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Vikings’ Cook Already Chasing A.P.

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September 16, 2019

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A Monday notes column with a football focus after a weekend that saw the Vikings lose and Golden Gophers win.

The Vikings’ Dalvin Cook ran for 154 yards and had 37 yards in pass receptions in Sunday’s 21-16 loss to the Packers in Green Bay. With an ineffective passing game (Kirk Cousins 14 of 32), the Vikings were a one-dimensional offense running the football and relying on Cook. He had the Packers defense on edge for the whole game, breaking tackles, eluding defenders and running away from them. His best moment was a 75-yard second quarter touchdown run that gave the Vikings some life after falling behind 21-0.

Cook ran for 111 yards in the season opener a week ago Sunday against the Falcons. Minnesota was one-dimensional in that game, too, but the result was better with a 28-12 win over Atlanta. Cook now has 265 yards rushing in two games, averaging 132.5 yards. Over 16 games that 132.5 multiplies to 2,120 yards.

Adrian Peterson holds the franchise single season rushing record with 2,097 yards. Cook, healthy for the first time in his three-season career with the Vikings, is a long shot to reach the lofty level of 2,000 yards but he will receive a lot of carries in an offense committed to run the football. He is one of the NFL’s elite rushers and if he stays healthy is a lock to be the franchise’s first 1,000 yard rusher since Peterson ran for 1,485 in 2015.

Dalvin Cook (photo courtesy of Minnesota Vikings)

Peterson led the team in rushing eight times. His second highest single season total was 1,760 yards, a figure that is also the second best ever for a Viking. At age 24, Cook could chase 1,760 yards this fall and in the seasons ahead.

The Packers started fast in the game, with their offense keeping the Vikings off balance and looking confused. Green Bay’s best receiver, Davante Adams, got away from Minnesota’s best cover man Xavier Rhodes, including for a 39-yard reception on the game’s first play. Adams had seven receptions for 106 yards.

Rhodes had been anticipating the matchup last week. “It’s like a one-on-one rivalry almost,” he told Sports Headliners. “We look forward to playing against each other. He’s a great player, and I am a great player.”

Don Beebe, who played for the Packers and whose son Chad Beebe is the Vikings punt returner and reserve wide receiver, planned to attend Sunday’s game. Would Don cheer for the Packers? “No, not any more,” Chad said with a chuckle.

The 5-foot-9 Beebe, in his second season with the Vikings, is the lightest player on the roster at 183 pounds.

Vikings starting offensive tackle Brian O’Neill, also in his second season with the team, had his 24th birthday Sunday.

Since 2007 the Packers have the second best home record in the NFL, 72-23-2. The Patriots are first at 85-12, while the Vikings are tied for sixth with the Saints at 65-32.

Radio station WTMJ in Milwaukee has been airing Packer games since November of 1929. Viking games have been on KFAN in Minneapolis since 2001.

A lengthy bio about Packers GM Brian Gutekunst on Packers.com includes no reference to his dad John Gutekunst who was the Gophers head coach from 1986-1991.

Despite all their warts in the first three games, the 2019 Gophers are 3-0 after defeating South Dakota State, Fresno State and Georgia Southern by a total of 13 points. Those three programs have solid pedigrees and each won 10 games or more last season.

Concerns, though, are multiple for the Gophers including the offensive line that during the offseason was hyped but struggled to both run and pass block against Southern last Saturday. The run game was diminished, too, playing without four injured running backs, Shannon Brooks, Mohamed Ibrahim, Rodney Smith and Cam Wiley. Smith and Wiley were injured during Saturday’s game and didn’t return.

Minnesota gifted Southern with four scores, including a fumble return and blocked field goal attempt resulting in touchdowns. Gopher coach P.J. Fleck also set up one of two short scoring drives for the Eagles when late in the second quarter his offense was stopped trying for a first down at the Gopher 34-yard line. A poor decision by Fleck, and one that caused Minnesota’s lead to shrink from 21-13 to 21-20 in the closing minute of the first half.

The Gophers rallied in the last four minutes of the game to overcome a 32-28 Southern lead and win, 35-32. It was the third consecutive game Minnesota came from behind in the fourth quarter, and the comebacks make a statement about the program’s culture. The program that preaches “Row the Boat,” also says, “Yes, we can.”

The Gophers have a bye week before playing at Purdue September 28. Fleck said on WCCO Radio Sunday morning Ibrahim, Smith and Wiley will be ready to play, and Brooks, who has missed the first three games, should be available too.

Minnesota wide receiver Tyler Johnson, who had 140 yards in receptions and caught the winning touchdown pass Saturday in the victory over Southern, was announced this morning (Monday) as the Big Ten Co-offensive Player of the Week with Ohio State’s J.K. Dobbins.

After three weekends of college football, here are Sports Headliners’ power rankings of Big Ten teams: Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern, Nebraska, Maryland, Minnesota, Purdue, Indiana, Illinois and Rutgers.

Minnesota native and former state Mr. Basketball Tre Jones told Spun.com recently that he passed on the 2019 NBA Draft and returned for his sophomore season at Duke to win a national championship, and that “there’s a lot of things” he can improve on including his jump shot.

The Twins, short on starting pitching with Michael Pineda suspended, need improvement from veteran Kyle Gibson who in his last six starts since August 8 has a 7.80 ERA, giving up 26 earned runs in 31 innings pitched. From June 25 thru August 3, he was 4-0 with a 3.74 ERA (18 earned runs in 43.1 innings).

Among NCAA schools, the Gopher hockey program has the most alums, 33, attending 2019 NHL training camps. The Minnesota Wild has the most former Gophers with five: Kyle Rau, Tyler Sheehy, Jack Sadek, Nick Seeler and Mat Robson.

Popular former Gophers athletic trainer Roger Schipper, a native of Worthington, Minnesota, was inducted into the Worthington High School Hall of Fame Friday night.

Mike McGee, the Gophers’ offensive line coach in the late 1960s who went on to become athletic director at USC and South Carolina, died last month at age 80. He was a key assistant on Minnesota’s 1967 Big Ten championship team.

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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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