The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Sports Columns

October 4, 2013

Coaches need to make tough call on QBs

It’s been interesting, over the last two weeks, to see how a couple of football coaches handled injury and ineffectiveness from the quarterback.

At the University of Minnesota, sophomore starter Philip Nelson suffered a hamstring injury a couple of weeks ago and missed 1 1/2 games. Backup Mitch Leidner played OK in Nelson’s absence, earning Big Ten freshman of the week honors after rushing for 151 yards and four touchdowns in a victory over San Jose State.

Yet when Nelson was deemed healthy, he was the starter last week against Iowa, by far the best team the Gophers had faced so far but not near the toughest opponent they’ll see this season. Nelson was rusty and largely ineffective, rushing for minus-18 yards and completing 12 of 24 passes for 135 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions in a 23-7 loss.

There were many factors in the team’s struggles, but quarterback is the position that gets the most attention. Leidner never took a snap last week and there had to be some thought of making a switch, but coach Jerry Kill stuck with Nelson. It appears that Nelson will start again Saturday at Michigan.

The Minnesota Vikings are facing a similar situation. Starter Christian Ponder had been struggling through three losses, but he suffered a cracked rib in Week 3. He was unable to play last week against Pittsburgh so Vikings coach Leslie Frazier turned to backup Matt Cassel, who guided the team to its first win of the season.

Cassel wasn’t brilliant, but he did complete 16 of 25 passes for 248 yards and two scores with no turnovers. He looked decisive and threw the ball with some zip, something that Ponder has lacked in his three starts.

With the bye, no one knows how Frazier will choose his starter. Frazier has publicly supported Ponder, yet the fan base, and seemingly some of the players, seem to favor Cassel.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Sports Columns
  • Thoma column: Bartlett's failure no surprise — except to the Twins The Jason Bartlett Experiment ended last week with its inevitable failure; the former shortstop aborted his rehab assignment in Fort Myers and retired. The idea that Bartlett would be a ideal bench component was always illogical. That Ron Gardenhire

    April 21, 2014

  • Courrier: There are no winners in MSU football saga Where to start? In 28 years in the business, there has never been a more odd, twisted, rollercoaster story than the Todd Hoffner saga. And that was before he came back to the Minnesota State campus this week, when strange became tragic and the chance

    April 17, 2014

  • Thoma column: Twins are scoring lot of runs; can this continue? The Minnesota Twins entered Sunday's play with the American League's second-highest number of runs scored. And, they haven't had the advantage of hitting off their own pitching staff. OK, it's dreadfully early in the season, far too early to draw co

    April 14, 2014

  • Courrier: Masters is first sign that winter has been conquered Don't know if anybody noticed but it's been a tough winter, with brutal cold and piles of snow that are now just disappearing. If not for an exciting season of local basketball and hockey, it would have an unbearable four months. Minnesota State had

    April 10, 2014

  • Thoma column: We all know the Ryan Braun saga: Winner of the National League MVP award, flunked a drug test, convinced the arbitrator to toss his suspension on the basis that his sample was mishandled, was snagged anyway in the Biogenesis investigation, suspended

    April 7, 2014

  • Focus will be on Mavericks' QBs this spring The Minnesota State football team began its spring practice period this week, 14 workouts in 27 days, trying to see who has been working hard to maintain a starting position and which backups might be ready to get more playing time in the fall. The b

    April 4, 2014

  • Thoma column: For the remade Twins, 2014 looks like more losing The start of the baseball season is supposed to be about fresh beginnings, wide open promises and the hope that springs eternal in the human breast. I'm here to quash that kind of optimism among the followers of the Minnesota Twins. (I strive to be a

    April 1, 2014

  • Shot clock isn't answer for high-school basketball A few weeks back, the state's basketball fans were all riled up that during a state-tournament game, the Hopkins boys spent much of the four overtimes holding the basketball, preferring not to shoot until the final seconds of each extra period in the

    March 28, 2014

  • Thoma column: Projected lineup is Mauer, Arcia and a bunch of outs The Minnesota Twins begin play in earnest in less than a week -- weather permitting -- and wow, do they have lineup issues. They scored 614 runs last season, 13th in the 15-team American League and almost 100 under the league average (702). Justin Mo

    March 26, 2014

  • Thoma column: Perkins extension may not be such a relief over time In the abstract, long-term contracts for relief pitchers are bad bets for teams. Nobody seems to be too concerned about that rule of thumb when it comes to Glen Perkins' new deal with the Twins. The contract, worth more than $21 million in guaranteed

    March 17, 2014

Free Press news updates
Seasonal Content
Featured Ads
AP Video
Raw: Fire Engulfs Tower Block in China Ocean Drones Making Waves in Research World Breakfast Foods Are Getting Pricier Raw: Ferry Captain Received Medical Treatment Hundreds Gather for Denver Pot Rally on Easter Transcript Reveals Confusion in Ferry Evacuation Raw: More Than 100,000 Gather for Easter Sunday Raw: Greeks Celebrate Easter With "Rocket War" Police Question Captain, Crew on Ferry Disaster Raw: Orthodox Christians Observe Easter Rite Raw: Four French Journalists Freed From Syria
Poll