Friday, September 25, 2009

Friday Fillers

  • The Gopher football team played reasonably well last weekend against #8 California. The score was tied going into the 4th quarter, but in the end, it was Cal escaping TCF Bank Stadium with a 35-21 victory last Saturday. Cal's spectacular running back Jahvid Best carried the ball 26 times for 131 yards and a staggering 5 touchdowns. He was clearly the most talented players the Gophers will see in 2009, and the defense had no answer for his brilliance. Still, the Gophers had their moments. WR Eric Decker had 2 receiving touchdowns, including a spectacular fade in which he survived a crushing blow before getting one foot in bounds. He later threw a TD pass of his own to freshman MarQueis Gray. In the end, one can look at the Gophers garnering only 37 rushing yards, as well as being out-gained by the Bears 415-270, as the two main reasons why they lost. QB Adam Weber was not as sharp as he was in the season's first two games, completing 21 or 32 for 226 with 2 TDs, but also throwing 3 interceptions. They played well for three quarters against elite competition, but it wasn't enough.
  • The Big Ten season gets underway Saturday, as the Gophers travel to Evanston to take on Northwestern. Like the Gophers, Northwestern is 2-1 in the non-conference part of the schedule, with wins over Towson and Eastern Michigan, and a loss at Syracuse. The Gophers defeated Syracuse in OT in the season's opener. The Gophers should have an edge in this one, but NU has a two-game winning streak, and is playing at home. Kickoff is 11am CDT.
  • We'll have a game recap and accompanying story on Sunday for this game. During the conference schedule, we'll try to have stories soon after the game concludes.
  • Gopher hoops coach Tubby Smith has secured another addition to his 2010 recruiting class with the commitment of 6-4 G/F Austin Hollins of Germantown, TN. Hollins's father, Lionel Hollins, is the head coach of the Memphis Grizzlies. He joins Nebraska C Elliott Eliason, who committed the week prior. As Myron Medcalf reports, the Gophers have one more scholarship remaining for the 2010 class, and will likely add a point guard with that selection. This class appears to not be as highly-acclaimed as the 2009 class, but will definitely fit the team's needs going forward.
  • How cool would this be? If the Gophers reciprocate and play at Kansas's Allen Fieldhouse, I will definitely make the trek. My dad, brother, and I snuck into the Fieldhouse a few summers ago, and it's the best college arena I've ever seen, and one can only imagine how loud the place gets during the Big 12 season.
  • More on the previous bullet.....It's good to see the Gophers trying to improve the quality of non-conference opponents at the Barn. I do hope the Louisvilles, Marquettes, and Iowa States of the world re-consider and try to sign home-and-home deals with the Gophers, similar to what Tim Brewster has been able to achieve with USC and Texas agreeing to play football against the Gophs. The more quality opponents will help attendance as well as the Gophers' RPI.
  • Check out the latest from Strib Wolves' beat writer Jerry Zgoda here. Chucky Atkins and Mark Blount were waived this week, and Zgoda has a lengthy piece about his talk with "The Meerkat" David Kahn. I'll say it again, the Wolves will lose a TON of games this year, but will be very exciting to watch.
  • On the WCHA front, I published season previews for MSU-Mankato and North Dakota this past week. I'll complete the circuit with St. Cloud State and Wisconsin next week. It's hard to believe the season gets going a week from today!
  • Also regarding the WCHA, in case you missed it, here is my Gopher preview, published last week. I think the Gophers, Denver, and North Dakota are the three best teams in the conference, and they happen to be three teams which should not have goaltending issues. I believe Alex Kangas will be a bounce-back season, and that's why I picked them so high in the league. This is arguably coach Don Lucia's most talented squad, and they need to play like it.
  • In the NHL, former Gopher hockey player and current New York Islander Kyle Okposo is out with a concussion suffered last weekend courtesy of a hit by Calgary Flames' defenseman/headhunter Dion Phaneuf. The hit is dirty - he left his feet - and certainly uncalled-for in pre-season play. What is interesting about the video is that you see something you usually don't see - a player coming off the bench to challenge Phaneuf. The player, rookie Pascal Morency, received a 10-game suspension, and Phaneuf skated away not only from this fight but without any suspension. Gotta love the NHL's star system, no?
  • Speaking of stars, Wayne Gretzky resigned as coach of the Phoenix Coyotes Thursday, citing the team's uncertainty as a reason. The 'Yotes are in limbo and the owner wants to sell the team to a guy who wants to move the team to Hamilton, Ontario, and he's tried to buy at least two other teams - Pittsburgh and Nashville. Good luck selling tickets down there for a lame-duck franchise. Gotta wonder if they'd be in this situation if the Winnipeg Jets had just moved to Minneapolis in 1995 instead of Phoenix? Regarding Gretzky, I am a staunch defender of his and he was the greatest hockey player who ever lived. I opposed him taking the job initially, given that it would tarnish his legacy. The Coyotes were never going to be any good, with or without him behind the bench. His legacy was cemented by managing the 2002 Canada team to its first Olympic gold since 1952, so there was no need for him to take the Phoenix job a few years later. Hopefully, this is the last coaching foray for the Great One.
  • Check out Strib beat writer Michael Russo's blog concerning the Wild. The team is battling through pre-season injuries, and it's beginning to frustrate rookie coach Todd Richards. The season opens in less than two weeks, and it's a crucial one for the franchise. Will the team get back into the playoffs? Will the consecutive sellout streak end? We'll wait and see.....

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