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MINNESOTA SPORTS ROUND-UP: Gopher grids struggle in 23-7 loss

MINNEAPOLIS (Sports Network) - Mark Weisman rushed for 147 yards as the Iowa Hawkeyes defeated the Minnesota Golden Gophers, 23-7, in each team's Big Ten Conference opener at TCF Stadium Saturday afternoon.

Weisman did his damage on 24 carries and has now rushed for at least 100 yards four times this season. Jake Rudock completed 15-of-25 passes for 218 yards with two touchdowns (one rushing) and an interception. Rudock's key target through the air was Kevonte Martin-Manley, who had six catches for 56 yards. Damon Powell had just one catch but it went for 74 yards and a touchdown. The Hawkeyes (4-1, 1-0 Big Ten) have won four in a row after dropping their season opener. Minnesota (4-1, 0-1) struggled to generate offense on the afternoon as it suffered its first loss of the season. Philip Nelson completed just 12- of-24 passes for 135 yards with a touchdown and two picks. Rodrick Williams Jr. led the Gophers in rushing with only 22 yards, while Derrick Engel had five catches for 67 yards and a score.

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Scott Kazmir struck out 11, Carlos Santana hit a two-run homer and the Indians beat the Minnesota Twins 5-1 on Saturday for their ninth straight win, moving them closer to their first playoff berth in six years. If the Indians sweep the Twins on Sunday they are in the playoffsfor the first time since losing the 2007 ALCS. If they lose can do no worse than a regular season tiebreaker for the final AL wild-card spot. Cleveland's win Saturday coupled with Tampa Bay's loss to Toronto gave the Indians their one-game lead at 91-70. The Rangers beat the Angels on Saturday and are tied with the Rays for the second AL wild-card berth at 90-71. Kazmir (10-9) improved to 3-0 against the Twins this season after giving up one run, six hits and two walks in six innings. Marc Rzepczynski, Cody Allen and Joe Smith then faced the minimum over the last three innings as the Indians took their third straight from the Twins. Cole De Vries (0-2) went five innings in his second start of the season and gave up five runs, six hits and a walk for Minnesota. The right-hander's seven strikeouts came in the first four innings.  Ryan Doumit and Josh Willingham had back-to-back singles to start the bottom of the fourth for the Twins and Eric Fryer knocked Doumit in with a two-out single to get them within 2-1. But the Indians sent eight batters to the plate and scored three runs with two outs in the fifth to take a 5-1 lead. Michael Bourn tripled to knock in the first two runs and scored on Kipnis' single.

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Matt Cassel will be the starting quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday against Pittsburgh in London as Christian Ponder recovers from a rib injury. Ponder was hurt early in last Sunday's game against Cleveland, but managed to finish the contest. He was limited in practice this week, giving Cassel the majority of reps with the first-team offense. Ponder was hoping to play Sunday with the aid of rib protection, saying earlier this week that his biggest concern was contact, but coach Leslie Frazier decided the risk of further injury was too great.  Cassel joined the Vikings in March after spending the past four years in Kansas City. A poor 2012 season sealed his fate with the Chiefs, who acquired Alex Smith in a trade with San Francisco. Ponder, meanwhile, has struggled somewhat as the Vikings have opened with three straight losses. He has completed 59 percent of his passes for 691 yards with two touchdowns and five interceptions in three games.  Cassel face a Steelers team that has plenty to figure out as well after Chicago's Julius Peppers returned a fumble 42 yards for a touchdown and Major Wright brought back an interception 38 yards for a score in the Bears' 40-23 Week 3 triumph over Pittsburgh. Kick-off is at noon.

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The Vikings will be without two of their starting defensive backs this Sunday when they face the Pittsburgh Steelers at Wembley Stadium in London, England, as cornerback Chris Cook and safety Jamarca Sanford have been ruled out. Cook (groin) has recorded eight tackles, while Sanford (hamstring) has 17 tackles for the Vikings in three games for Minnesota this season. Also ruled out for Sunday's game is backup tight end Rhett Ellison (knee). Starting middle linebacker Erin Henderson (heel) has been listed as probable for the Vikings on Sunday. Also listed as probable for the Vikings is running back Matt Asiata (hamstring), cornerback A.J. Jefferson (ankle), long snapper Cullen Loeffler (neck), and defensive tackle Kevin Williams (knee).

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