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Vikings to ‘Cakewalk’ to 11-5 Record

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September 3, 2018

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Bob Lurtsema is known for his accurate predictions about how many games the Vikings will win and lose each season. And despite what you might think, the enthusiastic ex-Viking has at least once not been optimistic enough about his annual projections.

Lurtsema forecast a 10-6 record last season but the Vikings did even better, going 13-3 and almost earning their way to the Super Bowl. With most of their players returning, it’s no surprise the high-spirited former defensive lineman is “excited for this year.”

The Vikings face a difficult schedule that includes early road games against the Eagles, Packers and Rams—all NFL powers. Still, Lurtsema is optimistic about the club that he remains close to and knowledgeable about. “I think they’ll have a cakewalk at 11-5,” he said.

That’s a forecast Sports Illlustrated likes, too, with the publication’s NFL preview issue predicting Minnesota will share the NFC North Division title with the Packers and then advance to the conference championship game before losing to the Falcons.

Concerns about the 2018 team? S.I., Lurtsema and just about everybody else is on the same page in asking how effective new quarterback Kirk Cousins and the evolving offensive line will be. Lurtsema also wonders about rookie placekicker Daniel Carlson who performed to mixed reviews in the preseason.

There’s no speculating about the defense, though. “Defense wins championships, you know that. Our defense is awful, awful, awful good,” Lurtsema said.

The 2017 Vikings had the NFL’s No. 1 ranked defense in both yards and points allowed. That contrasted with one of the league’s worst defenses in 2014 when Mike Zimmer became head coach. Zimmer’s impact on the defense and the entire team has earned the highest respect from Lurtsema who played for Bud Grant, the legendary four-time Vikings Super Bowl coach.

Mike Zimmer

Lurtsema refers to Zimmer as “Bud Grant the second.” Then he added, “Zimmer is a no nonsense guy like Bud and he will not tolerate mental mistakes or less than 100 percent effort on each and every play.”

Worth Noting

The 49ers, the team the Vikings open the regular season schedule against next Sunday, will be much improved, according to Sports Illustrated, with the magazine forecasting a 9-7 record after last season’s 6-10.

Former Vikings running back Jerick McKinnon, now with the 49ers, has a torn ACL and is out for the season.

Patrick Klinger & Company from St. Paul is bringing 49ers legend Joe Montana to the Morrie Miller Athletic Foundation Banquet in Winona next Saturday. The event raises money for Winona area youth athletics. Previous speakers include Mike Ditka, Rod Carew, Bud Grant, Tom Lehman, Paul Molitor, Lou Nanne and Bart Starr.

The Gophers’ Antoine Winfield Jr., who broke several tackles returning a punt 76 yards for a touchdown last Thursday night against New Mexico State, was named the Big Ten’s Co-Special Teams Player of the Week today. Michigan’s Ambry Thomas, who returned a kickoff 99 yards for a score against Notre Dame, was the co-winner with Winfield.

Big Ten football teams lost only one nonconference game on opening weekend but not all was glowing. The conference’s East Division is sometimes referred to as college football’s best division but Michigan lost to Notre Dame on the road, and Penn State and Michigan State struggled to win home games against opponents who were big underdogs.

True freshman walk-on quarterback Zack Annexstad didn’t throw an interception in his first game starting for the Gophers last Thursday night. At IMG Academy in Florida last year he beat out Artur Sitkowski who started Saturday for Rutgers and threw three interceptions in the Scarlet Knights’ easy win over Texas State.

Dick Jonckowski will sign copies of his new book It’s All About Me when he emcees the CORES lunch program September 13 at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Bloomington, 1114 American Blvd. Gustavus Adolphus football coach Pete Haugen will be the guest speaker at the luncheon. For lunch reservations and other information, contact Jim Dotseth, dotsethj@comcast.net. Reservations must be made by September 10.

Dotseth noted that the University of Minnesota’s regular season opener and the Vikings’ last preseason game ended at the same time on Thursday night, even though the Viking game started an hour later. “When there was 2:04 left in the Viking game, there was 2:10 left in the Gopher game,” he wrote via email.

That was former Viking linebacker Ben Leber providing the TV color commentary on Fox Saturday for the California-North Carolina game .

David Gibbs, the former Gophers defensive coordinator, has the same title at Texas Tech. The Red Raiders lost their opener on Saturday to Ole Miss 47-27.

The Twins’ finished 14-14 in August, the third consecutive month the club was near .500. Minnesota’s record was 14-13 in July, 13-14 in June. The worst month so far was March-April when the Twins were 9-15.

The total handle for Canterbury Park’s popular Minnesota Festival of Champions yesterday was $1,005,728, the highest for the event since 1996 ($ 1,108,678). The Festival races are for Minnesota bred horses only.

A report from the National Sports Center in Blaine said sports events at the NSC generated more than $83 million in visitor economic impact. The report calculated spending from July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2018.

The report quantified economic benefits generated by visitors traveling more than 50 miles and staying overnight, and tracked spending in lodging, transportation, food and beverage, retail, recreation, business services, and venue rental.

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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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