49ers relegate Packers, Vikings to flyover land

John Gilbert

 Hair flying, UMD sophomore Brooke Olson watched her shot for two of her 28 points to lead the 11-1 Bulldogs past MSU Mankato Friday at Romano Gym. Photo credit: John Gilbert
 Hair flying, UMD sophomore Brooke Olson watched her shot for two of her 28 points to lead the 11-1 Bulldogs past MSU Mankato Friday at Romano Gym. Photo credit: John Gilbert

Just like that, the National Football League’s Central Division of the
NFC reverts to flyover land.  Back before the season started, I
predicted the Chicago Bears would repeat as division champion, and all
the talk about Green Bay and Vikings dueling for the title was just
talk. I added that I didn’t think the Central was strong enough to
contend for a slot in the Super Bowl.

Well, I was wrong about the Bears, who dropped to mid-pack, and I was
wrong about the Packers and Vikings fighting it out for the division
title. But I’m afraid I was right about the division not being strong
enough to challenge for a spot in the Super Bowl.

The Vikings played their best game in years to go into New Orleans and
eliminate the Saints to open the playoffs, but then they had to go to
San Francisco, where the 49ers embarrassed our boys in the second
round.

The Packers, meanwhile, enjoyed the bye week, then outlasted Seattle
to win their first playoff test, which gave them the chance to also go
to San Francisco to play for a spot in the Super Bowl. The Packers,
led by Aaron Rodgers, had opened by winning seven of their first eight
games, including a 31-24 triumph over Kansas City. Then they lost 37-8
to the 49ers. All the Packer backers boasted about how it would be
different this time. I couldn’t figure out how it would be different.

The 49ers whipped the Packers 37-20 in a game that wasn’t as close as
the score indicated. It was 27-0 at halftime, and 34-7 after three
quarters.

So the 49ers will represent the National conference in the Super Bowl
the week after next, were they will be opposed by the Kansas City
Chiefs, who had a roller-coaster of an American Conference final
before prevailing 35-24 over upstart Tennessee. The Titans might have
been worn out, because they had whipped the New England Patriots in
New England, and the Baltimore Ravens in Baltimore, knocking off the
best defensive team and the best offensive team back to back.

That sent the Titans to Kansas City, where they promptly jumped ahead
10-0 on a field goal and a Derrick Henry touchdown, and they made it
17-7 in the second quarter before the Chiefs got their equilibrium
back. Patrick Mahomes led the way, and the Chiefs scored two
touchdowns in the last 4:03 of the second quarter, and proceeded to
rattle off 28 straight points to turn a 17-7 deficit into a 34-17 lead
before a meaningless final Titan touchdown.

Derrick Henry, the best running back in the NFL, in my opinion, gained
69 yards, but incredibly, the Titans — who had ridden on Henry’s broad
shoulders against New England and Baltimore — gave him the ball only
twice in the entire second half. They deserved to lose.

We’ve got a week, then we can get into just enjoying Kansas City
against San Francisco in the Super Bowl, without even caring which
team wins.


UMD BASKETBALL RISES TO NSIC PROMINENCE


After watching the UMD basketball teams several times, I was still
waiting to see women’s team sophomore Brooke Olson get called upon to
become the true inspirational leader of the team. It happened last
Friday at Romano Gym.

The Bulldogs, unbeaten in Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference
play, faced a huge Minnesota State Mankato team, and coach Mandy
Pearson seemed to forego her preferance of subbing players in and out
on a fast-rotating shuffle. Olson not only played a lot, she was hot.
The sophomore from Rice Lake, Wis., is 6-foot-2, one of three Bulldogs
that height, but they were facing a Mavericks team that had six
players over 6-feet, including center Kristi Fett, a 6-5 sophomore
from Glenville, Minnesota.

UMD led 13-9 after one quarter, and 27-24 at halftime, but Olson
started to sizzle in the third quarter and the Bulldogs outscored
Mankato 23-14 and ran away to a 69-58 victory. Olson scored a personal
best 28 points, with 18 of them in the second half. She hit 5 of 8
tries from 3-point range and was 5 for 8 from the floor. The bigger
story was that she covered Kristi Fett and held her to 12 points —
possibly the decisive factor in UMD’s surge to pull away in the second
half.

She scored from inside as well as outside, from the baseline and
underneath in a strong showing, supported by 12 points from Maesyn
Thiesen and 10 from Sarah Grow.

The next day, IUMD beat Concordia of St. Paul 74-55, as Grow led the
way with 17 points, Taylor Schneider had 15 and Olson 12, with Ann
Simonet adding 10.

The Bulldogs are now 11-1 atop the NSIC and 14-4 overall.

The UMD men followed both games with their own battles, falling 67-65
to Minnesota State Mankato Friday night as star forward Brandon Myer,
of Superior, was held out of the second half after suffering a
concussion in the first half. But Myer came back Saturday to score 31,
supporting the 33 of freshman guard Drew Blair as the Bulldogs whipped
Concordia 101-92 in a scoring fest.

The Bulldogs hit 14 3-point shots and shot 53.6 percent with 30-56
field goals. Alex Illikainen of Grand Rapids had 10 points and the
Bulldogs improved to 9-3 in the NSIC, good for second place to
Northern State’s 10-2 mark. The Bulldogs are 14-4 overall.