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Vikings to Face “Lousy” Team Sunday

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December 7, 2016

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Bob Lurtsema makes his opinion clear about Sunday’s Vikings-Jaguars game in Jacksonville. “If you can’t beat a team that lousy, you got problems,” he told Sports Headliners.

The former Vikings defensive lineman is still close to his old team. When he speaks about his favorite franchise, it’s a good idea to listen. He predicted, for example, the 2015 Vikings would finish with a 10-6 record even though they had been 7-9 the season before. The Vikings made Lurtsema look good with an 11-5 record and an NFC North Division title in 2015.

The 6-6 Vikings, who still could qualify for the playoffs, play a Jaguars club that is 2-10. The other three teams remaining on the Vikings schedule are the 6-6 Colts, 6-6 Packers and 3-9 Bears. The Jaguars look like the weakest of the four opponents.

Bob Lurtsema

Bob Lurtsema

What about the Vikings’ playoff chances if they lose to Jacksonville? “It’s over,” said Lurtsema who thinks Minnesota may make the playoffs as a Wild Card team.

Among reasons the Jaguars are struggling is third-year quarterback Blake Bortles, who has thrown 15 interceptions in 12 starts and has a low passer rating of 76.9. The Jaguars made him the first quarterback and No. 3 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft—the same year the Vikings chose Teddy Bridgewater at No. 32 in the first round. “That’s who (Bortles) the Vikings really wanted when they drafted Teddy,” Lurtsema said. “Look how…he is playing.”

Injuries have forced the Vikings to rotate offensive linemen like a game of musical chairs. The result has frequently been fatal with the offense featuring an anemic rushing attack and a quarterback often facing constant pressure by pass rushers. But Lurtsema was encouraged by the line’s performance in last week’s 17-15 loss to the Cowboys.

“The offensive line played much better, believe it or not,” Lurtsema said. “They were sliding, (and) they were making the pickups a little better as far as adjusting to different defensive stunts the Cowboys had. They’ve got to play longer together. I think they’re still a game or two away from playing (even better)—seeing how good they’re actually going to be.”

In the closing seconds last Thursday night Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford threw high on an attempted pass and two-point conversion that if completed would have tied the score 17-17 with the Cowboys and sent the game into overtime. The Cowboys’ Cedric Thorton appeared to hit the Vikings quarterback on the face mask but the officials didn’t throw a flag and penalize the Cowboys for roughing the passer, so instead of replaying the down the game ended.

“The officials affected the game on both sides of the Dallas game,” said Lurtsema referring to multiple calls Thursday night. “Officiating is getting worse by the game. I mean it’s just brutal. When Bradford got hit on the two point conversion, people don’t understand what (a difference) one bad call can make (to a season).”

Worth Noting

Vikings fullback Zach Line told Sports Headliners yesterday that Adrian Peterson looks stronger every week. Line’s opinion is chances are “good” Peterson will play before the season ends next month. Peterson continues to rehab following surgery for a torn meniscus in September.

The Golden Gopher volleyball team is among the favorites to win the 2016 national championship. Minnesota’s potential path to its first title continues Friday night in a NCAA regional match against Missouri at the U Sports Pavilion. Also playing that night in the Minneapolis Regional are North Carolina and UCLA. Friday’s winners advance to the regional title match in the Sports Pavilion Saturday evening. The Minneapolis champion will then join three other regional winners in the national semifinals December 15 in Columbus, with the NCAA title to be decided there on December 17.

Gophers volleyball has become a major story with the media in this town. That development has caught the attention of former Gophers athletic director Joel Maturi who hired Hugh McCutcheon in 2011 hoping the former Olympics coach would build on the success of retiring U coach Mike Hebert.

The Gophers are the No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament (Nebraska is No. 1) and Maturi is impressed. “My goodness, the attention that this volleyball team is getting is deserved, but it’s new. We’re selling out the place (the Sports Pavilion).

“We’ve been good before…(although) not No. 2 in the rankings. But we’ve been top 10 which is pretty good.

Hugh McCutcheon

Hugh McCutcheon

“I just think what he’s brought (McCutcheon) to the whole program is the awareness of the sport. The success that we’ve had. The energy that he has brought to the building, and now the media has picked it up.

“You’re calling about them and other (media) people have called about them. You’ve got (Patrick) Reusse going to volleyball matches, and (Jim) Souhan going to volleyball matches. I mean when the hell did that ever happen? With all due respect, you know?”

McCutcheon was friends with Hebert who led the Gophers to three Final Fours. McCutcheon, who coached U.S. Olympic men’s and women’s teams to gold and silver medals, met Maturi through Hebert years ago. Maturi had no idea when Hebert wanted to retire but told the USA Volleyball coach he was interested in making him a candidate for the Gophers’ job when an opening occurred.

After the 2010 season Hebert retired. McCutcheon had to finish up his 2012 Olympics commitment with the U.S. women so Laura Bush filled in as interim coach for 2011 and for awhile in 2012 until the new boss could take over.

The Gophers basketball team has been invited consecutive years to play neutral court games at the Sanford Pentagon arena in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Kelby Krabbenhoft, a committee member with the group selecting teams for games at the arena, indicated before last Saturday’s Minnesota-Vanderbilt game that the Gophers will be invited back, but was noncommittal about 2017.

Krabbenhoft said in addition to Minnesota, teams of future interest include Notre Dame and Creighton. The Gophers have split two close games at the Pentagon, losing to Oklahoma State and defeating Vanderbilt while attracting Minnesota fans to help sell out the 3,250 seat building. “We love Minnesota,” said Krabbenhoft, president/CEO of Sanford Health.

Participating teams receive guaranteed sums ranging from $60,000 to $200,000 to play at the Pentagon, Krabbenhoft said. His son Joe, by the way, was a high school star in Sioux Falls who almost chose the Gophers instead of Wisconsin where he became a starter and now is an assistant coach. Dad said the decision to attend a school came down to a family vote.

University of Minnesota alum T. Denny Sanford celebrated his 81st birthday last Friday night with about 750 friends as singer Harry Connick Jr. entertained at the Pentagon.

Former Gophers coach Jerry Kill has several December book signings scheduled in the metro area including three next Saturday. Kill will be at Lexus of Maplewood from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m.; Barnes & Noble Galleria 1 to 3 p.m.; and Barnes & Noble HarMar Mall, 4 to 6 p.m. He will be signing copies of his new book Chasing Dreams: Living My Life One Yard at a Time.

Minnesota sports fan Steve Erban, who has owned winning racehorses over the years, talking about criticism directed at Gophers football even when the team wins: “…I tell them this: You’ve never owned a race horse. Because when you win, you win. When you win, you take the win and move on to the next race.”

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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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