Staff Directory 10644611

Joe Christensen

Gophers football reporter | Gophers, Big Ten
phone: 612-673-7844
Joe Christensen covered Major League Baseball for 15 years, including three 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.
Recent content from Joe Christensen

Gophers land dual-threat quarterback for 2018 recruiting class

P.J. Fleck landed a quarterback he'd been coveting for the Gophers' 2018 recruiting class Sunday, when Brennan Armstrong of Shelby, Ohio, announced he was verbally…
Fleck is quick with scholarship offers – outside of Minnesota

Fleck is quick with scholarship offers – outside of Minnesota

The tally so far: 134 offers to join Gophers football, but none to players who wore a high school uniform in Minnesota last fall. However, P.J. Fleck notes this weekend that could change.
Wake-up call: Fleck wants to move Gophers practices to mornings

Wake-up call: Fleck wants to move Gophers practices to mornings

One potential drawback to morning practices would be trimming the list of available undergraduate classes, but Fleck sees academic benefits, too.
Fleck commits $50K of own money to secure 'Row the Boat' for Gophers

Fleck commits $50K of own money to secure 'Row the Boat' for Gophers

The new Gophers coach P.J. Fleck bought the rights to his motivational phrase.
'I don't think he had any ego.' Colleagues remember Christensen

'I don't think he had any ego.' Colleagues remember Christensen

Known as the Voice of the Gophers, Christensen retired from full-time broadcasting in 1993, but continued doing Gophers football and basketball play-by-play until 2001.
Overturned suspensions should leave Fleck with options

Overturned suspensions should leave Fleck with options

Four players appear likely to return to the Gophers football team.
Mitch Leidner will bring his NFL dreams to Scouting Combine

Mitch Leidner will bring his NFL dreams to Scouting Combine

The former Gophers QB isn't as hyped in February as he was last summer, after struggling during his senior season.
Fleck says his recruiting class marks 'a monumental day for Gophers football'

Fleck says his recruiting class marks 'a monumental day for Gophers football'

New Gophers coach P.J. Fleck had just two and a half weeks to build the Class of 2017. "We knocked it out of the park, for the time we had," Fleck said.

Offensive linemen will be scarce for Gophers' spring practices

The Gophers need to replace two starters — Jonah Pirsig (graduation), Tyler Moore (center). And last year, injuries limited others such as Garrison Wright, Vincent Calhoun and Jared Weyler.
P.J. Fleck pulled off a signing day shuffle for Gophers

P.J. Fleck pulled off a signing day shuffle for Gophers

P.J. Fleck, 36, came to Minnesota with a reputation as a skilled recruiter. And in 26 days, Fleck transformed Gophers by changing 16 recruits' minds.
Three more former Western Michigan assistants coming to U

Three more former Western Michigan assistants coming to U

The next wave of WMU assistants coming to the Gophers includes a Twin Cities native who used to be an assistant at St. Thomas
Fleck hires W. Michigan's Ciarrocca as Gophers offensive coordinator

Fleck hires W. Michigan's Ciarrocca as Gophers offensive coordinator

The Broncos ranked ninth in the nation in scoring offense this past season, averaging 41.6 points per game.
Sawvel apparently out as Fleck interviews Arkansas defensive coordinator

Sawvel apparently out as Fleck interviews Arkansas defensive coordinator

ESPN reported the new Gophers football coach was going outside the program to hire a defensive coordinator.
With new Gophers football coach P.J. Fleck, 'it's not an act'

With new Gophers football coach P.J. Fleck, 'it's not an act'

Boisterous new Gophers football coach P.J. Fleck has always known who he is - and what he wants.
Fleck brings crystal clear vision to Gophers football program

Fleck brings crystal clear vision to Gophers football program

P.J. Fleck on Friday spoke excitedly about himself and changes he intends to make. "I'm going to promise you a lot," he said, "because that's the way I live my life."
Gophers closing deal with P.J. Fleck

Gophers closing deal with P.J. Fleck

Signs pointed toward the Gophers hiring the Western Michigan coach, but former LSU coach Les Miles loomed as a fallback.
Next questions for U football: Who will coach, and for how much?

Next questions for U football: Who will coach, and for how much?

The University of Minnesota likely made the most expensive coaching decision in its history when it fired Tracy Claeys, and another multimillion dollar commitment comes next.
Coyle seeks to 'move quickly' on new hire

Coyle seeks to 'move quickly' on new hire

Gophers' Mark Coyle gave a blistering assessment of the football program after firing coach Tracy Claeys.
Speculation on Gophers' next coach starts with Western Michigan's Fleck

Speculation on Gophers' next coach starts with Western Michigan's Fleck

Other names to watch include Boise State coach Bryan Harsin, former LSU coach Les Miles, Wyoming coach Craig Bohl and North Dakota State coach Chris Klieman, who was quarterback on Coyle's high school team at Waterloo (Iowa) Columbus Catholic.
Claeys touts program, makes case to stay as Gophers coach

Claeys touts program, makes case to stay as Gophers coach

Gophers coach, soon to meet with AD Mark Coyle, stated his case to remain in charge.
Gophers AD to meet with Claeys on Tuesday

Gophers AD to meet with Claeys on Tuesday

Tracy Claeys' future isn't clear after the fallout from the Gophers football team's sexual assault case.
Mitch Leidner's brother played an unexpected role in final game

Mitch Leidner's brother played an unexpected role in final game

Shortly after thinking his career was over, Matt Leidner started at center for the first time for the Gophers in the Holiday Bowl.
Resilient Gophers stun Cougars to win Holiday Bowl

Resilient Gophers stun Cougars to win Holiday Bowl

Minnesota ignored distractions and thwarted Washington State's potent passing game.
Gophers' Leidner brothers get to start together in Holiday Bowl

Gophers' Leidner brothers get to start together in Holiday Bowl

In a twist of injury fate, Mitch Leidner wound up finishing his Gophers career with his brother, Matt, as the team's starting center.
On morning of bowl game, Claeys surprises 91-year-old Gophers fans at breakfast

On morning of bowl game, Claeys surprises 91-year-old Gophers fans at breakfast

The Quarnstroms traveled from Marshall for their first Gophers bowl game.
For Gophers football: A bowl game; then what?

For Gophers football: A bowl game; then what?

U supporters express concern, uneasiness over program's future.
Gophers QB Leidner aims to close career on high note

Gophers QB Leidner aims to close career on high note

The Gophers QB has put up decent statistics in bowl games.
Gophers' Rodney Smith ready for bigger role, on and off field

Gophers' Rodney Smith ready for bigger role, on and off field

The 2017 co-captain is determined to bring a positive image to a scarred U football program.
Washington State's Mike Leach remains a maverick

Washington State's Mike Leach remains a maverick

The coach on the winning side of the Gophers' epic collapse in 2006 bowl wields strong opinions.
Gophers, Claeys try to return the focus to football

Gophers, Claeys try to return the focus to football

Coach Tracy Claeys declined to discuss boycott, suspensions, his job status.
Gophers football players: No regrets about boycott

Gophers football players: No regrets about boycott

The Gophers also said they took a stand against an administration — namely president Eric Kaler and athletic director Mark Coyle — that gave the team minimal explanation for the suspensions, citing federal privacy laws.
Gophers are back to football, but not normalcy

Gophers are back to football, but not normalcy

Gophers football coach Tracy Claeys has faced continued fallout from an alleged Sept. 2 sexual assault involving his players, a boycott and from his own uncertain status with his bosses.
Report's details broke Gophers walkout

Report's details broke Gophers walkout

The move to play in the Holiday Bowl was a dramatic reversal and came after most players learned for the first time what was in the 80-page university report.
Players boycott could force Gophers from Holiday Bowl

Players boycott could force Gophers from Holiday Bowl

A late-night summit involving U President Eric Kaler, other school leaders and most football players failed to produce an agreement. Players were readying a morning statement.
Gophers players boycott football after suspensions; Holiday Bowl in jeopardy

Gophers players boycott football after suspensions; Holiday Bowl in jeopardy

The entire team is willing to miss the Holiday Bowl in protest after 10 teammates were suspended this week in the latest fallout of a September sexual assault investigation.
5 of 10 suspended Gophers players also are facing expulsion

5 of 10 suspended Gophers players also are facing expulsion

Four others face a one-year suspension and another could get probation in the fallout from a student's sexual assault allegation in September. None of the 10 will play in the team's bowl game.
Punished Gophers players overshadow bowl talk for Claeys, staff

Punished Gophers players overshadow bowl talk for Claeys, staff

In San Diego, coach Tracy Claeys insisted the suspensions won't be a distraction as Minnesota prepares for the Holiday Bowl; in Minneapolis, one of his assistants said the football program is 'under attack.'
10 Gophers football players suspended heading into bowl

10 Gophers football players suspended heading into bowl

A lawyer for several of the players said the move stems from an internal university investigation into the same alleged Sept. 2 incident that led to four earlier suspensions.
Four plays from Pasadena? A difference between Holiday and Rose Bowls?

Four plays from Pasadena? A difference between Holiday and Rose Bowls?

The Gophers made enough plays to go 8-4. But if four other plays had gone differently, the California-bound Gophers might be headed to Pasadena instead of San Diego.
Amid weekend snow, Gophers football lands two Southern recruits

Amid weekend snow, Gophers football lands two Southern recruits

"We've told them [about the weather]," coach Tracy Claeys said. "And it's better to find out now than later. That's one of those things that's out of your control."
Gophers will head to San Diego for Holiday Bowl, facing Washington State

Gophers will head to San Diego for Holiday Bowl, facing Washington State

It's the team's first bowl game in California since the '60s. Washington State is coached by Mike Leach, who steered Texas Tech to a stunning comeback victory over the Gophers in the 2006 Insight Bowl, rallying from a 31-point deficit.
Claeys and staff buoyed by Coyle's vote of confidence

Claeys and staff buoyed by Coyle's vote of confidence

Gophers coach Tracy Claeys said Sunday that last week's vote of confidence from athletic director Mark Coyle "means everything."
It ain't Pasadena, but ... Gophers could be California-bound for bowl game

It ain't Pasadena, but ... Gophers could be California-bound for bowl game

Bowl selections for all teams will be revealed Sunday.

Gophers' Carpenter named Big Ten's best kicker

Gophers sophomore Emmit Carpenter was named Big Ten Kicker of the Year on Tuesday, based on voting by conference coaches and media.Carpenter has made…
Claeys will return in 2017 with a contract extension expected

Claeys will return in 2017 with a contract extension expected

According to sources, athletic director Mark Coyle told Tracy Claeys last month that he would be retained as Gophers football coach. All four of Minnesota's losses came to teams ranked in the Associated Press Top 25
Gophers AD Coyle has decision to make on Claeys

Gophers AD Coyle has decision to make on Claeys

He won eight football games in his first full regular season as coach. Will that be enough?
Gophers endure another agonizing loss for the Axe

Gophers endure another agonizing loss for the Axe

Ahead 17-7 at halftime, the Gophers imploded in the second half allowing Wisconsin to win 31-17. It's the 13th time in a row the Badgers get to celebrate with Paul Bunyan's Axe.
Claeys: Gophers defense must hold Badgers to about 14 points

Claeys: Gophers defense must hold Badgers to about 14 points

The Gophers are two-touchdown underdogs heading to Madison, a place where they haven't won since 1994.
Claeys: Gophers need to beat Badgers 'to make it a rivalry again'

Claeys: Gophers need to beat Badgers 'to make it a rivalry again'

Minnesota-Wisconsin the longest running rivalry in the Football Bowl Subdivision, at 125 games dating back to 1890. But it's also become one of the most one-sided.
Gophers' Claeys not worried about rash of targeting penalties

Gophers' Claeys not worried about rash of targeting penalties

In a radio interview Tuesday, Claeys said anyone in the country who comes to a Gophers practice would see the coaches teaching tackling the right way.
Gophers return to sideline for national anthem

Gophers return to sideline for national anthem

The Gophers stayed in the locker room for the past six games during the anthem.
Great eight: Gophers tough out victory over Northwestern on Senior Day

Great eight: Gophers tough out victory over Northwestern on Senior Day

Senior quarterback Mitch Leidner and the Gophers' defense led Minnesota's charge over the Wildcats, and to a milestone victory total.
Leidner's mood is positive entering final Gophers home game

Leidner's mood is positive entering final Gophers home game

Leidner and legion of supporters looking to savor senior QB's final home game
Three Northwestern offensive stars will challenge Gophers

Three Northwestern offensive stars will challenge Gophers

Quarterback Clayton Thorson, wide receiver Austin Carr and running back Justin Jackson have helped turn around the WIldcats' season.
Once more, with meaning: Gophers seniors ready for final home game

Once more, with meaning: Gophers seniors ready for final home game

This senior class has logged 29 victories since the start of 2013, the most in a four-year span since the Gophers won 30 from 2003-2006.
Gophers offensive line takes another hit with loss of Weyler

Gophers offensive line takes another hit with loss of Weyler

Left guard Jared Weyler suffered a torn triceps muscle. Weyler, a third-year sophomore, had been a steady presence on the starting line for eight weeks, while the Gophers patched things together at other positions.
Lead slips away from Gophers in loss to Nebraska

Lead slips away from Gophers in loss to Nebraska

Close, excruciating losses have become the Gophers' trademark, and it happened again Saturday night. Up by a touchdown at halftime, Minnesota lost 24-17 to end a four-game winning streak.
This week, Nebraska's Armstrong delivers knockout blow

This week, Nebraska's Armstrong delivers knockout blow

Knocked unconscious last week, Tommy Armstrong Jr. completed 19 of 27 passes for two touchdowns and ran for the go-ahead score against the Gophers. He also suffered two more injuries.
Pals since middle school, Smith and Celestin leading Gophers

Pals since middle school, Smith and Celestin leading Gophers

Rodney Smith is the conference's second-leading rusher, and Jonathan Celestin leads Minnesota with 64 tackles.
Mix of passing, running will be vital for Gophers against Nebraska

Mix of passing, running will be vital for Gophers against Nebraska

If the Gophers are to beat No. 21 Nebraska on Saturday, quarterback Mitch Leidner might need to blend his passing and rushing talents.
Carpenter's Gophers success comes from strong foot, stronger friendship

Carpenter's Gophers success comes from strong foot, stronger friendship

Gophers kicker Emmit Carpenter is a playground protégé of former U punter Peter Mortell.
Gophers' Claeys wants contract extended

Gophers' Claeys wants contract extended

Gophers football coach Tracy Claeys told KFAN (100.3-FM) on Tuesday that he hopes to work out a contract extension after the season.
Gophers recover after shaky first half to win over Purdue

Gophers recover after shaky first half to win over Purdue

After ending the first half with a dud, the Gophers rebounded over the final 30 minutes to defeat the Boilermakers 44-31 at TCF Bank Stadium

How will the Gophers replace Smith's receiving numbers?

The Gophers are thin at wide receiver with Brian Smith now gone from the team. Who replaces his production?
Minnesota football bosses not happy with Big Ten's encroachment on 'Friday night lights'

Minnesota football bosses not happy with Big Ten's encroachment on 'Friday night lights'

Last decade, when Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany said he wanted to preserve Friday nights for high school football, he sure sounded sincere. But television stepped in and money talked.
Claeys sour on Big Ten's plan to add Friday night games

Claeys sour on Big Ten's plan to add Friday night games

Gophers coach Tracy Claeys said that he is "not a fan" of the Big Ten adding Friday night games to the schedule for next season.
Starting receiver Smith kicked off Gophers football team after fight

Starting receiver Smith kicked off Gophers football team after fight

People familiar with the situation called the fight a "last straw" for Brian Smith, a junior walk-on from Milwaukee who was having a breakout season.
Gophers in line for shot at West Division crown with three consecutive wins

Gophers in line for shot at West Division crown with three consecutive wins

They have beaten the foes they should, with one more 'should win' before the stretch run hits hard.
Turnovers get Gophers' juices flowing in win over Illinois

Turnovers get Gophers' juices flowing in win over Illinois

Rodney Smith delivered his fifth 100-yard rushing game of the season Saturday, and the Gophers turned three Illinois fumbles into points pulling away for a 40-17 victory. They are now bowl eligible.
Gophers notes: McGhee is latest Gopher ejected for targeting

Gophers notes: McGhee is latest Gopher ejected for targeting

Minnesota drew just two targeting penalties over the previous four years. Both of those calls were overturned. The Gophers have five this season.
One year in, the verdict is still out on Tracy Claeys

One year in, the verdict is still out on Tracy Claeys

Coach reaches a critical phase of the season, trying to put his own mark on the team.
Rejuvenated Kill says he'd 'still be coaching' if he felt this good last year

Rejuvenated Kill says he'd 'still be coaching' if he felt this good last year

"I miss it," the former Gophers coach said of Minnesota and not being able to remain at Minnesota. "I could be helping that program a heck of a lot right now."
No sacks, no hits: Gophers line faces big test to reach weekly goal

No sacks, no hits: Gophers line faces big test to reach weekly goal

The Gophers have allowed five sacks this season, tied for fewest in the Big Ten with Nebraska. Saturday, the Gophers will face their biggest pass-protection challenge yet when they face Illinois.
Gophers' Smith takes a starring turn in rushing timeshare with Brooks

Gophers' Smith takes a starring turn in rushing timeshare with Brooks

Shannon Brooks delivered more eye-popping performances last season for the Gophers, but Rodney Smith has played the lead role this year, including Saturday with a 94-yard kickoff return.
Gophers' trip to Illinois could lead to another big fall

Gophers' trip to Illinois could lead to another big fall

With the Gophers heading to Illinois this week, coming off a near disaster against Rutgers, this might be a good time to review their last trip to Champaign.
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