Friday, Aug. 7, 2020

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Gopher Catalyst: Illini Loss in 2018


A Tuesday notes column:

The Golden Gophers are 7-1 since last year’s embarrassing 55-31 loss to a bad Illinois team on the road. Minnesota has also won six straight games dating back to last season and that includes road wins over Wisconsin in 2018 and at Purdue last Saturday.

The last time the Gophers won six straight was during the 2003-2004 seasons. Minnesota’s overall records during those years were 10-3 and 7-5; with 5-3 and 3-5 totals in Big Ten games. Off to a 4-0 start this season, coach P.J. Fleck got his first opening conference win in three years against Purdue.

Right now the Gophers are favorites in their next four games, including this Saturday at home against 2-2 Illinois. The favorite label changes almost for sure when Big Ten power Penn State comes to Minneapolis November 9. After Illinois the Gophers face Nebraska, Rutgers and Maryland.

No team in the country runs slant patterns better than Minnesota does with its outstanding wide receivers. That’s what former Minnesota coach Glen Mason said on BTN Saturday after watching the Gophers gain 396 yards passing in their 38-31 win over Purdue, with a lot of yards coming on slant patterns.

Minnesota had four touchdown receptions from wide receivers in the game, with two by sophomore Rashod Bateman and one each from sophomore Chris Autman-Bell and senior Tyler Johnson. Fleck, who saw his Gophers score two touchdowns on plays following timeouts he called, said on his KFAN Radio show this afternoon that Bateman and Autman-Bell run about 22 miles per hour.

Tanner Morgan

Minnesota sophomore quarterback Tanner Morgan is the Big Ten’s Co-Offensive Player of the Week after setting a single game conference record for passing completions. He was 21 of 22, a .955 percentage, the most in league history for any quarterback with 13 attempts or more.

The Gophers had issues with missed tackles in the Purdue game and Fleck said on the radio there was an emphasis on correcting the problem in practice today.

It will be interesting to see if the Gophers Athletic Department offers any more $10 flash sale tickets for home games. That seems unlikely for the Illinois, Nebraska and Wisconsin games but possible for Maryland and perhaps Penn State. A flash sale resulted in 7,150 tickets being sold for the home opener against South Dakota State.

The Nutrition Center at the Gophers’ Athletes Village is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. A variety of breakfast and lunch items is offered for about $11 per person.

Congratulations to Bob Stein and Alan Page on being selected for the Sports Business Journal list of the 100 most accomplished NFL alumni for what they achieved in their post-football careers. Stein, the former Gophers All-American defensive end who played for four NFL teams including the Minnesota Vikings, was a driving force as CEO for the expansion Minnesota Timberwolves and prior to that was a sports attorney. Page, the former Vikings defensive tackle and league MVP, is a retired state of Minnesota Supreme Court Justice who has devoted much of his life to community causes and last year was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom at the White House.

BTN covers Big Ten Men’s Basketball Media Day Wednesday including the news conference by Minnesota coach Richard Pitino starting at 8:30 a.m. from Rosemount, Illinois.

Sales of the new Goldy Gopher book (What Should I Be When I Grow Up?) has already resulted in $1,500 being donated to the Goldy Gopher Enhancement Fund at the University of Minnesota. Goldy’s Locker Room has partnered with Karen Kaler (wife of former U President Eric Kaler) to publish the children’s book featuring Goldy Gopher, with proceeds benefitting future Goldys.

The book, which follows the popular mascot on a journey around the University as he explores various fields of study, is exclusively available at Goldy’s Locker Room stores throughout the Twin Cities and online at “Contributing to the mission of Goldy Gopher and the student athletes who make up the Spirit Squad is important to us. After all, Goldy is the face of our brand,” said Ron Leafblad, President and CEO of Gold Country.

Prep football coaching milestones: Marc Franz, Rogers, and Brian Remick, Red Lake County, won their 100th career games last Friday. Franz’s career record is 100-60 in 17 seasons as head coach at Rogers High School. Remick is 100-91 in 20 seasons as a head coach, including 12 at Red Lake County.

The Twins rank No. 5 in a power rankings story about the 10 MLB playoff teams. Ahead of the Twins in the article posted yesterday are the Astros, Dodgers, Yankees and Braves.

When the Twins open their playoff series Friday against the Yankees in New York they face a team that defeated them four of six times during the regular season. The most memorable game might be the extra inning 14-12 Yankees win at Target Field July 23 that lasted five hours. There were six home runs in the game, with three travelling over 400 feet including a 457 blast by Minnesota’s Miguel Sano.

The Twins depart for New York on Wednesday and will work out at Yankee Stadium Thursday afternoon.

Twins president Dave St. Peter talking about the joy this year’s team brought to owner Jim Pohlad: “Jim…at his heart is a fan.”

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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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