Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021


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A newsy Monday notes column covering the Vikings, Gophers, Twins, Wild and more:

Dalvin Cook totaled a career-high 252 scrimmage yards (206 rushing, 46 receiving) and two rushing touchdowns in the Vikings’ 34-20 win against the Detroit Lions Sunday. He is now the third player in NFL history to have at least 225 scrimmage yards and two touchdowns in consecutive games, joining Jim Brown (1963) and Deuce McAllister (2003). Cook had 226 scrimmage yards and four touchdowns (three rushing, one receiving) a week ago Sunday against the Green Bay Packers.

Dalvin Cook (photo courtesy of Minnesota Vikings)

Cook has 12 rushing touchdowns this season, tied for the fourth-most by a player in his first seven games of a season in NFL history. All-time leaders are Brown (14 rushing touchdowns in 1958) and Emmitt Smith (13 in 1995) and Priest Holmes (13 in 2004).

The Gophers’ Mohamed Ibrahim is the Big Ten’s Offensive Player of the Week, the conference announced this morning. He rushed for more than 200 yards and four touchdowns for the second consecutive week in Minnesota’s win Saturday over Illinois. He tied his career high with 224 rushing yards, adding 31 yards receiving and 27 yards on kick returns to set a career high with 282 all-purpose yards. He is the second Gopher ever to have two consecutive 200-yard rushing games and the first since Terry Jackson II in 2002.

Gophers coach P.J. Fleck remembered when the junior running back was on the scout team early in his college career and “never complained” about his status. “He’s earned everything he’s got,” Fleck said.

Trey Potts, Ibrahim’s back-up, was carted off the field Saturday with an apparent ankle or foot injury. Fleck speculated Potts is “day-to-day” for Friday night’s game with Iowa.

Assistant coach Joe Rossi missed the Illinois game because of COVID-19 and Fleck offered no timeline on Rossi’s return, although he did say the defensive coordinator is “doing well.”

What an interesting Big Ten football season so far. Wisconsin, the preseason favorite to win the West Division, has only played one game because of COVID. Minnesota, another popular pick to emerge as the division champ, is off to a 1-2 start, while Northwestern, 1-8 in league games last season, is 3-0 and could win the West. In the East Division nobody saw a 0-3 start for Penn State or 3-0 beginning for Indiana, a program historically among the worst in the nation.

Because he is 40 years old, Minnesota Twins DH Nelson Cruz didn’t make MLB.com’s list from today of the top 25 free agents this offseason based on analytics for future production. No Twins made the list but three former Minnesota players did, second baseman Jonathan Schoop at No. 17, relief pitcher Liam Hendriks, No. 19, and outfielder Robbie Grossman, 24.

MLB.com on Saturday listed the “perfect” free agent fits for all 30 major league teams and tagged the Twins with New York Mets starter Marcus Strommen. He is a potential No. 2 or 3 talent but MLB.com speculates the Mets could extend an $18.9 million qualifying offer. Twins free agent starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi is projected as the right fit with the Boston Red Sox.

Organizer Patrick Klinger reports the Capital Club will hear from Golden Gophers men’s basketball coach Richard Pitino tomorrow (Tuesday) via zoom. Klinger, the former Twins executive who now runs a St. Paul-based marketing company, uses this signature quote in his emails from English essayist and moralist Samuel Johnson:

“The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.”

Pitino will be upbeat tomorrow talking about transfer guard Both Gach. Pitino announced today the Austin, Minnesota native, who played his first two seasons at Utah, has been given immediate eligibility by the NCAA. Gach joined Pitino’s program this summer after playing two seasons at the University of Utah. An almost certain starter for the Gophers this fall, Gach will have two years of eligibility at Minnesota.

A media panel selected a 10-member preseason All-Big Ten team announced today that includes Pitino’s junior point guard, Marcus Carr. He was an All-Big Ten third team selection last season, after having a school record 207 assists.

The Gopher men’s hockey team program is the favorite to win the Big Ten Conference in 2020-21, per a poll of league coaches who also designated four Minnesota players with preseason honors. It was announced this morning Minnesota led the poll ahead of Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Michigan State, and Penn State.

Minnesota junior forward Sammy Walker is a member of the preseason All-Big Ten first team. Senior forward Brannon McManus and sophomore defenseman Jackson LaCombe are on the second team. Sophomore forward Ben Meyers received honorable mention.

Defending WCHA regular-season champion Minnesota State is the unanimous favorite to repeat as champions, earning all 10 first-place votes in the league’s media poll announced today. The Mavericks are followed by Bemidji State, Bowling Green , Northern Michigan, Michigan Tech, Lake Superior State , Alaska, Ferris State, Alaska Anchorage and Alabama Huntsville. Minnesota State junior goaltender Dryden McKay is the media poll choice as WCHA Preseason Player of the Year.

Nobody is saying Marco Rossi is the next Mikko Koivu yet, but the Minnesota Wild need to develop an extraordinary center and it could be the 19-year-old Rossi. The team’s 2020 first round draft choice might make the Minnesota roster in his first season.

The NHL hasn’t announced when the season will begin but don’t count on spectators being allowed, at least early on.

“The Rundown,” Jeff Crilley’s daily newsletter, reports in today’s issue that early analysis by Pfizer says more than 90 percent of volunteers given the company’s vaccine didn’t develop COVID-19.

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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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