“Harry the Hitman” and his defensive pals were too much for the inept Panthers’ offense today as the Vikings ended a seven-game losing streak dating back to the 2023 playoffs.
Harrison Smith, the Vikings’ 34-year-old veteran safety, had the first three sacks game ever in his NFL career — a 21-13 Minnesota win. The Vikings, now 1-3, had lost their first three regular season games and three preseason games last summer.
Smith’s third quarter sack of Carolina QB Bryce Young knocked the football loose and outside linebacker D.J. Wonnum did a scoop and score, running 51 yards for a touchdown that put the Vikings ahead to stay at 14-13. After the game, talking on KFAN Radio, Wonnum said, “I am not getting caught, man.”
As for Smith, he received high praise on the radio from head coach Kevin O’Connell. He referred to his 12-year veteran as having an “unbelievable performance” and characterizing Smith as one of his “favorite players” ever.
Smith, who sacked Young on the last Carolina play of the game, was part of a defense that often confused Young, a rookie who mostly ran an offense looking like it was using training-wheels. Among those joining Smith and Wonnum in disrupting Carolina was outside linebacker Marcus Davenport, the offseason free agent acquisition who had played sparingly in the first three games. But he was a force today disrupting both running and passing by the Panthers, who are now 0-4.
Carolina didn’t produce an offensive touchdown against the Vikings. The Panthers intercepted a QB Kirk Cousins pass near the goal line in the first quarter and ran it back 99 yards for one touchdown. They added two field goals in the second quarter, including one set up on another Cousins’ interception, but couldn’t get in the end zone against a Viking defense that made sure Minnesota got its first win.
Cousins threw two touchdown passes to WR Justin Jefferson (who else?). Jefferson had a four-yard reception in the second quarter and 30-yard score in the third quarter.
The defense had to come through on a day that the Vikings had possession of the ball 21:31 versus the Panthers 38:29. The problem was Carolina didn’t have much of a clue as to what to do with the football.
Next Sunday’s game with the Chiefs at U.S. Bank Stadium will showcase a spirited split crowd with the popularity of the 2023 Super Bowl champions and the six-hour drive proximity of Kansas City to Minneapolis bringing fans up from Missouri.
Lindy’s Sports College Basketball magazine, on newsstands now, predicts Ben Johnson’s Golden Gophers will finish last in the Big Ten standings for a third consecutive season. “Clearly better than last year but still facing a steep climb,” Lindy’s writes.
Minnesota has been competing in basketball since 1896 and last season’s second straight last place finish was a program record. Johnson, of course, is hopeful of avoiding the cellar and expressed his pleasure recently about both returnees and quality additions to his roster and having a healthier team than in the past. “Lot to be positive about, lot to be excited about,” Johnson said. “Just really looking forward to continue to build on the process here in October.”
Gopher forward Dawson Garcia, the 6-11, 230-pound junior from Savage, is on Lindy’s All-Conference third team.
Word from someone in the Timberwolves travel party is about 200 people including players and staff leave from Minneapolis today for Abu Dhabi. The Wolves will play preseason games there October 5 and 7 against the Mavericks with NBA TV offering coverage.
Gray Duck Spirits is producing its first ever beer, Duck Duck Beer, along with a new seltzer Fan Pack, as part of a partnership with Dinkytown Athletes—the official University of Minnesota collective that assists with Name, Image and Likeness opportunities for Gopher student-athletes. The products, decorated in maroon and gold, are being sold in state liquor stores and bars/restaurants, with 20 percent of sales going to Dinkytown Athletes.
The Louisiana team the Gophers defeated 35-24 last Saturday is probably a better team than the Northwestern Wildcats who stunned Minnesota September 23 by overcoming a 21-point deficit to win 37-34 overtime.
What the Twins need to accomplish in the postseason, if nothing else, is end their 18-game losing streak in the playoffs. That’s the longest in North American professional sports history for the four major sports of baseball, basketball, football and hockey.
Sonny Gray will be a top vote getter for the AL Cy Young Award despite winning only eight games this season because of such poor run support from his Twins teammates. He finished third in the 2015 voting while with the Athletics.
Brooks Robinson, the Orioles’ immortal, died last week at age 86 and he is considered by many authorities to be the best fielding third baseman of all-time. The best fielding Twin at the position? John Castino or Gary Gaetti.
This is an exciting week for St. Anthony Village High School activities director and baseball coach Troy Urdahl because his book goes live on Amazon on Monday. Chasing Influence: Transformational Coaching to Build Champions for Life makes readers think about being better leaders.
Urdahl, who has been coaching baseball for 23 years, has been working for two years on the book that has earned praise from others including Terry Ryan, former Twins general manager. “I’ve taken all of the coaching and leadership lessons I’ve learned over my years as an athlete, coach, and athletic director and condensed them into a narrative where a fictional character is built around some of Tink Larson’s life story (Waseca baseball legend),” Urdahl wrote via email.
Larson, a friend and mentor of Urdahl, coached for 35 years at Waseca High School and is an icon known for his coaching of amateur baseball teams and leadership in the state even to this day.
A hockey insider said Massachusetts prep superstar forward Cole Eiserman (class of 2024) flipped his commitment from the Gophers to Boston University because of family and a desire to stay in his home state.
Ken Mauer Jr., the St. Paul native and former veteran NBA referee, is using a fundraising platform to help with costs involved in litigation against the league. “With two lawsuits now, one for discrimination in denying my religious exemption, as well as a second suit for refusing to release my pension…legal fees have been crazy,” Mauer said via email.https://www.givesendgo.com/kennymauer