BrainerdDispatch.com | Brainerd, Minnesota

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Gophers will open the 2012 football season a bit earlier than planned.

UNLV and the Mountain West Conference asked Minnesota to move their game in Las Vegas to Thursday, Aug. 30. They were originally going to play that Saturday.

The switch was announced Thursday by the school. Kickoff time and television coverage are to be determined.

Minnesota and UNLV have never met before in football. The two teams are scheduled to open the 2013 season as well in Minneapolis.

This will be the fifth opener in 12 years that Minnesota plays on a Thursday on the road.

This will be the third Big Ten team the Rebels have played at home. They hosted Northwestern in 2001 and Wisconsin five times between 1986 and 2010.

Vikings not interested in signing Moss

EDEN PRAIRIE (AP) — The Minnesota Vikings need wide receivers. Just not Randy Moss.

Given the trouble he caused during his second stint with the team, the disinterest in bringing back one of the most popular players among Vikings fans in franchise history comes as no surprise. But general manager Rick Spielman confirmed Thursday the Vikings “will be moving on” without Moss.

The 35-year-old didn’t play last season, but he announced this week he plans to return to the NFL. Spielman says Moss is a “great player” but that the Vikings’ “focus is more on trying to get a young team.” Spielman says he sees a strong group of wide receivers available through the draft and on the free agent market.

Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter dies at 57

NEW YORK (AP) — Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter, whose single for the New York Mets in the 1986 World Series touched off one of the most improbable rallies in baseball, died Thursday. He was 57.

Carter was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor last May.

Carter was an 11-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove winner. His bottom-of-the-10th single in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series helped the New York Mets mount a charge against the Boston Red Sox and eventually beat them.

Nicknamed “Kid,” Carter played nearly two decades with the Mets, Montreal, San Francisco and the Los Angeles Dodgers. He was the first player to go into the Hall of Fame with an Expos cap on his plaque.

Mets’ Johan Santana set for bullpen session

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. (AP) — New York Mets left-hander Johan Santana is ready for his first big test this spring.

A few days before training camp opens, Santana is scheduled to throw a bullpen session on a back field Friday.

It will be the first time the two-time Cy Young Award winner has thrown off a mound since pitching four innings in an instructional league game on Sept. 30. Santana had surgery on his left shoulder in September 2010 has not pitched in a major league game since then.

The 32-year-old ace says he’s looking forward to the outing and says it will be fun to get back on the mound. Santana played catch with pitching coach Dan Warthen on Thursday and did some fielding drills.

Mickelson returns to the top of leaderboard

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Four days after a big win at Pebble Beach, Phil Mickelson keeps right on rolling.

Mickelson chipped in from 35 feet on the 18th hole at Riviera on Thursday for a 5-under 66, giving him a one-shot lead in the opening round of the Northern Trust Open.

J.B. Holmes, in his fourth tournament since returning from brain surgery, mixed birdies and bogeys along his back nine and shot 67. He was with Hunter Mahan, who birdied four straight toward the end of his round.

All played in the afternoon as the wind died slightly.

Jonathan Byrd had the best score of the morning, when it was chilly and blustery. He had a 68.

Mickelson closed with a 64 to rally from six shots behind at Pebble Beach.

Danica Patrick in spotlight at Daytona

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — The buildup for Danica Patrick’s first Daytona 500 began in earnest at Thursday’s annual media day, where auto racing’s sweetheart was saddled with a full schedule of commitments.

Patrick was shuffled from interview to interview, answering questions and shooting promotions for her first full season in NASCAR. She couldn’t even find solitude in the bathroom: an autograph seeker followed Patrick inside and patiently waited for the driver’s signature.

Patrick will make her Sprint Cup Series debut in the Feb. 26 season-opening Daytona 500. It’s the first of 10 races this year at NASCAR’s top level, and she’s racing for the championship in the second-tier Nationwide Series.

She says she has learned how to deal with the intense spotlight while racing in the Indianapolis 500 the last seven years.

‘Monday Night Football’ moves to 2-man booth

BRISTOL, Conn. (AP) — “Monday Night Football” is switching to a two-man booth.

Analyst Ron Jaworski has signed a five-year contract extension to appear on other programming on ESPN and will no longer join play-by-play announcer Mike Tirico and color commentator Jon Gruden on Monday nights, the network said Wednesday.

Jaworski, the former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback, will work various ESPN studio shows year-round, often focusing on his specialty of breaking down video.

“With him doing one game each week, we don’t necessarily believe we were getting the best Ron Jaworski had to offer to the network,” executive vice president Norby Williamson said.