LAS VEGAS – Klein Mond picked up his fourth shotgun, and stood quietly in the jeep as the Raiders sent a three-man rush behind him. He saw Dan Chisena – one of his minor choices on the play – shake free from cornerback Chris Jones on the far path, and Mund passed the ball to the receiver for a 22-yard gain.
“That was the decisive one: His first lead was knocked out, cool in the pocket, he advanced with a great rhythm and threw a very nice ball to Dunn,” said head coach Kevin O’Connell. Then I saw him getting late in the third and fourth advance [in the game] There for Galen Naylor [for 16 yards] or Myron [Mitchell for 16 yards] on the back side [of the play]. When you see it coming back into it, that’s growth.”
Contrast that with Mond’s final first-half throw in the Vikings’ 26-20 loss to the Raiders in the season opener: lunge left, then right, dodging a three-man dash as his teammates, first Bessie Johnson and Triston Jackson, then lift Emyr Smith -Marcett and Zach Davidson hold hands to call the ball. Throwing Mond behind Jackson and coming out of the back of the end zone as Smith Marset put his hands on his helmet, he called O’Connell to his second short goal at Greg Joseph Field, after a play in which he thought Mond had a chance to land.
O’Connell approached his first pre-season game, his initial rite of passage as the 10th coach in Vikings history, with two goals: keep key players healthy and learn as much as he can about the young players who will occupy the field at Allegiant Stadium Sunday.
The first goal was easy, as not all of the Vikings’ Pro Bowl skill players and five defensive players played. If O’Connell can claim to have succeeded in the second, it may be due to experiences like those of Mond.
“I wanted to go out and win this game, but we’re going to make sure we don’t miss out on some real, teachable moments,” O’Connell said.
The Vikings lost due to their inability to finish driving in the first half and some defensive lapses throughout; They gave up two scoring campaigns in the long second half and allowed the Conquerors to hold the ball for 3 minutes and 44 seconds. But in some dynamic moments from junior running backs Tai Chandler and Kenny Nwango, flashes from defenders like Brian Asamoah and Patrick Jones and especially in the second half for Mond, the Vikings might be able to grab something.
Mond threw two TD passes in the second half to Albert Wilson, finishing 9 for 14 for 119 yards. Shawn Manion, who played the first three series and returned for another one in the fourth quarter, went 8 of 12 for 79 yards.
The Vikings outplayed the Raiders 172-94 in the first half, but incurred a 66-yard penalty. They went 0 for 4 in the third loss, and only took six points from two runs in the red.
Mannion skipped Ihmir Smith-Marsette in the back corner of the end zone on the Vikings’ third drive, and O’Connell chose to send Joseph for a 20-yard attempt.
“My way of thinking was that I could leave the ball high, safe and have points in hand with a great shot,” Manion said. “I’ve been very careful; we have other people in the play, if I can go ahead there. Maybe something and maybe there isn’t, but any time you’re in the red you want to come in with seven.”
In Mond’s first series, the Vikings ran five times for 54 yards, showing off the dribbling he showed in camp to extend runs that started with big holes in the middle. Nwangwu bounced outside for 12 yards, before Mond missed Johnson in a fade, and after Nwangwu ran for 2 yards, the Vikings had to call Joseph again after he lost Mond’s third contact.
“I saw Ken on the right side,” Mond said. “It’s one of those where the corner kick probably took too much credit; his hips were a little more down the field, and I think he could still break the ball. And when you look at it again, it’s obviously easy to train yourself when you’re back on the line. The sidebar and you see it on the video. Those are some of the things where you keep training your eyes, and have more confidence tearing up these things.”
Las Vegas, leading 10-6 in the inning, increased the lead to 10 points when Nick Mullins hit DJ Turner for a 34-yard touchdown on a drive as the Vikings’ illegal substitution penalty was awarded to a first-time Raiders penalty.
Mullins fit his third TD pass down on a shallow drop from linebacker Blake Lynch while Turner beat Barry Nickerson across the field. Nickerson attempted to strip the ball unsuccessfully, and rookie Turner avoided Achilles Evans while Josh Metellus was blocked.
“In the end, can we improve the situation?” O’Connell said. “The third zone down and the red zone weren’t good enough to win.”
They headed home, after their first-ever game in Nevada, hoping to make some headway.
“It just keeps stacking up the days and keeps getting better,” Mond said. “I felt more comfortable because I kept going.”