MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Vikings needed someone to step into the backfield with star running back Adrian Peterson and his backup Toby Gerhart out with injuries, and Matt Asiata answered the call in a big way.
The former Utah running back, who was the Vikings' third-stringer, got his first NFL start against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday and scored the first three touchdowns of his pro career in a 48-30 victory.
Asiata rushed for 51 yards on 30 carries against Philadelphia, and he had three receptions for 15 yards for injury-riddled Minnesota. Going into the game, the former Hunter High athlete had three career carries in the NFL for nine yards, as well as one reception for two yards.
“My dream was to make it to the NFL, and I wish my dad was here to witness it,” an emotional Asiata told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. His father, Pita, was killed in a bus accident outside of Wendover, Nev., on Oct. 28. He was 53.
"He's been through a lot with his family and to see him rewarded like this and to get this opportunity ... so grateful for him, grateful for his family," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier told the Pioneer Press. "I'm sure it was a great day for them and something he'll be able to cherish for the rest of his life."
His first touchdown of the game — a 1-yard score with 1:06 to play until halftime — put Minnesota up 17-6.
Asiata's other two touchdowns came in the fourth quarter and helped the Vikings hold off Philadelphia and snap the Eagles' five-game winning streak. Asiata's 1-yard run with 13:01 remaining put Minnesota up 34-22 after the Eagles had cut the Viking lead to five points.
Asiata then delivered the game-sealing score, finding the end zone from five yards out with just over a minute to play to put the Vikings up 18.
“I look at it as a blessing,” Asiata told Sports Illustrated, “just getting the opportunity to show the coaches what I can do and help this offense out.”
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