Notebook: Height not a hindrance this time

Audie Cole sometimes wishes he wasn't a 6-foot-5 linebacker, but his height served him well with a career night Friday. Plus, another Senior Bowl alum made a good impression, the O-line impact, Christian Ponder's sliding theory and completion percentage, and more.

At 6-foot-5, rookie Audie Cole is easily the tallest linebacker on the Vikings roster, surpassing next-in-line Erin Henderson by two inches.

In fact, on the entire Vikings defense, he is equaled only by defensive tackle Kevin Williams and passed only by Jared Allen by one inch. All that height proved to be an advantage for Cole on Friday night when he reached up for two interceptions that he returned for touchdowns.

But Cole said his tall frame isn't exactly ideal for a linebacker.

"Sometimes I wish I wasn't as tall, but it works out. I can't trade what I got. I've just got to make it work," he said.

"You're so tall and you try to play low as a linebacker. Sometimes it's tough as a tall guy to stay down, but it's what I've got so it's what I'm trying to work with."

The Vikings should be fine with his record-setting two touchdowns from a defender, coming on back-to-back interceptions from two different Buffalo Bills quarterbacks.

It was such a feat that none of the players that congratulated Cole in the end zone or on the sidelines had ever seen anything like it.

"I've never scored one touchdown in a game. In high school I scored some touchdowns and maybe had two in a game back then – but that was on offense. I never scored in college, so this was really cool," Cole said.

"To be honest, it was all just a blur, especially the second one. Right now I can't hardly even remember it."

The highlight shows ought to remind him. Oh, and trending on Twitter likely continued his postgame high.

It seemed like old hat by the second touchdown, which came just 13 second after his first one, but truth be told he isn't used to scoring touchdowns … at least as a defender.

Asked how many interceptions he has returned for touchdowns, he quipped: "Ah, counting today? Two."

In fact, in four years at North Carolina State, Cole had only one interception.

It even prompted a little jeering from his former NC State teammate and current Buffalo Bills receiver T.J. Graham, who was on the field at the time.

"Of all the people on their team, I did not want him to catch the balls, and score twice," Graham said. "The second time I was on the field, I tried to catch him. I chased him to the back of the end zone, and I tried to slap the ball out because I did not want him to score, of all people. But I'm proud of him. If anything, I can brag N.C. State this and that. It was cool. I'm going to talk to him after this, and tell him good job. But I wish he didn't do it."

For Cole, a seventh-round draft pick, it will help improve his potential to make the 53-man roster at a position where the Vikings don't have much experienced depth.

"It feels great. Heck, I never scored a touchdown in college my whole time there. This is awesome, a great feeling," he said.

"You sit the night before and think about doing stuff like that. You know, just like you said, I am just trying to make the team, and I hope that (Friday's performance) helps my cause."

Vikings coach Leslie Frazier, the former defensive coordinator, took note. Like rookie safety Harrison Smith, the Vikings coaching staff got to know Cole while coaching the North squad at the Senior Bowl college all-star game in January.

They likely never envisioned a 13-second stretch like he had Friday night, but with a defense that struggled to get interceptions last year – much less score a touchdown when they did pick the ball – they'll take it.

"To see Audie do what he did, that's a big deal," Frazier said. "You could see all the jubilation from his teammates. Everybody on the team was with him in the end zone with him on that second one. It's pretty impressive. We're excited for him. He seems to be one of those guys who may be someone who has a knack for the big play. His first play against San Francisco as a pro, he gets a sack. To come in there and get two touchdowns in one game, that's rare."

NOTES

  • Smith made his first start, and that's likely going to continue after a solid performance. Frazier indicated Smith will be one of the starting safeties going forward.

    "I've got to look at the tape, but I don't see anything from (Friday night) that would tell me anything different," Frazier said. "I would think that he's going to continue to get better and better. We're counting on that. That's one of the reasons we drafted him when we did. We're counting on him to be a starter. I haven't seen anything, without looking at the tape, that would upset that."

    Smith had two tackles, but probably the biggest play he made was knocking down a pass when coming on a blitz on third-and-15 to end the Bills' second possession.

  • The Vikings' offensive line gave up two sacks on the team's first possession, both of them going to the starting defensive tackles for the Bills – Marcel Dareus and Kyle Williams – but the offensive still scored a touchdown on that opening drive. After that, the starting line didn't give up a sack in two more series of work.

    "That's a pretty good front Buffalo has and they started some guys that can really get after the quarterback," Frazier said. "I thought we settled down and began to open up some holes with our first unit and it really contained those rushes as well and gave Christian (Ponder) some time to make his reads. I think our offensive line as a whole is coming together."

  • Christian Ponder dove head first for a 3-yard gain on third-and-2 at the 4-yard line toward the end of the Vikings' first drive, but, bucking conventional quarterback wisdom, he said going head-first was by design.

    "Coach (Bill) Musgrave made this cut-up about sliding head first versus sliding feet first and we've never seen someone get hurt sliding head first. So it's on purpose," Ponder said. "When you slide feet first, you're exposing your body to get hit, and like we saw at Washington and me last year, I got pretty jacked up that game. People are tweeting at me like, ‘Dude, slide feet first. What are you doing?" But it's a planned deal."

  • Ponder came into the game saying he wanted to complete 75 percent of his first-down passes. He was sacked on two first downs, but he completed a 1-yard touchdown pass to Jerome Felton on first down and ended his night completing exactly 75 percent of his first-down throws (3-for-4).

    "That's the goal and people always tell me that it's such an unreachable goal, but you have to set your goals high," he said. "That's the plan. We want 75 percent completion on first down, keep the sticks moving, and keep the ball in our hands."

  • TE Kyle Rudolph said he "just got my bell rung a little bit" and passed all of his tests, but Frazier said Rudolph and CB Chris Cook would be evaluated further after suffering concussion-like symptoms. Rudolph appeared to absorb a helmet-to-helmet blow after a catching a 7-yard pass on the Vikings' third series, and Cook suffered his injury on the Bills' ensuing drive after Donald Johnson caught a 7-yard pass and Cook caused a fumble that the Bills recovered.


    Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.



  • Viking Update Top Stories

    \r\n\r\n","mobileBody":"At 6-foot-5, rookie Audie Cole is easily the tallest linebacker on the Vikings roster, surpassing next-in-line Erin Henderson by two inches. In fact, on the entire Vikings defense, he is equaled only by defensive tackle Kevin Williams and passed only by Jared Allen by one inch. All that height proved to be an advantage for Cole on Friday night when he reached up for two interceptions that he returned for touchdowns. But Cole said his tall frame isn't exactly ideal for a linebacker. \"Sometimes I wish I wasn't as tall, but it works out. I can't trade what I got. I've just got to make it work,\" he said. \"You're so tall and you try to play low as a linebacker. Sometimes it's tough as a tall guy to stay down, but it's what I've got so it's what I'm trying to work with.\" The Vikings should be fine with his record-setting two touchdowns from a defender, coming on back-to-back interceptions from two different Buffalo Bills quarterbacks. It was such a feat that none of the players that congratulated Cole in the end zone or on the sidelines had ever seen anything like it. \"I've never scored one touchdown in a game. In high school I scored some touchdowns and maybe had two in a game back then – but that was on offense. I never scored in college, so this was really cool,\" Cole said. \"To be honest, it was all just a blur, especially the second one. Right now I can't hardly even remember it.\" The highlight shows ought to remind him. Oh, and trending on Twitter likely continued his postgame high. It seemed like old hat by the second touchdown, which came just 13 second after his first one, but truth be told he isn't used to scoring touchdowns … at least as a defender. Asked how many interceptions he has returned for touchdowns, he quipped: \"Ah, counting today? Two.\" In fact, in four years at North Carolina State, Cole had only one interception. It even prompted a little jeering from his former NC State teammate and current Buffalo Bills receiver T.J. Graham, who was on the field at the time. \"Of all the people on their team, I did not want him to catch the balls, and score twice,\" Graham said. \"The second time I was on the field, I tried to catch him. I chased him to the back of the end zone, and I tried to slap the ball out because I did not want him to score, of all people. But I'm proud of him. If anything, I can brag N.C. State this and that. It was cool. I'm going to talk to him after this, and tell him good job. But I wish he didn't do it.\" For Cole, a seventh-round draft pick, it will help improve his potential to make the 53-man roster at a position where the Vikings don't have much experienced depth. \"It feels great. Heck, I never scored a touchdown in college my whole time there. This is awesome, a great feeling,\" he said. \"You sit the night before and think about doing stuff like that. You know, just like you said, I am just trying to make the team, and I hope that (Friday's performance) helps my cause.\" Vikings coach Leslie Frazier, the former defensive coordinator, took note. Like rookie safety Harrison Smith, the Vikings coaching staff got to know Cole while coaching the North squad at the Senior Bowl college all-star game in January. They likely never envisioned a 13-second stretch like he had Friday night, but with a defense that struggled to get interceptions last year – much less score a touchdown when they did pick the ball – they'll take it. \"To see Audie do what he did, that's a big deal,\" Frazier said. \"You could see all the jubilation from his teammates. Everybody on the team was with him in the end zone with him on that second one. It's pretty impressive. We're excited for him. He seems to be one of those guys who may be someone who has a knack for the big play. His first play against San Francisco as a pro, he gets a sack. To come in there and get two touchdowns in one game, that's rare.\"
  • Smith made his first start, and that's likely going to continue after a solid performance. Frazier indicated Smith will be one of the starting safeties going forward. \"I've got to look at the tape, but I don't see anything from (Friday night) that would tell me anything different,\" Frazier said. \"I would think that he's going to continue to get better and better. We're counting on that. That's one of the reasons we drafted him when we did. We're counting on him to be a starter. I haven't seen anything, without looking at the tape, that would upset that.\" Smith had two tackles, but probably the biggest play he made was knocking down a pass when coming on a blitz on third-and-15 to end the Bills' second possession.
  • The Vikings' offensive line gave up two sacks on the team's first possession, both of them going to the starting defensive tackles for the Bills – Marcel Dareus and Kyle Williams – but the offensive still scored a touchdown on that opening drive. After that, the starting line didn't give up a sack in two more series of work. \"That's a pretty good front Buffalo has and they started some guys that can really get after the quarterback,\" Frazier said. \"I thought we settled down and began to open up some holes with our first unit and it really contained those rushes as well and gave Christian (Ponder) some time to make his reads. I think our offensive line as a whole is coming together.\"
  • Christian Ponder dove head first for a 3-yard gain on third-and-2 at the 4-yard line toward the end of the Vikings' first drive, but, bucking conventional quarterback wisdom, he said going head-first was by design. \"Coach (Bill) Musgrave made this cut-up about sliding head first versus sliding feet first and we've never seen someone get hurt sliding head first. So it's on purpose,\" Ponder said. \"When you slide feet first, you're exposing your body to get hit, and like we saw at Washington and me last year, I got pretty jacked up that game. People are tweeting at me like, ‘Dude, slide feet first. What are you doing?\" But it's a planned deal.\"
  • Ponder came into the game saying he wanted to complete 75 percent of his first-down passes. He was sacked on two first downs, but he completed a 1-yard touchdown pass to Jerome Felton on first down and ended his night completing exactly 75 percent of his first-down throws (3-for-4). \"That's the goal and people always tell me that it's such an unreachable goal, but you have to set your goals high,\" he said. \"That's the plan. We want 75 percent completion on first down, keep the sticks moving, and keep the ball in our hands.\"
  • TE Kyle Rudolph said he \"just got my bell rung a little bit\" and passed all of his tests, but Frazier said Rudolph and CB Chris Cook would be evaluated further after suffering concussion-like symptoms. Rudolph appeared to absorb a helmet-to-helmet blow after a catching a 7-yard pass on the Vikings' third series, and Cook suffered his injury on the Bills' ensuing drive after Donald Johnson caught a 7-yard pass and Cook caused a fumble that the Bills recovered.
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