It was shaping up to be a big weekend on the Minnesota sports scene. The Gophers, after an interesting 3-1 stretch in non-conference play, hit the road to face a top-20 squad in Northwestern to open Big Ten Conference play. The result was a 27-0 loss in one of the worst offensive performances in Jerry Kill’s tenure.
The Minnesota Twins hosted their three most meaningful games at Target Field over the weekend since their last trip to the playoffs. They were still in contention for a wild card playoff spot heading into the last series of the season. The Twins got swept by the Royals and were officially eliminated from the playoffs after losing Saturday.
The Vikings were 2-1 and had a chance to carry some big momentum into a bye week if they could beat a future Hall of Fame quarterback in Denver. Teddy Bridgewater got sacked seven times and the Vikings lost 23-20.
The Minnesota Lynx started the WNBA Finals at Target Center Sunday, with most fans probably thinking the team was one step closer to another championship. They Lynx had a rough night shooting and with turnover a 75-69 Game 1 loss to Indiana.
It could’ve been one of the most fun and exciting weekends in Minnesota sports in some time, but it all came crashing down. Literally every team that could’ve lost did. Minnesota’s sports teams went a combined 0-6 on the weekend. But that doesn’t mean all is lost among those teams. Here are eight silver linings from a rough weekend in Minnesota sports.
Demry Croft Gives Early Glimpse of Future At Quarterback
The Gopher football team entered Saturday’s game at Northwestern 3-1, with its three wins by a combined nine points. Minnesota managed just 11 first downs and 173 yards of total offense, led largely by quarterback Mitch Leidner. The Gophers have a banged up offensive line, which isn’t helping things. But the offensive play-calling suggests the coaches lack trust in Leidner to throw the ball down the field, and deservedly so.
It got bad enough that he was replaced by freshman Demry Croft. He’s athletic and throws a tight spiral, and even scampered for an 11-yard first down run on his first play from scrimmage. But Croft was just 5-of-11 passing for 27 yards, was nearly intercepted twice and was sacked three times. Croft needs more snaps and the offensive line needs to play better, but his athleticism suggests he could have a bright future with more playing time.
Vikings Might Have Found Something in Stefon Diggs
The Vikings nearly got a big road win Sunday at Denver, but fell just short in a 23-20 loss to Peyton Manning and the Broncos. One of the biggest bright spots in the loss was from rookie receiver Stefon Diggs. The fourth-round draft pick was the team’s second-leading receiver Sunday, catching six passes for 87 yards. Teddy Bridgewater threw for 326 yards on the day and wasn’t afraid to go to Diggs in big spots, especially since Diggs delivered. With Charles Johnson out injured and Cordarrelle Patterson virtually silent in the pass game, Diggs has emerged, at least for one game, as a nice option on offense.
Adrian Peterson Continuing To Impress
Adrian Peterson was largely bottled up by the Broncos’ stout defense Sunday, but he finished with 16 carries for 81 yards and a touchdown. The score came on a 48-yard run untouched on a 4th-and-1 play in a huge spot to get the Vikings back within 20-17. Peterson is averaging five yards per carry on the season, which bodes well for Minnesota’s offense the rest of the season. The Broncos are also one of the best defenses the Vikings will face this year.
Shooting, Turnovers Hurt Lynx In WNBA Finals Game 1 Loss
The Minnesota Lynx rarely lose at home, especially in the playoffs, but they’re down 1-0 to the Indiana Fever in the WNBA Finals after losing 75-69 on Sunday. Despite Maya Moore and Sylvia Fowles combining for 48 of the 69 points, the Lynx shot 42 percent from the field and committed 14 turnovers in the game. Lindsay Whalen and Seimone Augustus typically play their best in pressure situations, but they only combine for 13 points on 4-of-14 shooting. Tuesday night becomes a must-win because if the Lynx lose again, they face elimination games the rest of the way.
The Twins Made Baseball Relevant Again
The Twins were officially eliminated from playoff contention after Saturday’s loss to the Kansas City Royals. They made baseball relevant for 161 games this year, which fans will take after four straight years of mostly irrelevant baseball in September. The Twins overachieved this season, finishing with an 83-79 record. Expectations will be higher next spring, now it’s just a matter of putting the right pieces together for a run in 2016. It will still be tough to watch playoff baseball without the Twins involved, but it’s nice to be out of the basement for a change.
Torii Hunter Helps Turn Around Twins
It’ll be the elephant in the room until an official announcement is made: Will Torii Hunter be back next year? In a ceremony of sorts, Hunter handed the lineup card to the umpires before Sunday’s game and did not play in the last game of the year. He said publicly it could be his last game. He played in 139 games this year, batting .240 with 22 homers, 22 doubles and 81 RBI. Not bad for a 40-year-old. He’ll be 41 next summer, and the Twins have Eddie Rosario, Byron Buxton and Aaron Hicks to play outfield. Max Kepler could also get in that mix next year. If Hunter wants to come back, he might need to be willing to play in a limited role. But between his play on the field and leadership in the clubhouse, he did exactly what the Twins needed him to do this season.
Molitor Has Twins Trending The Right Way
Despite coming short of the postseason, Paul Molitor has to be considered a success in his first season as manager. The Twins finished 13 games better this year, and the biggest change seemed to come in his approach to baseball. He wasn’t afraid to mix up the lineup and give his team the best chance to win on any given day. Players responded, and it made for a fun summer at Target Field. If the trend continues, there might have be a champagne bath or two next year.
Hockey Season Is Starting This Week
The transition to fall has taken place, and just as quickly we’re also moving into winter sports. The Minnesota Wild starts its regular season at Colorado Thursday night. After winning a playoff series last year, fans are itching to see the Wild on the ice again this season. And after all, when you see your hometown teams struggle, don’t we always look for the next best option?
After a rough weekend where every team lost, we need something to look forward to. After all, it’s the Minnesota sports fan that expects the worst and hopes for the best.