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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Mike Hughes’ debut might not have been perfect but it certainly was memorable

By Judd Zulgad

Cornerback Mike Hughes spent most of last week’s practice working at the nickel spot in anticipation of replacing the injured Mackensie Alexander in the Vikings’ season-opener Sunday against San Francisco at U.S. Bank Stadium.

But the plan for where Hughes would see the majority of his snaps changed in the second quarter when cornerback Trae Waynes suffered an injury to his right knee while breaking up a pass for wide receiver Dante Pettis in the end zone. Waynes was lost for the game and Hughes, the Vikings’ first-round pick last April, suddenly found himself replacing Waynes on the outside.

So what did Mike Zimmer say to Hughes as the rookie took over? “‘Get out there and cover the guy,’” said the always blunt Vikings coach.

Hughes did more than that. In the third quarter, 49ers wide receiver Kendrick Bourne fell down on a sideline route and when quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo’s pass was off-the-mark, Hughes was right there to pick it off at the San Francisco 28-yard line. There was nothing but daylight in front of Hughes and he ran it into the end zone to become the first rookie in franchise history to return an interception for a touchdown on opening day.

That gave the Vikings a 17-3 lead in what turned into a 24-16 victory.

“I kind of blanked out,” Hughes said. “I was just amazed. All my teammates came around me. I was celebrating, I was getting the crowd hyped. It was a great feeling.”

Hughes’ day was not one of perfection, at least if you listen to Zimmer. “He made some mistakes today and hopefully, none of those mistakes cost us the game, but he practiced nickel all week long,” Zimmer said. “He hardly practiced any corner so he had to go out there in corner. These young guys they have to be on point with everything that we’re doing. He had some unsure thing going on today that we’ll get corrected and I think he’ll be better for it. He’s a good kid, a good football player and he got a nice ball thrown to him one time today.”

Hughes finished with three tackles and broke up three passes, including another one on which he thought he might have a second pick. But it’s the interception for the touchdown that he will always remember.

“It is surreal,” he said of seeing and hearing the crowd of 66,673 go crazy as he ran toward the end zone. “But doing that just makes you want to do it more. We are going to get back to work and hopefully I can get one next week.”

The post Mike Hughes’ debut might not have been perfect but it certainly was memorable appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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