What Vikes’ First Division Win Means
The Vikings defeated the Lions 42-30 today in Detroit and won their first NFC North Division game after earlier road losses to division rivals Green Bay and Chicago. Although nine games remain on the regular season schedule, a loss to the mediocre Lions might well have diminished chances of winning the division.
The 5-2 Vikings are chasing the 6-1 Packers who have benefitted from a favorable schedule to start the season. Minnesota has won three consecutive games after a 2-2 start, and perhaps the Vikings can duplicate the success of two years ago when that team won eight straight after splitting the first four games of the season.
Thursday night the Vikings are at home against 1-6 Washington, but then Minnesota has consecutive road games against difficult opposition, Kansas City and Dallas. Assuming a win in the next game, Vikings fans could stay optimistic with a split versus the Chiefs and Cowboys. With the Lions win today, even two losses wouldn’t be devastating to playoff aspirations.
After the game Vikings coach Mike Zimmer told KFAN Radio he gave game balls to the entire offense and quarterback Kirk Cousins. The offensive line, labeled a liability earlier in the season, has become impressive at run and pass blocking as the Vikings have scored 80 points in the last two games.
Cousins threw four touchdown passes for the second consecutive week. “Kirk made some unbelievable throws,” Zimmer said.
Minnesota’s secondary was less than impressive against the Lions including on Detroit’s first touchdown when pass interference calls were made against Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes, who also missed a tackle allowing wide receiver Marvin Jones to score. For the day Rhodes was beaten twice by Jones on touchdown catches.
The Lions, though, a dysfunctional franchise that hasn’t been great since Elvis Presley was first gyrating across America, lost to the Vikings for the fourth straight time.
The 7-0 Golden Gophers, ranked No. 20 last week in two national polls, are now No. 16 in the Coaches Poll and No. 17 in the Associated Press Poll. Minnesota has won nine straight games dating back to last season and has the fourth longest winning streak in the country.
Host school St. Thomas and classic rival St. John’s drew a Division III record football crowd of 37,355 two years ago at Target Field and a capacity attendance of 19,508 in the first football game at Allianz Field on Saturday but a new record will be set November 16 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Ticket sales for the Ithaca College and SUNY Cortland game exceeded 39,000 earlier this month.
After not qualifying for the NCAA playoffs last winter and playing in front of many empty seats for home games in recent years, the U men’s hockey program is trying to reclaim the excellence of its storied past and regain the support of its once passionate fan base.
Minnesota men’s hockey, now in its 99th season, has won five national titles but none since 2003. Although the Gophers have won four of the six Big Ten hockey titles since the league began, conference coaches predicted in a preseason vote that Minnesota will have a fifth place finish behind Penn State, Notre Dame, Wisconsin and Ohio State in the seven-team league.
After Saturday night, and a two-game sweep of Niagara at home, the Gophers are 3-1 in nonconference games. Bob Motzko, in his second season, is labeled outstanding if not a great coach by observers who know college hockey. His roster includes sophomore forward Sammy Walker, last season’s Big Ten Freshman of the Year who scored the winning goal in overtime on Friday night against Niagara. First-year goalie Jared Moe is 2-0 this fall for Minnesota. The optimistic view is the Gophers have the coaching and talent to improve considerably over last season’s 18-16-4 record. The previous season the Gophers were 19-17-2.
Announced attendances for the first two home games of the season were 7,294 and 7,802 in Mariucci Arena at 3M, with a seating capacity of 10,000. The early season single game attendances should increase if the Gophers continue their successful start, but season tickets have declined from last year when the program also struggled at the box office, and so many empty seats were visible game after game.
According to figures provided by the U to Sports Headliners last week, the nonstudent season tickets total for this year is 4,610, compared to 5,060 for 2018-19. For this season 4,098 tickets, or almost 81 percent, are renewals. The student season ticket total is 1,387, versus 1,999 in 2018-2019.
For this season 1,520 mini-plan tickets have been sold, while the total last year was 1,669. Group tickets were 8,133 last season and now total 3,537.
Season tickets start at $500, the lowest price point for men’s hockey at the U since 1999-2000. The home schedule is attractive with all six Big Ten teams (Notre Dame, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin), along with nonconference games against North Dakota, Minnesota Duluth, Minnesota State, Bemidji State, St. Cloud State and Niagara.
Calling it a “serious situation,” Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor deferred questions about the Chinese-NBA controversy to league commissioner Adam Silver when asked by Sports Headliners to comment. Taylor is on the NBA Board of Governors and familiar with the league’s lucrative dealings with the huge China market. He acknowledged meetings will be forthcoming to discuss recent American criticism about the authoritarian Chinese government.
A few years ago Taylor sold a minority stake in the Wolves to a Chinese businessman who he has since bought out. Taylor said “nothing bad happened” during the experience, but a situation arose where businessman Lizhang Jiang needed his money returned for non-basketball reasons. Taylor made Jiang the first Chinese minority owner of an NBA team and was comfortable in doing so because he already was doing business with the Chinese via his other companies.
“When we do business over there we have to be mindful how they do things,” Taylor said. “Even if we disagree, we have to be respectful to honor them if they consider it (something) a law… .It makes it difficult sometimes.”
Minnesota Twins ratings on Fox Sports North in primetime were up 65 percent this past season, the second largest increase in MLB after the San Diego Padres, according to a October 15 Forbes.com story.