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Minnesota Sports Briefs: U prepping for football opener

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MINNEAPOLIS - The University of Minnesota football team continues to prepare for the season opener set for Thursday night in Las Vegas against UNLV.

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Head coach Jerry Kill says the coaching staff will have to make some tough decisions over the next two days in determining which players will comprise the traveling squad out to Nevada. Minnesota and UNLV kick off at 10 p.m., Minnesota time on Thursday. The Gophers will have practice today and tomorrow on campus, before leaving via charter jet on Wednesday for Thursday's game.

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Minnesota Vikings tight end John Carlson of Litchfield was back on the practice field yesterday at Winter Park. Head coach Leslie Frazier says Carlson was moving well in practice, but the Notre Dame product will still sit out Thursday's preseason game at Houston. Carlson has been nursing a sprained knee since July 31st. He is expected to be available to play in the regular season opener on September 9th against Jacksonville.

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The Vikings will wrap up preseason play against the Texans in Houston on Thursday. The Vikings suffered a 12-10 loss to the Chargers at the Metrodome on Friday. Minnesota dropped to 1-2 in exhibition play with the setback. Thursday's game is at 6 p.m.

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The Vikings trimmed their roster down to the league-mandated 75 players on Saturday prior to yesterday's deadline. Among those released were offensive lineman Levi Horn and wide receivers Kamar Jorden and A.J. Love. Minnesota will close out the preseason at Houston on Thursday and must cut down to 53 players a day later.

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Houston's Matt Schaub was 15-of-18 with 194 yards and a touchdown as the Texans fell to the Saints 34-27 on Saturday night. Arian Foster rushed for 32 yards and a score on eight carries. Ben Tate also found the endzone on the ground. Houston placed former Texas A&M kicker Randy Bullock on the injured reserve with a torn groin muscle. He was drafted in the fifth round of last April's NFL Draft. The Texans close the preseason at home against Minnesota on Thursday.

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Denver receiver and former University of Minnesota star Eric Decker caught two touchdown passes from Peyton Manning in the Broncos' 29-24 preseason loss to the 49ers last night in Denver. Decker, a Cold Spring native and former Golden Gopher, finished with four receptions for 38 yards. Manning was 10-of-12 for 122 yards and the two scores in only a quarter of action. Denver led 17-0 when Manning was lifted from the exhibition affair.

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Tarvaris Jackson's time in Seattle has come to an end. Multiple sources say the former Vikings signal-caller will be traded from the Seahawks to the Buffalo Bills. The 29-year-old only spent one season in the Pacific Northwest after five years with the Minnesota Vikings. He completed 60-percent of his passes for just over three-thousand yards, 14 touchdowns and 13 interceptions last season. The terms of the deal have not been finalized.

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The wife of the embattled Minnesota State University-Mankato football coach will be making a statement to the media later this morning. 46-year-old Todd Hoffner is charged with two counts of child pornography, both charges stem from videos found on Hoffner's work cell phone and police say the videos involve his three children. In court, Hoffner's attorney told the judge the videos were private, family moments and it's only an interpretation that the images on the videos are pornographic. Hoffner's wife Melodee is expected to address the media outside a Mankato lawfirm.

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The Minnesota Lynx battle the San Antonio Silver Stars tonight. The Lynx are coming off an 84-74 win against Atlanta on Saturday. Minnesota has won six straight and sit at 19-4 on the season.

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The University of Minnesota women's soccer team ran by Southern California 4-1 yesterday in Los Angeles. Sophomore Taylor Uhl tallied two goals and an assist in the impressive win. Minnesota is now 2-2 on the season and will host Bowling Green on Thursday.

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The final tennis major tournament of the season began Monday with first-round play at the U.S. Open. Top seeds Roger Federer and Victoria Azarenka cruised to wins on the first day of the U.S. Open yesterday. Other winners on the men's side included third-seed Andy Murray, and Americans James Blake and Mardy Fish, who was born in Edina.

World number-ones Roger Federer and Victoria Azarenka are the top men's and women's seeds, respectively. Federer has won five US. Open titles among his 17 major championships. Mardy Fish, who was born in Edina, is the 23rd seed in the men's draw. American John Isner is seeded ninth with 2003 champion Andy Roddick 20th. Spanish star Rafael Nadal is not playing due to knee problems.

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Nick Watney shot a two-under 69 in the final round to rally to win The Barclays on Sunday. Watney began the final round two shots back, but finished at 10-under-par to win the PGA's first playoff event of the year. Watney is first in the FedExCup standings with three more playoff events to go Brandt Snedeker finished alone in second place at seven-under. Dustin Johnson and Sergio Garcia tied for third at six-under. Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson tied for 38th at one-over.

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Denny Hamlin picked up his third win of the season and first-career checkered flag at Bristol Motor Speedway Saturday night by winning the IRWIN Tools Night Race. Hamlin held off Jimmie Johnson for the top spot. Johnson's second place run allowed him to clinch a spot in the Chase along with Greg Biffle and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Biffle finished 19th while Earnhardt Jr. came in 12th. Jeff Gordon claimed the third place finish followed by Brian Vickers and Marcos Ambrose.

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A hit song that fires up crowds at sporting events is being removed from the playlist at Penn State football games. Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline" will not be played inside the stadium this year. The "Altoona Mirror" reports the school is sensitive to the fact that the crowd would potentially sing along to the lyrics "touching you, touching me." Former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky is awaiting sentencing on a slew of child molestation charges. That scandal also ruined the reputation of legendary former coach Joe Paterno and led to a number of NCAA sanctions against the school. The University of Minnesota does not play Penn State in football this season.

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The NHL will look to move closer to a resolution in its labor situation when sides meet in New York today. Talks lasted for about 90 minutes last Thursday. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman says the league and union remain far apart on key financial elements. According to Bettman, the league is focused on making a deal, while the Players Association wants to keep things the way they are. Union head Donald Fehr says the players want a fair and equitable agreement that recognizes their contribution. Among Thursday's topics were waiver rules, the college draft, buyouts and the postseason player's pool. The collective bargaining agreement expires September 15th and a lockout is expected without a new deal.

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The DNR says Minnesota's pheasant harvest was down in 2011, but the duck and grouse harvests remained steady. Officials blame the drop in pheasant harvest on two moderately-severe winters in a row, plus last year's cold, wet spring. An estimated 204-thousand pheasants were taken in 2011 -- a 43-percent drop from the year before. Meanwhile the DNR says regulation changes and an earlier opening day likely contributed to a 18-percent increase in the duck harvest. Officials add the 2011 ruffed grouse harvest, at 401,000 birds, was one of the three-highest in the last ten years.

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