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.
Like a lot of people at the university, Gophers coach Jerry Kill was saddened last weekend by the death of Regent David M. Larson.
Larson, a former Cargill executive, died at age 70 after a brief illness. Before his death, Larson had asked that memorials be made to Kill's Chasing Dreams Fund, which benefits children with epilepsy.
"The University of Minnesota lost a great leader with the passing of Regent David Larson," Kill said in a statement Wednesday. "He was a proud Minnesota alum and a tremendous advocate for the university, but he was also my friend and truly loved Gopher Football.
"From the moment I stepped on campus I knew he was a special man. He never said much. Instead, Regent Larson chose to let his actions show how passionate he was, as he quietly played a large role in helping us find success. The man was committed to making sure that our players achieved victory in the classroom and on the field.
"Regent Larson was always gracious with his time, resources and knowledge and his support was unwavering. In true fashion, one of his last decisions was also one of his most generous, as he asked that memorials be made to my Chasing Dreams fund, which benefits children with epilepsy.
"That selfless sense of giving touched my heart and defines who he was and what his family is all about. Regent Larson will be greatly missed and my thoughts, and all those associated with our program, are with his wife, Janis, children and extended family."
With the Gophers continuing to win under fourth-year coach Jerry Kill, the speculation was bound to start sometime. How long before another school tries to swoop him away?
This week, SI.com mentioned Kill as a potential fit at Michigan if Brady Hoke gets fired, saying Kill “would be a wonderful fit in Ann Arbor, as all he’s done is win at Southern Illinois and now Minnesota.”
Asked about the Michigan speculation Thursday on his weekly radio show, Kill told 100.3-FM, “Number one, Brady [Hoke] is my friend. And number two, that lady there is in charge.”
Kill was pointing to his wife, Rebecca, and has often said how much their family enjoys Minnesota.
“It's a compliment,” Kill said of the speculation. “But I've seen a lot of coaches get caught up in all of that stuff, and that's when you're not successful. I've said all along, this is my home. As long as people want me here, I'm in good shape.
“If we don't beat Illinois [on Saturday], they may be calling me in and there won't be any mention, except get a road map. So I think it’s more important for us to take care of that.”
The jet sweep seemed like a transformative play for the Gophers last season. Offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover used it as part of a diverse game plan against Nebraska, with Donovahn Jones rushing four times for 42 yards. Jones finished the year with 16 carries for 73 yards.
This year, the Gophers haven't used the jet near as much. Jones has two rushes for 13 yards. Last week, offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover explained.
“Well I think it's with a lot of things," he said. "I look back in the NFL a couple of years ago, the wildcat [formation] was popular,” he said. “The Dolphins were doing it, and eventually people catch up and do their homework. The jet sweep package is good at times, but you can't make your living in that. You’ve got to pick your spots.
"We try and find a couple of spots each game, or a couple of formations, that we can do it out of. But the defenses have caught up with some of that stuff. They see those things happening and can react quicker.
"If you look at the teams that have had success over the last couple of years -- you know, watching Wisconsin play Northwestern, I don't know if they actually handed the ball on a jet action. They maybe did it once with Melvin Gordon as a fake. It's getting harder to find those spots where [defenses] can't read and react.
"It's just like the zone read in the NFL or wildcat. People catch up with you so you got to get ahead of the curve and find that next thing that will keep them off balance."
With David Cobb slicing and dicing through San Jose State’s defense, the Gophers kept giving him the ball Saturday. He finished 207 yards on 34 carries, the highest number of carries for a Gophers running back since Amir Pinnix had 34 in the Insight Bowl loss to Texas Tech in 2006.
“My dad taught me a long time ago, if you’ve got a good horse, ride him,” coach Jerry Kill said Sunday. “[Cobb] was a hot back at that time, seeing things well. And there will be a time when it won’t be that clean, and you’ll put another one in. But why take him out, if he’s doing what he’s doing? We subbed him some, but sometimes David gets better as the game goes on.”
Quarterback Chris Streveler had 18 carries for 161 yards, but the other tailbacks played small roles. Berkley Edwards had three carries for nine yards, and Donnell Kirkwood had two carries for five yards.
Edwards and Kirkwood had both injured their shoulders at TCU but came out of this one feeling better, Kill said. That means Edwards could be a weapon for the Gophers next week at Michigan, and you can bet he'll be motivated against the school that didn’t recruit him after his brother and father starred there.
The Gophers coaches saw some things they liked and some things they didn't like during Saturday's scrimmage at TCF Bank Stadium.
"We’re into kind of the grind," Jerry Kill said. "They haven’t had a day off [since Aug. 1], and they’ve had school and all that. So we pushed them pretty hard, and I think some kids were tired. [Sunday], we’ll watch film with them and give them and give them some time off."
As Kill noted, his players are busy from about 7 a.m., through 9-10 p.m., throughout these early stages of camp.
They'll be back at practice Monday. Meantime, here's my Sunday story on linebackers De'Vondre Campbell and Damien Wilson. And here's my scrimmage report.
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