Joe Christensen covered Major League Baseball for 15 years, including three seasons at the Baltimore Sun and eight at the Star Tribune, before switching to the college football beat. He’s a Faribault, Minn., native who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1996. He covered Jim Wacker’s Gophers for the Minnesota Daily and also wrote about USC, UCLA and the Rose Bowl for the Riverside Press-Enterprise before getting this chance to cover football again.
Email Joe to talk about the Gophers.
The Gophers added another coveted offensive lineman to their 2015 recruiting class Tuesday, when Tyler Moore, a center/guard from Houston North Shore High School gave a verbal commitment to Minnesota.
Moore, a consensus three-star recruit, also had reported offers from Texas, Kansas and BYU.
I am glad to announce my commitment to the UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA! #Ski-U-Mah I could be more fired up!— Tyler Moore (@Ohh_MOE) December 16, 2014
He is Minnesota's 18th commitment for the 2015 class and fifth offensive lineman. The Gophers have made the offensive line and secondary big priorities in this class. The other O-line commits are Nick Connelly (Red Wing), Bronson Dovich (Chaska), Ted Stieber (Akron, Ohio) and Quinn Oseland (Springfield, Ill.).
Here's a highlight video:
The Gophers had a narrow increase in home attendance this season, to 47,865 per game. According to a report from CBSSports.com, this came in a year when attendance across the nation dropped to its lowest since 2000.
The CBSSports.com report notes that Ohio State led the nation 106,296 fans per game, followed by Texas A&M (105,123) and Michigan (104,909). This ended Michigan's 16-year run as the nation's attendance leader.
The report notes that average attendance in the Big Ten was 66,939, down from 70,431 last year, which was largely the result of adding Maryland and Rutgers. Maryland had a 14 percent increase in attendance but was still at 46,981, and Rutgers had a 9 percent attendance increase to 50,639.
Nationally, the average for FBS schools was 43,483, the lowest since it was 42,631 in 2000.
Here's a look at the Gophers' year-by-year average attendance in six seasons at 50,805-seat TCF Bank Stadium:
2009 -- 50,805
2010 -- 49,513
2011 -- 47,714
2012 -- 46,637
2013 -- 47,797
2014 -- 47,865
The Gophers had sold 6,600 tickets for the Citrus Bowl as of Friday afternoon, according to Senior Associate AD Chris Werle. That's more than the Gophers sold to their past two bowl games combined (6,538).
The Gophers have been breaking down film, studying Missouri, getting ready for the Citrus Bowl. Meanwhile, Dave Matter, the Mizzou beat writer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, reached out with some questions about the Gophers, and you can read that exchange here. I hit up Dave for the same thing. Follow him on Twitter @Dave_Matter and check out his outstanding Mizzou coverage here. Here's the Q&A:
1. Going back to the move from the Big 12 to the SEC, if somebody would have told you then that Missouri would reach two SEC title games in its first three years, what would you have said?
Actually, I figured Missouri would immediately make a smooth transition into the SEC and be competitive because of the program’s recent success under Gary Pinkel. I was a year off. The 2012 season unraveled early, and after getting hit with some injuries, the Tigers looked overmatched against most of their SEC opponents. The real surprise was how quickly Missouri bounced back in 2013. That was a special team, tremendous senior leadership, timely defense, explosive offense. This year looked to be more of a transition season but was in danger of spiraling after the loss to Indiana and then the 34-0 loss to Georgia. Even with a limited offense, Missouri proved this year it can compete against the bulk of SEC teams, but I think the last two SEC championship games tell us the program is still a step behind the elite SEC programs.
2. Gophers fans have been starved for a New Year's Day bowl bid. Missouri won the Cotton Bowl last year. How much excitement do Tigers fans have for this Citrus Bowl matchup?
Pinkel was thrilled and I sense that fans are pretty excited, too. Mizzou (and Pinkel, too) are sort of conditioned to expect a lesser bowl game each year after what happened in 2007. Quick version: Missouri beats rival Kansas to vault to No. 1 in national polls and clinch the Big 12 North. Tigers lose to Oklahoma in Big 12 title game but instead of picking 11-2 Missouri with its at-large BCS bid, the Orange Bowl picks 11-1 Kansas. Missouri settles for the Cotton Bowl, but is steamed by the process, especially because the Big 12 didn’t step in and support Mizzou’s cause. Two years later Mizzou expected a better bowl than the Texas Bowl, went to Houston and underestimated Navy—and got humbled by the Midshipmen. I’m sure some expected the Citrus Bowl to pick household names Auburn or Georgia over Mizzou, so fans (and Pinkel, too) were genuinely pleased to get the invitation to a New Year’s Day game in Florida.
3. How did Missouri turn things around after the Indiana and Georgia losses?
The defense made some improvements immediately after the Indiana game and didn’t play all that poorly against Georgia. UGA had its season-low in yardage against Missouri but feasted on five Mizzou turnovers. More than anything, MU cleaned up its tackling and stopped allowing big plays on defense. Around that time, MU’s defense seemed to realize that it was its duty to carry the team while the offense worked through its issues. Offensively, it took a few few weeks after the UGA game for Maty Mauk to settle down and improve in the passing game. His No. 2 and 3 receivers Jimmie Hunt and Darius White were nursing injuries midway through the season, and once they got healthy, the passing game perked up, too.
4. How has Maty Mauk's sophomore season compared to his freshman season?
He was 3-1 in SEC games as a starter last year, but his production was fairly erratic. His completion percentage wasn’t very good, but he made up for it with big plays downfield. He was a classic case of boom or bust and not very consistent. To start this season, he was mostly boom — then mostly bust for a three-game stretch against South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. Missouri could barely get a first down in the passing game as Mauk struggled terribly. Mauk was recklessly scrambling out of the pocket and giving up on plays before the pressure got to him. Linemen were frustrated with his play. Receivers were frustrated. Coaches were frustrated. Gradually, he began to trust his blocking better, stepped up in the pocket and started producing in the passing game. Mauk played really well against Tennessee, Texas A&M and Arkansas and had a better game against Alabama than most QBs this season.
The Gophers want students to come en masse to Orlando for the Citrus Bowl, so here comes the special offer. Beginning at noon, there will be student travel package for $299. It includes:
Round-trip transportation via charter bus; two nights' lodging; a ticket to the game; a ticket to the Alumni Association's pregame tailgate; transport to and from the bowl game; snacks and beverages on the bus; a T-shirt, and a 2015 student football season ticket.
The bus leaves Dec. 30 and returns Jan. 3. Space is limited. Details here.
Update: The package sold out soon after being made available. Studenbts interested in going can get thjeir names on a waiting list.
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