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Gophers ‘rowing the boat’ at 3-0

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By Larry Fitzgerald
September 19, 2017
GAMEDAY GOLD
@FitzBeatSr

 

Little did I know about the name P.J. Fleck until recently. My time might be drawing to an end.

Back in 1992, while doing talk radio on KFAN, the Gophers’ flagship station, I told my broadcast partner Eric Nelson and our listening audience that things were so bad here in the culture of the program at Minnesota that the football program would not go to the Rose Bowl in my lifetime. Here it is 2017 and the team has not won a Big Ten title since 1967 and has not been to the Rose Bowl since 1961.

Imagine three Gopher head football coaches in three years. That sounds as if the program is drifting away in trouble, right? Last year’s sexual harassment issues led to big change for both players and coaches. P.J. Fleck is the new big man on campus; he was hired shortly after Tracy Claeys was fired after going 9-4 and winning back-to-back Bowl games.

Not many Gopher head football coaches over the last 50 years can say that. Fleck was hired by Mark Coyle, the new Minnesota athletic director. “When I was athletic director at Syracuse,” said Coyle, “that’s when I first had a coaching search, and that’s when his name came up. I talked to a couple of coaches, and his name kept coming up.
“When I came to Minnesota a year later,” Coyle continued, “I saw what he did at Western Michigan University, starting 1-11 and then the next year going 13-1. That was awesome, but what really impressed me was [that] academically that team went from a 2.5 to a 3.0.

“I knew that he would take care of things on the field and off the field academically. We had a sense of urgency, so we thought he would be good for our program.”

It is early, but after three weeks the Gophers under Fleck are 3-0, winning 17-7 over Buffalo. At Oregon State the next week the Gophers dominated 48-14. And last Saturday I witnessed at TCF a complete domination of Middle Tennessee 34-3.

Some have been critical of Fleck and his methods. He is very confident when he talks. It’s about faith a lot and about the culture of a program. And “rowing the boat.”

Proof has been in the fast start and what the players are saying, and more importantly what they are doing and the changes. Not many head coaches across this country have won 16 of their last 17 games. P.J. Fleck talks the talk.

His style is different. He came on campus and right away threw away some prized football trophies. That has upset some alumni players. Not everyone is buying what he’s selling, but so far he’s “rowing the boat.”

 

 

Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to info@larry-fitzgerald.com, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.

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Vikings’ Bradford stars in 29-19 win

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By Larry Fitzgerald
September 14, 2017
GAMEDAY GOLD
@FitzBeatSr

 

It does not get much better than this for the Vikings. With questions everywhere, the Vikings sent a prime-time message to the rest of the NFL and their fans that they are better.

Quarterback Sam Bradford out-dueled one of the NFL’s all-time greats, Drew Brees, with a sterling performance. Bradford looked like one of the best quarterbacks in the league.

Bradford was 27-32 for 346 yards and three touchdowns in the Vikings’ 29-19 win over the New Orleans Saints on Monday Night Football, spoiling the return of the Vikings’ all-time leading rusher Adrian Peterson to Minnesota. Peterson was not much of a factor; in fact, he was seldom used. He had only six carries for 18 yards and was not at all happy about the way he was used by Saints Coach Sean Payton.

The Vikings did not miss Peterson. Rookie sensation Dalvin Cook was brilliant, setting a Vikings rookie debut mark with 127 yards rushing on 22 carries. His explosive ability to get outside with a burst reminded us of Peterson.

The Vikings and Saints were locked in a tight battle at U.S. Bank Stadium, Saints up 6-3 late in the second quarter when the Vikings opened up the offense. Bradford suddenly started winging it, throwing the ball down the field to receivers Adam Thielen, with nine catches for 157 yards, and Stefon Diggs showing the fight and spirit with seven catches for 93 yards and two touchdowns.

Bradford and the Vikings, with back-to-back TD passes, both to Diggs, took a 16-6 lead at halftime and never looked back. The Vikings seized control because their defense never let Brees and the Saints offense establish the running game. The Saints were held to just 60 yards rushing, and they committed a couple of unsportsmanlike penalties that helped the Vikings keep drives alive.

Brees threw for 291 yards and one touchdown. The Vikings had 470 yards in total offense, great balance, and the offensive line punched holes in the Saints defense, giving Bradford the time to stay in the pocket and hit his receivers.

The Saints are certainly not the 1985 Chicago Bears on defense. They allowed 454 points last year, but the measuring stick is to pass the test with each opponent. Next for the Vikings are the 1-0 Pittsburgh Steelers, the Vikings’ first road test of the season against a 2016 playoff team listed among the best in the league.

Randy Moss, the ex-Vikings great, was honored by the organization by being inducted into the Vikings Ring of Honor. Moss delivered a spirited and passionate speech about his career, thanking the Vikings and fans and Dennis Green and his teammates. He invited as his guests Marie Green and Patti Green, Coach Green’s widow and daughter, to return to Monday Night Football and share in his Ring of Honor induction.

The NFL has seven owners who gave President Donald Trump $1 million each for his presidential run. I wonder if the Wilf ownership was one of the seven. Protest continued around the NFL over quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s failure to be offered a contract by owners.

Randy Moss is honored in Minneapolis

Randy Moss enters the Minnesota Vikings Ring of Honor -September 11, 2017

 

Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to info@larry-fitzgerald.com, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.

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Scott Taylor

Vikings Win

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Scott Taylor

Peterson Looks Lost as Vikings Ravage Saints

By Scott Taylor

September 12, 2017
GAMEDAY GOLD
@staylorsports ‏

Adrian Peterson looked lost. In fact, as the game between the Minnesota Vikings and Peterson’s New Orleans Saints (it feels weird just to write that) dragged on through 2 ½ hours of TV commercials, he seemed even more bewildered.

He had returned to downtown Minneapolis to be a hero. He was there to visit old friends and show Saints coach Sean Payton and his staff that he was more like the 2012 Adrian Peterson than the injured, tired 2016 Adrian Peterson.

And on his first carry, he looked pretty good. He gained four yards and made a nice move at the line of scrimmage to avoid a tackler. But that was about it. From that point on, he was exactly what Coach Payton told him he was going to be – a bit-part player on rebuilding team that already had two decent runningbacks, Mark Ingram and rookie Alvin Kamara and was going to rely on a passing game with Drew Brees at the helm anyway.

So when the Minnesota Vikings finished with an impressive 29-19 win over Brees and the Saints, the numbers told a sad story. Peterson finished with six carries for 18 yards, didn’t catch a pass and played on only nine snaps. According to the NFL statistics folks, that’s the lowest of his career. I’d be surprised if Peterson finishes the season.

All he had left for the effort was a loss and about a dozen stink-eyes that he sent laser-like directly at his head coach during the game. He obviously doesn’t like to be a bench-warmer.

Look, to be fair, it’s not that Peterson is done, necessarily, but he’s certainly done in New Orleans — unless three or four other guys get hurt. He got to start Monday Night’s game and then even carried on the first play, but after that, if the TV cameras hadn’t been interested in him, we would likely have never noticed that he didn’t play much. He was a footnote in the end and the real story was on the other side of the ball.

The real story was Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford and the fact he completed 27-of-32 pass attempts for 346 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. The real story was Adam Thielen, the undrafted receiver from Minnesota State who caught nine passes for 157 yards. The real story was Stefon Diggs who caught seven passes for 93 yards and two touchdowns – the second was a highlight-reel catch that we’ll be watching on NFL Network for a while.

And the real, real story was Dalvin Cook, the second round draft pick in 2017 out of Florida State. He was taken in the draft by the Vikings to replace Peterson and on Monday night, he announced his arrival with authority. He finished with 22 carries for 127 yards and his last run of the night was a 33-yarder around the right side that sealed the victory.

With 127 yards, he broke Peterson’s Vikings record of 107 yards by a rookie in his first game with Minnesota, set back in 2007.

And that’s a very important number – 2007.

Time catches up to all of us. On Monday night, it caught up to the great Adrian Peterson. After 10-plus years as a runningback in the NFL he’s had a Hall of Fame career. But he hasn’t been a Hall of Fame RB since 2014. He’s been injured, banged on the head, run over by 300-pound linemen and, of course, had his troubles off the field.

It’s kind of too bad he came back – to all the boos – in a Saints uniform on Monday night. He probably should have called it a career after the 2015 season (but, of course, it’s damn hard to leave all that money on the table) and the Vikings should have probably been looking for their next Adrian Peterson after the 2013 season.

But here we are.

The Vikings were great in their opener, Dalvin Cook looks like a keeper and with a re-vamped offensive line, Sam Bradford looks like the quarterback that the St. Louis Rams believed he could be, three teams ago, back in 2010.

Fact is, if Bradford gets time to throw this season, the Vikings will be a contender. If he doesn’t, we all know what happens. Unless, of course, Dalvin Cook actually turns out to be the next Adrian Peterson.

Then it could really get exciting.

 

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Mayweather stops McGregor by TKO

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By Larry Fitzgerald
August 28, 2017
GAMEDAY GOLD
@FitzBeatSr

LAS VEGAS — The legend of Floyd Mayweather, Jr. grows after defeating mixed martial arts star Conor McGregor in the 10th round by TKO in a marvelously entertaining Las Vegas spectacle.

McGregor is the biggest name in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), and his flair and showmanship has made him a name that sparks fire in fans and the entertainment business of the UFC.

Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and Conor McGregor

Likewise, we live in a violent world and Mayweather has learned the good and bad side of violence. He does not hide from it. He’s a great 50-0 undefeated champion.

Although his character is damaged due to having served time for the domestic abuse of the mother of his children, Mayweather has rebounded and found a way to make a fortune being demonized by millions. That’s part of Mayweather’s genius: He accepts that he’s flawed with talent and zeal and God-given skills.

Make no mistake about it: he is a brilliant business man.

Just like when sports fans years ago wanted to see Larry Bird beat Magic Johnson — two great players, one White, one Black — it gets the coals hot and stokes the rage, and in many cases, the frenzy is fueled by racial differences.

It’s not personal, it’s business, and part of hyping the fight was the desire of thousands to see McGregor and his on-the-edge personality beat up Mayweather.

Mayweather has shown a history of struggling with southpaw-style fighters. McGregor was a little bigger with just enough awkwardness to sell this first-time fight as a win-win.

But McGregor’s youthful flair (he’s 29; Mayweather is 40) and surge of confidence ran into Mayweather’s superior boxing experience. McGregor has never fought more than five rounds before, and Mayweather stuck to his plan and allowed McGregor to burn so much energy being the aggressor.

As the fight wore on, Mayweather was then able to take the fight to McGregor. He started sticking jabs to a worn out McGregor’s face to win by TKO.

Not many thought this fight would go past five rounds, and certainly not 10 — nobody but Mayweather, that is. Mr. 50-0!

 

Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to info@larry-fitzgerald.com, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.

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Vikings: How good will they be?

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By Larry Fitzgerald
August 25, 2017
GAMEDAY GOLD
@FitzBeatSr

 

So much is riding on this 2017 Vikings season it makes you nervous even thinking about it. Playing the Seattle Seahawks in the pre-season last week was a measuring stick game. You know how good and consistent Seattle is, and how well-coached they are, and they seldom lose at home.

Seattle 20, Vikings 13 — not exactly what Vikings fans wanted. I was honestly surprised how successful they were running. It was a defensive game. I thought the Seahawks were better: they were more physical and ran the ball when and where they wanted to consistently.

I am disappointed right now in running back Latavius Murray. He was signed as a free agent from Oakland and can’t get on the field. If he doesn’t play this week against San Francisco that is a bad sign.

Rookie Dalvin Cook has been impressive but he is so young with much to learn. Last year, as we know, the Vikings could not run the football at all when Adrian Peterson got hurt. Now he’s gone and you don’t win in this league unless you can consistently run the ball.

Sam Bradford looks good at quarterback, throwing to Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, and Kyle Rudolph. But his career win-loss record in St. Louis and Philadelphia concerns me and that is hard to ignore. I do like tight end Bucky Hodges, however; he a keeper.

With three weeks before the opener, the Vikings have time to get better. The NFL is a dictator league, so you have to force your will on your opponent. The players and coaches are all good, so good that they are able to figure out your game plan and your scheme.

Since 2001, the Vikings have been in the playoffs just five times, with just one playoff victory in 2009.

When you have the Super Bowl in your home stadium, you really hope your team can be good. My expectations are for this team to blow the roof off U.S Bank Stadium.

How realistic is that coming off of an 8-8 season? I’ll keep drinking the purple Kool-Aid because they do have a solid foundation with lots of talent on defense and special teams.

But the early signs bug me. I have concerns over talented Michael Floyd’s suspension for four games. Murray has done nothing yet, as I mentioned. They gave this guy $15 million to watch? And Laquon Treadwell, last year’s number one pick, is still a big question mark.

The offensive line is better, but can they jell and become a solid versatile group?

No reason to be alarmed just yet — the Vikings lost on the road to a good football team that made the playoffs. But there are legit reasons to share with you my concerns.

 

Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to info@larry-fitzgerald.com, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.

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GDG rundown for the weekend of June 16th-18th

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The skies cleared up to provide beautiful conditions for a ballgame.  Eric and Larry took advantage of that to broadcast this week’s show from Target Field.  Of course, the Twins are front and center right now.  We hear about their continued success and the odd way they’ve sustained it.  Which teams were crowned Stanley Cup and NBA champions?  Then, Vikings mode kicks into gear.  We hear from QB Sam Bradford, WR Stefon Diggs, and DE Everson Griffen as the team gets back on the field.  Then, Viking legends will soon be honored and Lynx stars are piling up the recognitions.

Road-Dog Twins Look for More Bite at Home

Segment 1:  The Twins are back in town after another successful road trip.  But did the home woes continue?  The guys talk about the team’s perplexing home/road splits, including an offensive showcase from Tuesday night.

 

Title-Worthy Teams

Segment 2: The NHL and NBA finished their respective seasons earlier this week.  Our hosts recap Pittsburgh’s repeat as Stanley Cup champions.  Then, they wrap up Golden State’s return to the top of the NBA mountain.  Could the Finals trilogy have a fourth installment next year?

 

A Diss?  A Taste.  An Anxious Feeling?

Segment 3: Now that the Warriors are NBA champs, will they make that annual trip to the White House?  After that, the fellas explain the growth and impact of the Taste of the NFL.  And is Minneapolis ready to host their second Super Bowl?

 

Back in the Swing: GDG Talks with Members of the Vikings

Segment 4: Speaking of the NFL, the smell of Mini Camp is in the air.  Larry sat down with a trio of Vikings (Sam Bradford, Stefon Diggs, and Everson Griffen) as they get the wheels in motion preparing for the 2017 season.

 

Purple Pride for the Newest Ring of Honor Inductees

Segment 5: There will be two new members of the Vikings Ring of Honor.  Randy Moss and Ahmad Rashad will be inducted this season.  Eric and Larry describe the impact of these two legends on the field.

 

Lynx Keep on Rollin’

Segment 6: The Lynx continue their torrid start.  The guys tell us about the team’s motivation, as well as some well-earned accolades for a couple of team members.  Plus, the Twins host their first-ever Draft Party.

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