Enjoy a Tuesday notes column.
Coach P.J. Fleck is a creative thinker, and that includes how he approaches the uniforms his players wear. His commitment to putting the Gophers in various color combinations has been so extensive since becoming head football coach in 2017 that the athletic department communications office publishes a “Gopher Uniform Tracker” in its weekly news release for the media.
Frequently the Gophers wear combinations of maroon and gold, but black on black has been worn at Minnesota and by other Power Five teams who find the look appealing among players, coaches and younger fans. At the last home game, the Gophers unveiled their new all-black dark mode uniforms for an evening match up with Eastern Michigan. The look prompted both favorable and critical comments sent to Fleck and Sports Headliners.
Fleck said yesterday respect for the school’s maroon and gold colors remains in place and always will. “…We’re adding a little flavor to it (the uniforms). That’s…because it’s all about the players. Everything we do is about the players that are on that field. The student athletes love it. Our student body loves it. The young people love it, and I get it.”
Uniform colors vary most weeks because the players like that and they have a constant voice in what they wear. “…And I don’t think there was one email from our players that said I didn’t like those (the dark-mode uniforms),” Fleck said. “And that’s with no disrespect to our fans. We have the best fans, and we have the best supporters. I had a lot of emails about it, and I feel it. I appreciate that. But I also got just as many, if not more, by how much people liked them.”
This week Dinkytown Athletes, the official Name, Image and Likeness Collective of Golden Gopher Athletics, is introducing a retro merchandise collection featuring “M” Club Hall of Fame Gopher athletes. The first merchandise offering features Gopher football greats Marion Barber, Jr. (‘77-’80), Rickey Foggie (‘84-’87) and Pete Najarian (‘82-’85). Retro jerseys and shirts are available for a limited amount of time with a portion of the proceeds donated to DA.
“This is a great way to celebrate the achievements of past Gopher athletes while supporting the current ones,” Najarian said in a DA news release. “We need to embrace our alumni and get them involved. Let’s remember the past and support our future at the same time!”
Led by co-founders Derek Burns and Robert Gag, DA started about a year ago and directly supports current student athletes with NIL deals. In the highly competitive world of college sports, NIL is a continuing priority for DA and the Gophers.
Watch for merchandise offers in the coming months featuring Gopher basketball and hockey greats. More on the new initiative at https://athletesthread.com/collections/gopher-legend
The Vikings need to duck almost certain disaster by not losing to the Chargers on Sunday and starting the season 0-3. ESPN.com’s Bill Barnwell wrote yesterday that since 2002 99 NFL teams have started their seasons 0-3 but only one (the 2018 Texans) has made it to the playoffs. The Chargers are also 0-2 and have lost those games by a total of five points.
A cheery stat is that 0-2 NFL teams do go on to make the playoffs, with that happening seven of the last 10 seasons. Last season eight of the 14 teams making the playoffs started either 1-1 or 0-2. That includes the Bengals who started 0-2 and won the AFC North.
The Vikings must show they can do better at stopping the run, while also rushing more effectively. The Vikings were gouged by the Eagles’ run game last Thursday night and rank 29th among 32 NFL teams giving up 332 yards rushing this season.
Look for Minnesota to commit more to running the ball at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday against a Chargers’ defense not that formidable against the rush, allowing 211 yards in two games and 3.9 yards per carry. The Vikings so far this season are passing 77.9 percent of the time, the most in the NFL, per Teamrankings.com.
It’s evident the Vikings miss the explosive run production of Dalvin Cook, who was released in the offseason and is now with the Jets. Not working in their favor either is left tackle Christian Darrisaw (ankle) and center Garrett Bradbury (back) could be sidelined on Sunday. The reported signing of free agent guard Dalton Risner, a consistent player who figures to be the best of the pass blockers on the roster of guards, should help.
Former Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks, now with the Chargers, will be dealing with a hamstring injury this week that kept him out of last Sunday’s game against the Titans. The 31-year-old veteran has been outstanding against the pass during his career.
Chargers’ starting offensive tackle Trey Pipkins III is from Apple Valley and played collegiately at Sioux Falls. The 27-year-old started 14 games for the Chargers last season and has two starts in 2023.
Quarterback Jalen Hurts, who connected on 26 of 31 passes last week and 331 yards against the Vikings, is on the cover of Time Magazine for the feature 100 of the “world’s rising stars.” Peyton Manning wrote a profile about Hurts and referred to him as “a model of how to approach a job.”
Detroit can claim the most NFL players among American cities. The NFL reports that after analyzing the 2023 opening week rosters of all teams and where the players come from, Detroit was first with 19, followed by Bradenton, Florida with 17 and Houston at 16.
Gophers’ true freshman tailback Darius Taylor is a Detroit native. He was again named Big Ten Freshman of the Week after he ran for 138 yards last Saturday against North Carolina. A week ago he won the honor for the first time after a 193 yard performance versus Eastern Michigan. Taylor is the program’s first Freshman of the Week in consecutive weeks since running back Shannon Brooks in November of 2015.
Sports Headliners reader and Gophers’ basketball fan Scott Ballou emailed news about former Minnesota head coach Clem Haskins who turned 80 on August 11. Ex-Gophers Walter Bond, Randy Carter, Ariel McDonald and John Thomas travelled last month to Campbellsville, Kentucky to celebrate their coach’s 80th birthday. “Other former players had contacted him as well,” Ballou said via email while noting he had spoken by phone last month to Haskins. “He was very proud that many of his former players were still close and had stuck together over the years. He said he and his family were doing well and his son Brent lives in Hudson and works for the Cleveland Cavaliers.”
Happy birthday to talented St. Thomas men’s basketball coach John Tauer who turned 51 yesterday. His Tommies won the 2016 Division III national title.
Friends have been looking for former Gophers’ basketball assistant coach Jimmy Williams for about 12 months and he has been found at the Brynwood Health and Rehabilitation facility in Monticello, Florida. Jay Pivec, who coached with Williams on the 1982 Big Ten champion Gophers, said Williams suffered a stroke last week but is thinking clearly while struggling with his speech. Williams was an assistant coach at Minnesota for 15 seasons including for the 1972 and 1982 Big Ten title teams.
The Twins will face starting right hander Hunter Greene on Wednesday in the closing game of their series with the Reds in Cincinnati. The Twins had to choose between Greene and Royce Lewis in the 2017 MLB Draft, taking Lewis as the No. 1 overall pick while Greene went second. They made the right choice with Lewis, an everyday player, and now among baseball’s most promising young players, while Green has a career record of 9-19 and 4.45 ERA. Bailey Ober, 7-6 with a 3.67 ERA, will oppose Greene Wednesday.
With the popularity of the Gophers volleyball team, you might wonder if the U athletic department is considering an outdoor match for Huntington Bank Stadium after the Cornhuskers drew an announced attendance of 91,648 for a match on August 30 in the Nebraska football stadium. That was a world record attendance for a women’s sports event.
It will be interesting to see if the Wednesday night best of three WNBA playoff series game at Target Center between the Lynx and Sun sells out. The Lynx website lists available tickets from $24 to $334.1 comment