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.

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Cobb named to Doak Walker Award watch list

Posted by: Joe Christensen under Gophers awards and honors Updated: July 17, 2014 - 9:23 AM

Gophers senior David Cobb was among 53 running backs named to the Doak Walker Award preseason watch list Thursday.

The Doak Walker Award is given annually to the nation's top running back. Cobb had a breakout season last year as a junior, rushing for 1,202 yards, the highest total for a Gopher since Amir Pinnix rushed for 1,272 in 2006.

Other Big Ten running backs who made this year's watch list include Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah, Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon, Michigan State's Jeremy Langford, Indiana's Tevin Coleman, Illinois' Josh Ferguson and the Penn State duo of Bill Belton and Zach Zwinak.

Gophers set 2:30 kickoff time for Middle Tennessee State

Posted by: Joe Christensen under Gophers on TV Updated: July 16, 2014 - 2:54 PM

The Gophers announced Wednesday that their kickoff time against Middle Tennessee State on Sept. 6 will be at 2:30 p.m. Middle Tennessee, from Conference USA, went 8-5 last season with a loss to Navy in the Armed Forces Bowl.

The game times for five of the first eight Gophers games are now set:

Aug. 28: Eastern Illinois (Home) 6 p.m., Big Ten Network

Sept. 6: Middle Tennessee (Home) 2:30 p.m., Big Ten Network

Sept. 13: TCU (Away) 3 p.m., Fox Sports 1

Sept. 20: San Jose State (Home) TBA

Sept. 27: Michigan (Away) TBA

Oct. 11: Northwestern (Home) TBA

Oct. 18: Purdue (Home) 11 a.m., TV TBA

Oct. 25: Illinois (Away) 11 a.m., TV TBA

Nov. 8: Iowa (Home) TBA

Nov. 15: Ohio State (Home) TBA

Nov. 22: Nebraska (Away) TBA

Nov. 29: Wisconsin (Away) TBA

Leidner, Cobb and Thompson picked to represent Gophers at Big Ten Media Days

Posted by: Joe Christensen under Gophers preseason practice, Gophers awards and honors Updated: July 10, 2014 - 12:17 PM

It says something about a player's stature with his team when he gets picked to attend the conference's media festivities. That's why it's worth noting that the Gophers will send Mitch Leidner, David Cobb and Cedric Thompson to Big Ten Media Days in Chicago, July 28-29.

That gives Minnesota three team leaders with three unique stories.

Leidner is a redshirt-sophomore and the clear starter at quarterback. (Here's a link to a profile I did on him last October, noting how the Gophers recruited him -- as a tight end.)

Cobb is heading into his senior season after rushing for 1,202 yards last year and becoming the first Gopher to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark since 2006. (Here's a story on how Cobb persevered despite limited carries as a freshman and sophomore.)

And Thompson is also heading into his senior season at safety, after leading the team with 79 tackles last year. (Here's Thompson's story, which is as interesting as anything I've come across in sports.)

Here's the full list of Big Ten players heading to Chicago later this month.

Gophers' Mortell one of 25 punters named to Ray Guy Award Preseason Watch List

Posted by: Joe Christensen under Gophers awards and honors Updated: July 9, 2014 - 9:22 AM

Gophers junior Peter Mortell was one of 25 punters from around the country named to the Ray Guy Award Preseason Watch List on Wednesday. The Big Ten had two other punters on the list -- Ohio State's Cameron Johnston and Michigan State's Mike Sadler.

Mortell averaged 43.3 yards per punt last year, the third best mark in Gophers history. He had 15 punts of 50 yards or more and kept 21 inside the 20-yard line. Here's my story from April about Mortell's sense of humor and serious punting ability.

Gophers' Williams, Olson named to preseason football watch lists

Posted by: Joe Christensen under College football, Gophers awards and honors Updated: July 8, 2014 - 10:52 AM

Gophers tight end Maxx Williams on Tuesday was named to John Mackey Award Preseason Watch List. The Mackey Award goes to the nation's top tight end. Williams was among 40 tight ends named to the preseason watch list, including five others from the Big Ten: Kyle Carter and Jesse James from Penn State, Jeff Heuerman from Ohio State and Tyler Kroft from Rutgers.

Gophers center Tommy Olson was among 66 centers named to the Rimington Trophy Preseason Watch List. Other nominees from the Big Ten include Austin Blythe (Iowa), Betim Bujari (Rutgers), Sal Conaboy (Maryland), Robert Kugler (Purdue), Jack Allen (Michigan State), Mark Pelini (Nebraska), Collin Rahrig (Indiana), Brandon Vitabile, (Northwestern) and Dan Voltz (Wisconsin).

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