaller in total number but perhaps have a higher ranking than in 2018. That will have everything to do with signing high profile players like Edina junior offensive tackle Quinn Carroll. Another local player who Burns sees the Gophers targeting is Eden Prairie quarterback Cole Kramer. Burns predicted Kramer, the grandson of former Gopher player and athletic director Tom Moe, could be the first commitment for the class of 2019.


Other Categories