RandBall

Michael Rand started RandBall with hopes that he could convince the world to love jumpsuits as much as he does. So far, he's only succeeded in using the word "redacted" a lot. He welcomes suggestions, news tips, links of pure genius, and pictures of pets in Halloween costumes here, though he already knows he will regret that last part.

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Sunday Meltdown: Gophers overcame; Vikings did more of the same

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated October 20th at 6:17am 279717572

Anyone who has watched enough football knows there are two specific scenarios that give fans a bad feeling about what’s to come: 1) A missed extra point early in the game coming back to haunt and 2) Missed opportunities to pad a lead coming back to haunt.

The Gophers (scenario 1) and the Vikings (scenario 2) played games this weekend that followed both of those scripts, and the way both games played out says everything you need to know about each team right now.

1) The moment the Gophers missed an extra point against Purdue, particularly in the manner in which it happened (doinking the upright following a penalty that moved the try back five yards), the hardened football fan was wondering if the Gophers would be chasing that point all day. Sure, they were still up 20-14 after the miss, but giving away a free point is dangerous.

Sure enough, Purdue rattled off the next 17 to take a 31-20 halftime lead. Not only did it feel like the miss had altered momentum, but also it led to a score gap that made the failed extra point feel particularly important. So the Gophers scored next, of course, then chased that missed point with a trick play on their next conversion. It failed again, leaving them down 31-26.

By the time it was 38-29 Purdue late in the third quarter, both failed conversions felt like they very well could determine the margin of defeat for the Gophers – and derail a promising season.

Instead, of course, the Gophers rallied for a touchdown to make it 38-36 and then what proved to be the winning field goal with five minutes left – a 52-yarder by freshman Ryan Santoso, the very guy who set the chain of events in motion.

One could even speculate that if the score had been tied 38-38 (with both attempts converted for one point, or the second converted for two points), the Gophers would have had to think twice before trying such a long field goal, since the risky kick is easier to justify when trailing than when tied. Regardless, Minnesota persevered and overcame a potentially fatal mistake because that’s what good teams do.

2) The Vikings, on the other hand, forced four turnovers against Buffalo and had two great chances late to create a two-score lead. Set up with 1st-and-goal from Buffalo’s 7 early in the fourth quarter and already leading 13-10, they looked very much like the 2013 Vikings by taking back-to-back sacks and settling for a field goal that kept it a one-score game. Uh-oh.

Given a reprieve by the defense, and after moving the ball near midfield with under five minutes to play, the Vikings probably needed another 15 yards for a chance at a Blair Walsh field goal that would have made it 19-10. Instead, the drive stalled, the Vikings punted, and Kyle Orton did to the Vikings what so many quarterbacks did a year ago. Different year, same Vikings.

Better offense would have meant the 4th-and-20 allowed by the defense was a frustrating side note. Instead, Vikings fans were left to curse the fact that their fears with a six-point lead were realized while Gophers fans reveled in that team’s ability to overcome a mistake.

TFD: Percy Harvin reportedly traded from Seahawks to Jets

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated October 17th at 4:45pm 279614562

This just in from Jay Glazer, and it’s a stunner. Vikings fans, discuss vindication among yourselves in the comments.

Nuclear Wessel: Same great English Premier League chatter, in a new location!

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated October 17th at 2:47pm 279598142

nuclearDana Wessel produces the K-TWIN Morning Show with Rider, Eric Perkins and Rena Sarigianopoulos on 96.3 K-TWIN Monday-Friday 5:30am-10:00am. He is our Premier League expert and we love him dearly. He is testing out a new home in the RandBall space in exchange for some delicious boneless chicken wings. We also made him a logo! Dana?

——–

You can stop pacing around the house and breathing into a brown paper bag, the Premier League is back this weekend and with it comes an edition of Nuclear Wessel so scorching with hot takes that I wouldn’t be surprised if it causes the internet to explode.

But before we get to this week’s slate, I want to share my experience I had out east last weekend seeing Landon Donovan’s final match with the United State’s Men’s National Team.

It was a perfect fall night for soccer in Connecticut. It was one of the coolest nights of my life. And I didn’t even get to see him play.

Yep. I traveled across the country to see my favorite athlete’s final match and I didn’t even see him play. Ill spare you all the planes, trains and automobile story*, but the long and short of it is we didn’t get there until the 50th minute and Landon was subbed off in the 40th

*Let this be a lesson to all of you. Bad things happen occasionally when you travel. That is the risk you take. It’s part of life. Nobody wants to hear your sob story about a flight delay or how a rental car wasn’t ready. It happens to everyone. Sometimes life hits you in the midsection. Wear a cup.

But just being there for the 30 or so minutes after the match made it all worth it and made it a night I’ll remember forever. They played a video tribute after the match with all the players standing next to Donovan watching it. The entire crowd went crazy when they showed the Algeria goal as if it had just happened live. Landon got on the mic to thank the fans and promise he’d start hanging out and drinking beer before matches with us.  Then came the victory lap. that he ended by climbing into the American Outlaws section to lead us all in rousing rendition of ‘I Believe’ while wearing AO sunglasses and scarves people in the front gave to him.

You could tell by the Jumbotron shots and the pictures afterwards just how much it meant to Landon to get one last ovation from the fans. You could also tell by the watery eyes of everyone in the stands just how much it meant to give it to him.

After giving us 14 years, 157 matches, 57 goals, three World Cup appearances, four Gold Cup trophies, the legend of ‘Dos a Cero’ and single-handedly making US soccer not only cool in this country but feared and respected in every other country, it was the least we could do.

No. 1: Manchester City vs Spurs at Etihad Stadium

When: 6:45AM on NBC Sports Network

Last year: Yeah, this one didn’t go too well for the visitors last week. City won 6-0. Spurs gave up a goal in the first minute, the last minute (90+2), just before halftime (41), just after halftime (50) and own goal somewhere in between (34). Short of your entire team forgetting to wear shorts,  I don’t think you can be more thoroughly beaten and humiliated than that in a soccer match.

Whenever they do a Reward Challenge in Survivor (yes, Survivor is still on. Yes, I still watch. Yes, it is my second favorite sport behind soccer), host Jeff Probst unveils some type of delicious platter of food or some sort of comfort item that the deliriously hungry, sleep deprived contestants want so bad they almost start crying. Probst then always asks, in almost taunting fashion, “worth playing for?”

Whenever I am checking out the weekend Premier League schedule I first glance at the 6:45AM game and ask myself, in full Probst voice, if it is worth waking up for.

This one? Definitely worth waking up for. Kinda. So set your alarm now or just make it an all-nighter.

Spurs fans still likely have night terrors about both City matches from last year, or the last few years for that matter. They have just one win in the past seven against the current trophy holders.

But there is hope! Kinda. Or maybe I am just trying to talk myself into this being worth a 6:40am alarm. A year ago, the Etihad was like the castle in Super Mario Bros 3. You left battered, defeated and your spirit (and your controller) broken. But it has been a different tune early on this season. They have already dropped four points at home in four home matches after dropping just three in 19 a year ago. So, as Martin Tyler would say, where there is life there’s hope.

But that’s about where the hope ends. You’d think the news that Yaya Toure might not play would have Tottenham fans turning cartwheels and doing jazz-hands but it will be Spurs-killer Frank Lampard starting in his place.

Lampard scored eight goals in 13 games against Spurs during his time at Chelsea and seems to enjoy rubbing their faces in it. There is a loosely attributed quote from Lamps where he said, “It is always horrible losing to Tottenham because they make DVDs of the one victory they had over you for the next 10 years.” I have never seen where/when he actually said it, but it is a popular internet meme, and internet memes are more binding than the United States Constitution as far as I am concerned.

Both sides come into this match in good form. Spurs beat Southampton their last time out, one week after earning a point at Arsenal. They sit level on points with Manchester United (what?) in fourth despite scoring just nine goals so far. City sit five points behind Chelsea and will be desperate not to lose more ground to the title co-favorites.

Hoping Spurs makes this one worth the alarm clock but I am not hopeful. I see City winning and Lampard scoring (FANBOY FOR LIFE!!!!). But just think Spurs fans, no chance it can be as bad as last season. Unless of course they come out in their skivvies and lost 7-0 this time around.

No. 2: Crystal Palace vs Chelsea at Selhurst Park

When: Saturday at 9:00AM on NBC Sports Network

Last year: Chelsea were unbeaten against the top four teams last year but it was matches like this that caused them to finish third. Palace beat them last March 1-0 with the lone score coming on an own-goal from Chelsea captain John Terry.

BREAKING NEWS: DIEGO COSTA’S STATUS IS IN DOUBT FOR SATURDAY’S MATCH, ACCORDING TO JOSE MOURINHO.

Yep, just like every other match this season. But watch, since I am acting like a dill weed about it, he actually won’t play. Hope that isn’t the case. Didier Drogba isn’t healthy yet. Sounds like Andre Schurrle isn’t either. Could be 90 minutes of Loic Remy!!!

But we all know it is a lot of smoke from Jose. He is doing what he does. I hope.

Even if Costa can’t go, this is still a game that Chelsea could and should win if they are serious about lifting a trophy in May. The match at Palace was one of the stumbling blocks for Chelsea last season. They had no problem beating the sharks but couldn’t beat the minnows.

But the minnows are much more rested than the sharks, in this case. All but three of Chelsea players were out on international duty, traveling a combined 90,000+ miles, according to The Mirror. Palace, on the other hand, had everybody but three players staying home during international break, doing all sorts of British type of things like writing Harry Potter fan fiction and, I dunno, that is the only stereotype I can think of right now so Ill just stop.

So City come into this match rested and with only one loss in their last five, a streak that includes a 3-2 win at Everton. But Chelsea are deep. They were built for things like overcoming international breaks and nagging injuries. Most importantly, they have been going at this table like they are The Wolf from Pulp Fiction.

I see Chelsea getting all three points. At least, I hope they do. It is my girlfriend Heather’s birthday on Sunday and I can’t afford to be in Crabby Chelsea Mode all weekend long.

No. 3: Everton vs Aston Villa at Goodison Park

When: Saturday at 9AM on NBC Sports Extra Time

Last year: Everton scored two goals late to beat Villa 2-1 at Goodison Park last February.

This one kicks at the same time at as Chelsea/Palace but it is a great alternative for neutrals who are sick of watching Chelsea every weekend or folks who want to watch a goalie showdown between two true American Heroes like George Washington and Nic Cage.

Now, this is by no means the first time Tim Howard and Brad Guzan will face off each other in the Premier League but this matchup takes on a bit of heightened meaning. Tim Howard announced in August that he is taking a year-long sabbatical from the United State’s Men’s National Team.

That leaves the National Team keys firmly in the gloves of Guzan for the next year. He will lead the USMNT through the Gold Cup next June and possibly beyond. It will be interesting to watch and compare Guzan and Howard going forward. Timmy is not guaranteed the job when he returns next August. Klinsmann has shown that he isn’t afraid to send a legend to the Island of Misfit Soccer Players*.

*The Donovan-Howard comparison isn’t exactly apples to apples. Donovan bailed in the middle of a World Cup qualifying cycle (although it was totally understood, especially with his recent announcement that he was/is battling depression) and Howard waited until after the World Cup to take time off during a relatively down period, and, if it wasn’t for him the U.S. would have lost 12-0 to Belgium in the World Cup.

Timmy will have to earn his way back into the lineup when he returns. Guzan had a pair of shutouts in World Cup Qualifying in 2013. He was the starter in the 1-0 Snow Match against Costa Rica in Colorado and the historic 0-0 tie against Mexico at the Azteca. It’s very possible that Timmy could get Wally Pipped during his time off.

That’s what makes head to head* matches like this so intriguing. The next year will tell a lot about the future between the bars for the USMNT and it is awesome to see them play on the same field in the Premier League.

*I always find it funny when they say head-to-head match ups between goalies or quarterbacks. It isn’t like Tom Brady is going to pick off Peyton Manning or Guzan is going to have a hatty against Timmy.

As far as this match goes, Aston Villa, as expected, have fallen off the face of the earth since their unbeaten start. After going unbeaten in their first three matches, they’ve lost their lost three by a combined 8-0. In their defense, the matches were against Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City. Also, they did recently beat Liverpool 1-0 at Anfield. But regardless, numbers don’t lie and Villa have somehow only managed to score four goals in seven games. Not exactly giving Guzan much help, aye?

Everton have fared even worse. My prediction of them finishing top four isn’t looking so hot. They sit in 17th place and have given up a league-worst 16 goals in seven matches. Again, that can’t all be pinned on Timmy,  but it certainly doesn’t paint a flattering picture of the guy who set a World Cup record for saves in a game in June.

This one could be a goal-fest or a zero-zero draw. I really have no idea. Put that hot take in your pipe and smoke it! I am just excited for the Guzan/Timmy bro-hug afterwards.

Alright friends, soccer fans and supermodels who read Nuclear Wessel. That’ll do it for this week. Enjoy the matches. Until next time, keep your free kicks direct and your runs to the far post.

Friday (Norv Turner, excuses and explanations) edition: Wha' Happened?

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated October 17th at 1:58pm 279565172

norvA simple Google search for “Norv Turner Genius” will reveal all you need to know about an offensive coordinator with a long resume and reputation. For every positive story about Turner’s pedigree, there’s a negative article or comment in the other direction.

Turner this season has already been involved in those highs and lows — a nice week 1 plan and a 500-yard outburst against Atlanta, but four weeks in which the Vikings failed to top 300 yards or 10 points.

An offensive coordinator is a lot like a pitching coach in baseball — influential in dictating a lot of strategy and performance, but ultimately at the mercy of the athletes executing the plan.

Here, then, is an attempt to differentiate between the things that are relevant explanations for the Vikings’ offensive woes and which are just excuses, as they relate to Turner.

*Adrian Peterson: Four of the five games the Vikings have played without Peterson have been dismal. We can argue about the wisdom of building an offense around a running back in 2014, but we cannot argue about the influence of Peterson’s absence. Conclusion: 70 percent explanation, 30 percent excuse.

*Injuries: In addition to missing Peterson, the Vikings have also sustained key injuries at QB, tight end (Kyle Rudolph) and on the offensive line (Brandon Fusco). Rudolph figured to be a key member of the offense, while playing three starting QBs in the first six games is hardly ideal. That said, every team is going to deal with injuries during a season. Conclusion: 50 percent explanation, 50 percent excuse.

*Offensive line play: In two wins, the Vikings have given up 0 sacks. In four losses, Minnesota has allowed 22 sacks. There’s no doubt poor offensive line play has influenced the offensive woes, and Fusco’s injury has played a part in that. But if we’re doling out percentages based on what Turner and other offensive coaches have control over and what is beyond their control, offensive line play would seem to be coachable. Conclusion: 50 percent explanation, 50 percent excuse.

*Play-calling: This would seem to be something Turner has 100 percent control over and therefore there is no excuse, but it’s also influenced by how much confidence the offense has in the line play, the quarterbacks, the receivers and the running backs. You can only scheme so much. Conclusion: 30 percent explanation, 70 percent excuse.

Overall: Basically it’s a split. There are circumstances that have led to the Vikings’ offensive woes and hurt Turner in his ability to do his job … but they don’t fully explain why the offense has been as bad as it has been.

We asked Turner on Thursday how often he has gone from being a “genius” to “not a genius” in a short amount of time.

“Anyone who has coached a limited time or a long time in this league knows this is a week-to-week league, and every week presents a whole new set of circumstances, a whole new challenge,” Turner said.

As of now, there have been more down weeks than good weeks. If that continues, and the Vikings fail to adapt (and score), it will be more than fair to wonder if Turner should shoulder even more of the blame.

Sadly, this isn't Flip Saunders riding a unicycle and juggling basketballs in 1975 (update)

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated October 16th at 4:13pm 279472632

Patrick Fenelon blew our mind with tweeted footage that he said shows Wolves coach Flip Saunders, during his Gophers basketball playing days in 1975, riding a unicycle and juggling basketballs.

Sadly, it appears as though it’s too good to be true. A little further digging indicates it is almost certainly Mike Monson on the unicycle in the footage you see below.

From an Oct. 16, 1974 Associated Press story that ran in the Bemidji Pioneer under the headline “Unicyclist stars with University of Minnesota Basketball Team” it identifies Monson, of Golden Valley, as the juggling unicyclist who convinced then-coach Bill Musselman to incorporate him into the Gophers’ elaborate pregame routine. He honed his act, the story said, after watching George Schauer perform ball-handling feats the previous year in the warmups.

It’s too bad it’s not Flip. If he could re-enact this during halftime of a Wolves game, this would instantly replace the retiring Red Panda as our favorite. Then again, it looks as though George Schauer was still doing his act as of a few years ago, albeit not on a unicycle.

In any event, here is the entire 20-minute video of pregame warmups the Gophers used to do, which includes Monson on the unicycle a little after five minutes in. All of it is awesome, regardless of who is doing what.

 

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Minnesota 16 FINAL
Buffalo 17
Atlanta 7 FINAL
Baltimore 29
Tennessee 17 FINAL
Washington 19
Seattle 26 FINAL
St. Louis 28
Cleveland 6 FINAL
Jacksonville 24
Cincinnati 0 FINAL
Indianapolis 27
Miami 27 FINAL
Chicago 14
New Orleans 23 FINAL
Detroit 24
Carolina 17 FINAL
Green Bay 38
Kansas City 23 FINAL
San Diego 20
Arizona 24 FINAL
Oakland 13
NY Giants 21 FINAL
Dallas 31
San Francisco 17 FINAL
Denver 42
Houston 7:30 PM
Pittsburgh
San Diego 10/23/14 7:25 PM
Denver
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Atlanta
Boston 95 FINAL
Brooklyn 90
Minnesota 112 FINAL
Oklahoma City 94
Golden State 83 FINAL
Houston 90
Charlotte 96 FINAL
Chicago 101
Utah 91 FINAL
LA Lakers 98
Minnesota 1 FINAL
Los Angeles 2
San Jose 0 FINAL
NY Rangers 4
Calgary 4 FINAL
Winnipeg 1
St. Louis 0 FINAL
Anaheim 3
TX-San Antonio 20 FINAL
Louisiana Tech 27
Syracuse 30 FINAL
Wake Forest 7
Purdue 38 FINAL
Minnesota 39
Western Ky 38 FINAL
Fla Atlantic 45
(12) Baylor 27 FINAL
(22) West Virginia 41
(11) Kansas State 31 FINAL
(17) Oklahoma 30
Iowa 31 FINAL
Maryland 38
So Florida 38 FINAL
Tulsa 30
Tulane 13 FINAL
UCF 20
Virginia 13 FINAL
Duke 20
Akron 20 FINAL
Ohio U 23
Western Mich 26 FINAL
Bowling Green 14
Eastern Mich 14 FINAL
Massachusetts 36
Appalachian St 53 FINAL
Troy 14
(25) UCLA 36 FINAL
California 34
Texas A&M 0 FINAL
(4) Alabama 59
Army 17 FINAL
Kent State 39
Kansas 21 FINAL
Texas Tech 34
UAB 22 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 34
Rutgers 17 FINAL
(13) Ohio State 56
(8) Michigan State 56 FINAL
Indiana 17
New Mexico 31 FINAL
Air Force 35
NC State 18 FINAL
Louisville 30
(21) Clemson 17 FINAL
Boston College 13
Ball State 32 FINAL
Central Mich 29
Cincinnati 41 FINAL
SMU 3
(9) Georgia 45 FINAL
Arkansas 32
Oklahoma State 9 FINAL
(10) TCU 42
San Jose St 27 FINAL
Wyoming 20
Miami-Ohio 41 FINAL
Northern Ill 51
New Mexico St 17 FINAL
Idaho 29
Colorado 28 FINAL
(20) USC 56
(23) Marshall 45 FINAL
FIU 13
Southern Miss 30 FINAL
North Texas 20
Georgia Tech 43 FINAL
North Carolina 48
Tennessee 3 FINAL
(3) Ole Miss 34
Utah State 13 FINAL
Colorado State 16
Missouri 42 FINAL
Florida 13
Kentucky 3 FINAL
(24) LSU 41
(16) Nebraska 38 FINAL
Northwestern 17
Georgia State 27 FINAL
South Alabama 30
Washington 20 FINAL
(6) Oregon 45
Iowa State 45 FINAL
Texas 48
(7) Notre Dame 27 FINAL
(2) Florida State 31
Nevada 42 FINAL
BYU 35
Stanford 10 FINAL
(14) Arizona State 26
Hawaii 10 FINAL
San Diego St 20
Arkansas State 10/21/14 7:00 PM
Louisiana
Connecticut 10/23/14 6:00 PM
(18) East Carolina
Miami-Florida 10/23/14 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
So Florida 10/24/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Troy 10/24/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
BYU 10/24/14 8:00 PM
Boise State
(6) Oregon 10/24/14 9:00 PM
California
North Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Rice
UAB 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Arkansas
Rutgers 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
Maryland 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Wisconsin
Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
Minnesota 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
Memphis 10/25/14 11:00 AM
SMU
North Carolina 10/25/14 11:30 AM
Virginia
San Jose St 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Navy
Northern Ill 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
(25) UCLA 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Colorado
Akron 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Ball State
Massachusetts 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Toledo
Ohio U 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Western Mich
Ga Southern 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Kent State 10/25/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Oregon State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Stanford
Fla Atlantic 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(23) Marshall
Louisiana Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(1) Miss State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Georgia Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Pittsburgh
(22) West Virginia 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Texas Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(10) TCU
Michigan 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Boston College 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Central Mich 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Vanderbilt 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Missouri
Old Dominion 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Western Ky
UNLV 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Utah State
Temple 10/25/14 4:00 PM
UCF
(15) Arizona 10/25/14 5:00 PM
Washington St
Texas-El Paso 10/25/14 6:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Wyoming 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Colorado State
Syracuse 10/25/14 6:00 PM
(21) Clemson
Texas State 10/25/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(3) Ole Miss 10/25/14 6:15 PM
(24) LSU
(4) Alabama 10/25/14 6:30 PM
Tennessee
So Carolina 10/25/14 6:30 PM
(5) Auburn
(13) Ohio State 10/25/14 7:00 PM
Penn State
(20) USC 10/25/14 9:00 PM
(19) Utah
(14) Arizona State 10/25/14 9:45 PM
Washington
Nevada 10/25/14 10:59 PM
Hawaii
Columbus 3 FINAL
Red Bull New York 1
Seattle 2 FINAL
Los Angeles 2
Ottawa 6 FINAL
Hamilton 16
Montreal 20 FINAL
Toronto 12
Calgary 33 FINAL
Winnipeg 23
Edmonton 24 FINAL
Saskatchewan 19

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