Football is king in the fall as excitement surrounds Minn. teams

Published 12:23 am Thursday, August 15, 2013

Column: Notes from Nashville, by Andrew Dyrdal

The weatherman on our local TV station said the temperature in Nashville was going to dip below 80 degrees today — a surefire sign that fall in middle Tennessee is right around the corner.

Summer was particularly cool here, and the locals declared it a miracle we didn’t have weeks where the sun drove the air above 100.

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While I don’t have sweltering heat to escape this fall, I am more excited about this autumn than any other I can remember. I have free concerts on the Tennessee State Capitol lawn to look forward to every Thursday night, and local breweries host outdoor events each weekend now that the weather is tolerable. (Fat Bottom Brewery on Sunday is hosting a corn hole tournament with a bottomless cup of beer for a $5 donation to charity).

But, like a good Southerner, I am most excited for football.

I didn’t need to be in Minnesota this summer to feel the strong buzz surrounding both the state’s professional and collegiate football teams. The Gophers return what should be one of the stronger defenses in the Big Ten Conference along with a handful of dynamic running backs, including incumbent starter Donnell Kirkwood and incoming freshman Berkley Edwards, who is impressing his teammates and coaches with his speed.

The Vikings’ speedster, Cordarrelle Patterson, or, as he calls himself, Flash, had the team’s best performance in their preseason loss to the Texans by returning the opening kickoff 50 yards and catching a team-high four receptions for 54 yards.

And football is not far off. The Vikings’ season begins in 26 days, and the Gophers open their season at TCF Bank Stadium in two weeks against UNLV.

It will be Minnesota’s first home opener since 2008 when they beat Northern Illinois in the Metrodome. The Gophers went on that season to start 7-1 and were ranked as high as No. 20 in the nation before losing their final five games, including a 55-0 loss at home to Iowa.

Like the Gophers, the Albert Lea Tigers begin their season on Aug. 29 at Mankato West. If you go to the game, pay attention to Scarlets quarterback Ryan Schlitchte. The 6-foot-1-inch junior has interest from Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin but has yet to receive a scholarship offer.

I will be paying close attention to Minnesota’s football teams this fall, whether I’m streaming the Big Ten Network on my iPad on Saturdays or at Sam’s Sports Bar on Sundays.

While I’ll still be able to watch the games, I’ll miss having the windows open with a sweatshirt. Watching Adrian Peterson run over the Packers isn’t the same against the hum of my air conditioner.

Andrew Dyrdal’s column appears in the Tribune each Thursday.