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.
Gophers safety Antonio Johnson got hurt against Ohio State last week and won't be able to play at Nebraska on Saturday, coach Jerry Kill said Thursday on 100.3-FM.
Kill did not specify the injury. Johnson, a junior from Cleveland, ranks ninth on the team with 29 tackles and also has an interception.
"What it does is it hurts our depth a little bit," Kill said. "Cedric [Thompson] and Damarius [Travis] are going to have to play a lot of minutes. Grayson Levine will have to step up. Derrick Wells may have to play a little bit of safety. But we’re hoping that we can get [Johnson] back for the bowl game -- maybe next week. The kid’s really, really tough."
David Cobb ranks seventh in the nation in rushing with 135 yards per game, but he didn’t make the list of 10 semifinalists for the Doak Walker Award, given annually to the nation’s top running back.
The list included three other Big Ten backs – Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon, Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah and Indiana’s Tevin Coleman – along with Miami’s Duke Johnson, Georgia Southern’s Matt Breida, Marshall’s Devon Johnson, Auburn’s Cameron Artis-Payne, USC’s Javorius Allen, and Boise State’s Jay Ajayi.
“I will tell you, that will highly motivate that young man,” Gophers coach Jerry Kill said of Cobb. “He’s played good, and he’ll get rewarded. He just needs to keep playing hard and playing well.”
Cobb will have a chance to match up against Abdullah and Gordon the next two weeks.
“It’s one of those moments that you wait for and you dream for, going against Abdullah and Gordon, two great backs that deserve to be on the list,” Cobb said.
A seven-point loss to Ohio State did not cost the Gophers their spot in the College Football Playoff Top 25 rankings.
For the second consecutive week, the Gophers were at No. 25, when the rankings were released Tuesday night. Once again, this came despite being unranked in the top 25 of the AP and Coaches polls.
The Gophers (7-3, 4-2 Big Ten) lost 31-24 to now-No. 6 Ohio State last Saturday but can still win the Big Ten West if they can pull off wins at No. 23 Nebraska, and at No. 16 Wisconsin.
The Buckeyes (9-1, 6-0) jumped two spots after their win at Minnesota, and now trail No. 1 Alabama, No. 2. Oregon, No. 3 Florida State, No. 4 Mississippi State and No. 5 TCU.
Gophers defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys doesn't mind confidence. He knows good teams thrive on it. But he didn't seem happy that linebacker De'Vondre Campbell predicted the Gophers would face Ohio State in the Big Ten title game.
After Saturday's 31-24 loss to Ohio State, Campbell said, “I think we have a great chance to beat Nebraska and Wisconsin. We’ve just got to get back to the lab, correct our mistakes from today, and I think we’ll be fine. We’re not too worried about it. We’ll see [Ohio State] again in three weeks.”
On Tuesday, Claeys said, "Maybe at one time that was acceptable around here, but it's not. So they better be ready to play [Saturday at Nebraska], or we'll lose again. It's hard to win on the road. I like the confidence of the kids, but you've got to play them one at a time. Already been in trouble once trying to look ahead so hopefully they learned from that."
That last sentence was a reference to the 28-24 loss at Illinois on Oct. 25.
Gophers tight end Maxx Williams on Monday was named one of eight semifinalists for the John Mackey Award, which given annually to the nation's top tight end.
Williams, a third-year sophomore from Waconia, has 25 receptions and leads all Big Ten tight ends in receiving yards (373) and receiving touchdowns (seven). He has accounted for 27.7 of all the Gophers' receiving yards.
The other seven semifinalists are E.J. Bibbs (Iowa State), Evan Engram (Ole Miss), Ben Koyack (Notre Dame), Jimmay Mundine (Kansas), Nick O'Leary (Florida State), Jean Sifrin (U Mass) and Clive Walford (Miami).
Former Gophers tight end Matt Spaeth won the Mackey Award in 2006. This year's finalists will be announced Nov. 24, with the trophy presented Dec. 11.
Game time set
The game time for the Gophers' game at Wisconsin on Nov. 29 has been set for 2:30 p.m. That will snap a string of six consecutive 11 a.m., games for Minnesota, including this Saturday's game at Nebraska.
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