First of all, who would have guessed I'd be writing about big wins from Minnesota football teams two weeks in a row? A bowl win for the Gophers and a playoff win for the Vikings, just a few days apart, were not predicted.
I was watching the news on Channel 4 Monday night and switched over to the NFL channel during a commercial. And there were two guys — one who was apologizing to Kirk Cousins for dissing him the previous week — both of whom absolutely wouldn't give the Vikings credit for their win over New Orleans.
They couldn't understand why Drew Brees didn't do better (not noticing, I guess, that he was under duress most of the game), nor could they figure out why the Saints' running game wash't more effective. One of the two (I'd never seen them previously, and don't know their names ) said the return of Dalvin Cook was likely a reason for the Minnesota win.
Hey, wasn't New Orleans supposed to be great? They were a big favorite, just as San Francisco is this week. But Drew Brees and Tom Brady, two of the best ever in the NFL, are home for the winter and Kirk Cousins — you know, the guy who many said couldn't win a big game — played very well. Those last two passes in overtime on the 9-play, 75-yard drive that won the game were absolutely perfect.
I checked the New Orleans paper to see what the comments were there. Linebacker Demario Davis had this to say: "You have to give them credit. They made more plays than us." Offensive tackle Terron Armstead said this: "They came in with a good game plan." As I read other comments it was obvious that New Orleans players were stunned that they had lost to Minnesota.
The key to the game may have come in the opening minutes after Adam Thielen fumbled. New Orleans recovered and had the ball near the Minnesota goal line. The Vikings held the Saints to a field goal and that set the tone for the game.
It was the first game that Cook and Thielen had been in the lineup together since halfway through the season, Thielen out with a hamstring injury for quite a few games and Cook out recently with a shoulder injury. Thielen caught 7 passes for 129 yards in New Orleans and was a game-changer. The offense is so much better with those two both in the lineup. In fact, Cook had more rushing yards in the first half than any player had gained in a full game against New Orleans this season. That tells you how good the offense was with Cook in the lineup, and how good the New Orleans defense had been this season.
Few are giving the Vikings a chance to win at San Francisco tomorrow. The 49ers are 7-point favorites, just about the same spread as when Minnesota went to New Orleans last Sunday. The 49ers also have a very good defense. as did New Orleans, and an offense that is very dangerous. On paper it looks like a win for San Francisco and a match-up the following week against either Green Bay or Seattle, teams the Vikings were 0-3 against this season.
It will be an upset if Minnesota wins, no doubt. There is some conjecture this Friday morning about whether or not Thielen, injured at practice a couple days ago and with resulting stitches, will be able to play. It would be a big blow to the Minnesota offense if he can't. Cousins has to have a good game for the Vikings to win and the absence of Thielen would make his job a lot tougher.
Gregg Rosenthal, the editor of Around the NFL, was 165-94-1 (64%) in predicting NFL games this season. Last weekend he was 3-1 (75%) in his playoff predictions. And this week he has picked the Vikings to win, 30-27. "They're not your average No. 6 seed," he wrote. (Other Rosenthal picks: Baltimore 35, Tennessee 27; Green Bay 23, Seattle 20; Kansas City 37, Houston 30.) Just a few minutes ago two in-house predictors here at the Union-Times have the 49ers winning 37-19 and 44-14.
So, IF Thielen plays, IF Cousins has a good game, IF the Vikings win the turnover battle, and IF the Minnesota defense can slow down the San Francisco passing attack, the Vikings should have a good chance to win;
Are there too many IFs?
The boys basketball teams from Princeton and Cambridge are seemingly on a collision course in Mississippi 8 basketball, The Tigers are 8-3, having a seven-game winning streak halted against Hibbing recently in a 73-65 game at Hibbing. Cambridge is 9-1 and has won eight in a row, including a 90-80 win at Hibbing in a holiday tournament as the McDonald brothers coached against each other. The other common opponent for the two teams is St. Cloud Apollo, a state-ranked team in Class 3A. Princeton lost to the Eagles 101-93 in the season opener and Cambridge lost to Apollo 99-82 in the second game of the Cambridge season. Princeton then lost to Delano 74-62 for its other loss. Both Apollo and Delano are ranked in the Top 10 in 3A, Delano beating Apollo 71-56 in a recent game . . . Cambridge is averaging 83.4 points a game, its opponents 70.6. The Bluejackets have beaten Wayzata and also have Edina, Forest Lake and No. 1-rated Eden Prairie on their tough schedule. They play Monticello tonight (Jan. 10). The Tigers are averaging 81.3 and their opponents 70.5. Both teams have hit the 100 mark or higher one time each. Princeton plays at Big Lake tonight and then plays Chisago Lakes next Tuesday before they play Çambridge next Friday, Jan. 17, at Princeton, likely for the lead in the Mississippi 8 Conference. Both teams like to run and both teams like to put up threes. All things point to a high-scoring and entertaining game but sometimes the opposite happens . . .Cambridge is No. 5 in the QRF rankings in Class 4A at 156.3, a system that takes into account records and strength of schedule. Princeton is 10th in Class 3A at 103.4 . . . Princeton shot only 39 percent in the loss to Hibbing, HIbbing 49 percent. The Tigers were 6 for 26 on threes, Hibbing 6 for 13. Princeton did have 15 steals and 7 blocked shots. Turnovers were 21 for Princeton, 24 for Hibbing. Hibbing was missing a 6'8" player that night and Ayden McDonald had 30 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists and 4 steals while playing all 36 minutes. Cody Miller had 18 points and 10 rebounds for Princeton . . . The U of M men's basketball team has a budding star in Daniel Oturu, and some other good players. But it's an -up-and-down team. Point guard Marcus Carr, also a sophomore, had a great game last week against Purdue until the last few minutes of an overtime loss. Minnesota had a five-point lead late in regulation and Carr had turnovers then, and in the overtimes. I partially blame Coach Richard Pitino for letting Carr dribble those late possessions away and then have to force a shot. But Carr was a starter before transferring to Minnesota and isn't an inexperienced player. That was a tough loss. And last night it was very unlikely the Gophers were going to win at Michigan State. But, with the game still close, Carr had silly fouls, his third and fourth in the first two minutes of the second half and had to go to the bench. He should know better than that by now. Oturo is headed to becoming a big-time player and Carr is averaging nearly 16 points a game. The Gophers will win some games but likely not enough, with a very tough schedule looming, to make it to the NCAA tournament.
PRINCETON SPORTS MEMORIES
Jan. 14. 1965 - Gordy Meyer had 17 points in a 54-38 loss to Elk River . . . Princeton was seventh in a wrestling tournament at Grand Rapids as Rich Olson won the 175-pound weight class.
Jan. 14, 1970 - Allen Beck, Mark Blaske and Gordy Maples had firsts as Princeton beat St. Cloud Tech in gymnastics . . . Princeton beat Milaca 60-47 to move into a tie for second place in the Rum River. Jerry Bergeron had 21 points, Jim Rogde 15 points and 11 rebounds, and Mike Barg 19 rebounds and 12 points.
Jan. 17, 1975 - PHS volleyball practice began at the armory with 30 trying out. Trish Reiman was the returning leader in completed serves from the year before . . . Princeton lost 67-37 to St. Cloud Tech as Keith Julson led the scoring with 10.
Jan. 17, 1980 - Bruce Provo (16-0) won the 105-pound title at the Paynesville wrestling tournament . . . Les Nelson scored 17, Don Andrews 16 and Steve Kapsner 15 in a 63-61 win over Foley.
Jan. 17, 1985 - Goalies Terry Seifert and Butch Vanderhoff had shutouts in a 13-0 win over Sauk Rapids and a 5-0 win over St. John's Prep. The team was off to a 6-0 start . . . The PHS girls beat St. Cloud Apollo 55-48 as sophomore Karry Schimming (16 points, 14 rebounds), Ann Minks (16, 10) and Brenda Blomberg (14,11) all had double figures in points and rebounds. Schimming and Blomberg also had double doubles in a 64-47 win over Sauk Rapids.
Jan. 18, 1990 - Jim Linder won the 152-pound title at the Hopkins tournament . . . The girls basketball team upset St. Francis 38-30 as sophomore Tanya Dorr led with 10 points . . . Paul Sather had 36 points and 12 rebounds in a 64-62 win over St. Cloud Tech, Jim Davis sending the game into overtime with a last-second shot. Sather had 26 points in a win over Mora.
Jan. 19, 1995 - Sandy Thompson had 22 points and 15 rebounds in a 55-47 win over Chicago Lakes. She scored 15 points in a win over Pine City . . . The boys basketball team beat Pine City 51-41 as Todd Jackson had 19 points and 13 rebounds, Chad Olson had 18 points and Rob Nordwall had 18 rebounds.
Jan. 20, 2000 - Roxanne Stang, a PHS senior, verbally committed to play at St. Cloud State and was to get a full scholarship. At the time she was playing for the Aspen (Colo.) Avalanche . . . The boys hockey team beat Delano 3-2 and North Branch 12-0as Princeton had a 64-2 edge in shots (103 attempted shots).
Jan. 13, 2005 - The boys hockey team (8-4-1, 4-0 in the Rum River) took over first place in the Rum River, beating Chisago Lakes 5-4, Mora 7-2 and Big Lake-Becker 5-1 . . . The boys basketball team (7-1) was leading Section 4AAA standings after a 47-44 win over St. Michael-Albertville as Scott Roehl had 13 points and 10 rebounds.
Jan. 14, 2010 - The boys hockey team was undefeated in the Mississippi 8 after a 7-0 win over Becker-Big Lake and a 3-3 tie with Monticello. The Tigers had a 54-15 edge in shots in the Becker-Big Lake game . . . . The boys basketball team beat Cambridge 79-71 as Taylor Murphy led with 20 points. Trevor Kleinmeyer had 18, Josh Hanus 13, Dylan Carroll 11 and Dominic Fraboni 10.
Jan. 15, 2015 - The girls hockey team beat Rogers 4-3 in overtime as Eden Betzler scored the winning goal after getting the tying goal late in the game . . . The girls basketball team (7-3) lost to Cambridge 58-53 as Danielle Chmielewski, Haley Sandin and Jenna Doyle each scored 10 points.
Dorr is the former editor of the Princeton Eagle (2 years) and Princeton Union-Eagle (31 years), and has covered sports in the Princeton area for 52 years.