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' 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.
Gophers survive major scare, nip Rutgers 34-32 on late field goal

Gophers survive major scare, nip Rutgers 34-32 on late field goal

The Scarlet Knights took a one-point lead with about four minutes remaining, but Gophers sophomore Emmit Carpenter hit a 28-yard field goal with six seconds left, giving Minnesota a 34-32 victory.
Gophers' final drive had familiar feel for Leidner

Gophers' final drive had familiar feel for Leidner

Rodney Smith gained most of the yardage on the drive, but Leidner hit Wolitarsky with a 9-yard pass for a first down and added an 8-yard rush. Emmit Carpenter's 28-yard field goal with six seconds remaining gave the Gophers a 34-32 win.
Three more Gophers under restraining orders, won't play today

Three more Gophers under restraining orders, won't play today

Three more Gophers football players have been served with restraining orders that would keep them from attending home games and will not play Saturday.
The Call: Gophers vs. Rutgers

The Call: Gophers vs. Rutgers

This will be the Gophers' 96th homecoming game. They are 56-36-3 all-time on homecoming, with wins the past two years (over Ohio in 2015 and Purdue in 2014).

Restraining orders seek to bench two Gophers in football home games

Carlton Djam and Tamarion Johnson might not be allowed to attend Saturday's game because the alleged victim participates in the home-game operation.
Leidner 'getting closer' to full return, not ruled out for Rutgers game

Leidner 'getting closer' to full return, not ruled out for Rutgers game

Mitch Leidner returned to practice Tuesday, and was cleared for light activity. He had no setbacks when the intensity was ramped up at Wednesday's practice
Leidner improves, but Gophers to roll with Rhoda against Rutgers

Leidner improves, but Gophers to roll with Rhoda against Rutgers

Mitch Leidner practiced Tuesday for the first time since sustaining a concussion Oct. 8 but Gophers football coach Tracy Claeys said he expects Conor Rhoda to get the start Saturday.
Gophers offense takes step in right direction in Maryland win

Gophers offense takes step in right direction in Maryland win

Its play on Saturday was a step in the right direction, but there are still hurdles to be overcome. "Offensively, we still have some things to clean up," coach Tracy Claeys said.

Gophers football replay: Gophers 31, Maryland 10

Filling in for Mitch Leidner, Conor Rhoda proved he can run the offense effectively.
Rhoda settles in, and Gophers pick up the win over Maryland

Rhoda settles in, and Gophers pick up the win over Maryland

Backup quarterback Conor Rhoda did what the Gophers needed to earn their first Big Ten victory of the season, 31-10 over Maryland.
Gophers special teams coverage sets tone early vs. Maryland

Gophers special teams coverage sets tone early vs. Maryland

The Gophers introduced themselves to Maryland with authority on the opening kickoff.
A Gophers grand slam? Next four games are against Big Ten's basement

A Gophers grand slam? Next four games are against Big Ten's basement

Minnesota's next run of opponents, a combined 2-7 in the Big Ten, presents an opportunity for the Gophers to salvage their season. If they can manage a sweep.
Gophers secondary a strength with suspensions, injuries in the past

Gophers secondary a strength with suspensions, injuries in the past

Gophers defensive coordinator Jay Sawvel said the team has the cornerback and safety depth it needs heading into the Maryland game.
College football insider: Oh, how the mighty fall fast

College football insider: Oh, how the mighty fall fast

Blink and the top 10 will be flush with fresh arrivals.
Conor Rhoda: The Gophers back-up quarterback who didn't transfer

Conor Rhoda: The Gophers back-up quarterback who didn't transfer

The fourth-year junior remains mostly anonymous in college football circles, but that will change Saturday, when he makes his first career start at Maryland because Mitch Leidner suffered a concussion.
Claeys didn't know Leidner was concussed until Sunday afternoon

Claeys didn't know Leidner was concussed until Sunday afternoon

Gophers football coach Tracy Claeys dismissed concussion speculation for quarterback Mitch Leidner on Sunday but later learned the senior indeed is in the protocol and will miss this week's game.
Claeys and staff have plenty to repair before Gophers' next game

Claeys and staff have plenty to repair before Gophers' next game

After studying video, Claeys didn't sugarcoat the offense's performance against an Iowa team that had given up plenty of points in losses to North Dakota State and Northwestern.
Floyd stays put: Late Iowa TD sends Gophers to 0-2 in Big Ten play

Floyd stays put: Late Iowa TD sends Gophers to 0-2 in Big Ten play

Iowa limited the Gophers rushing attack to 102 yards and kept possession of the Floyd of Rosedale Trophy, winning for the fourth time in the past seven meetings in the rivalry.

Two suspended cornerbacks return to help Gophers' defense

The Gophers pass defense got a big boost Saturday with two of the team's top cornerbacks, KiAnte Hardin and Ray Buford, back from suspensions.
Loser of Gophers-Iowa will fall far behind in West division

Loser of Gophers-Iowa will fall far behind in West division

There's more at stake Saturday than Floyd of Rosedale, as the Gophers-Iowa loser might find its chances of a Big Ten West title all but gone.
Doing 'stupid stuff.' Gophers defense giving up too many big plays

Doing 'stupid stuff.' Gophers defense giving up too many big plays

Last season, the Gophers were among the nation's best teams at preventing big plays, but it's become a serious issue heading into Saturday's game against Iowa.
Gophers' Still could be cleared to play against Iowa

Gophers' Still could be cleared to play against Iowa

Rashad Still, who suffered a broken clavicle in the Sept. 1 season opener, has been practicing in a green non-contact jersey this week.
Claeys bothered by more than just the number of Gophers penalties

Claeys bothered by more than just the number of Gophers penalties

The Gophers are averaging 75.8 penalty yards per game, most in the Big Ten. It's an uncharacteristic spike for a team, and some bother their coach more than others.
Four Gophers reinstated but playing status is uncertain

Four Gophers reinstated but playing status is uncertain

Football coach Tracy Claeys suspended KiAnte Hardin, Ray Buford, Dior Johnson and Tamarion Johnson for a violation of team rules before the Sept. 10 game against Indiana State.
Gophers learn of death of offensive coordinator Jay Johnson's father

Gophers learn of death of offensive coordinator Jay Johnson's father

Dick Johnson was the father of coordinator Jay Johnson and Mitch Leidner's high school position coach.
Four suspended Gophers football players will not be charged

Four suspended Gophers football players will not be charged

Players have been suspended for violation of team rules since early September.
Claeys upset about hit on Penn State kicker: 'I'll take care of it'

Claeys upset about hit on Penn State kicker: 'I'll take care of it'

Penn State's Joey Julius was knocked down by Gophers linebacker Jaylen Waters, who kept the kicker pinned to the ground, drawing boos and an ejection.
Third quarter and overtime doom Gophers to defeat at Penn State

Third quarter and overtime doom Gophers to defeat at Penn State

The Nittany Lions rushed for a touchdown on the very first play from scrimmage after the Gophers kicker hit his fourth field goal of the game.
Gophers vs. Penn State: Home-field advantage could be the difference Saturday

Gophers vs. Penn State: Home-field advantage could be the difference Saturday

GOPHERS OFFENSE VS. Nittany Lions DEFENSEAll three of Penn State's starting linebackers missed the Michigan game with injuries. Middle LB Brandon Bell got ejected for…
Stopping Penn State's Barkley is tall order for Richardson, Gophers

Stopping Penn State's Barkley is tall order for Richardson, Gophers

Key for the Gophers in keeping the sophomore running back contained will be the play of undersized tackle Steven Richardson.
Building the buzz: Gophers getting started on pivotal stretch

Building the buzz: Gophers getting started on pivotal stretch

The next 10 days — with games at Penn State and home against Iowa — could set the tone for the Gophers fan base for the rest of the season.
Suspensions, injury tests Gophers secondary depth

Suspensions, injury tests Gophers secondary depth

The Gophers remain shorthanded at cornerback heading into Saturday's game at Penn State, with KiAnte Hardin and Ray Buford still suspended, and freshman Coney Durr out because of an unspecified injury.
Gophers freshman DE Devers forces third fumble

Gophers freshman DE Devers forces third fumble

Tai'yon Devers made another big hit to force another fumble Saturday, but the Gophers freshman sensation suffered a left ankle injury later in the game and didn't return.
Potent run game propels Gophers past Colorado State

Potent run game propels Gophers past Colorado State

With Shannon Brooks healthy, Rodney Smith continuing his roll and Mitch Leidner moving better than he has in two years, the Gophers used a potent running attack to defeat Colorado State 31-24 on Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium.
Gophers' need to finish September strong before eyeing October hunt

Gophers' need to finish September strong before eyeing October hunt

Next week, the Gophers open Big Ten play before 106,000 fans at Penn State. But first: a rematch with the Colorado State team that took Minnesota to overtime last fall.
Wisconsin-Michigan State: model programs battle in Big Ten's opening weekend

Wisconsin-Michigan State: model programs battle in Big Ten's opening weekend

The defending Big Ten champions open league play against the Badgers.
Gophers freshman receiver Johnson an inspiration to Minneapolis North

Gophers freshman receiver Johnson an inspiration to Minneapolis North

Tyler Johnson was a standout quarterback, defensive back and basketball guard at once-troubled Minneapolis North. He's made a seamless transition to receiver for the Gophers.
Four suspended Gophers football players involved in police investigation

Four suspended Gophers football players involved in police investigation

Gophers coach Tracy Claeys said he suspended KiAnte Hardin, Ray Buford, Dior Johnson and Tamarion Johnson for a violation of team rules. All four are part of a Minneapolis Police investigation.
Leidner, Gophers show Indiana State who's boss in 30-point victory

Leidner, Gophers show Indiana State who's boss in 30-point victory

Alleged pregame trash talk by Indiana State players and coaches inspired the Gophers to flex their Power 5 muscles in a big victory at TCF Bank Stadium.
Claeys overlooks lineman Wright's prep pedigree

Claeys overlooks lineman Wright's prep pedigree

Gophers left tackle Garrison Wright went to high school at one of Tracy Claeys' old rivals.
Targeting rule tough to define but Gophers aiming lower after ejections

Targeting rule tough to define but Gophers aiming lower after ejections

The Gophers had three players ejected for targeting in their season opener. Minnesota had only two targeting calls the previous four years, both overturned by replay.
Citing momentum, Claeys defends going for two vs. Oregon St.

Citing momentum, Claeys defends going for two vs. Oregon St.

Gophers football coach Tracy Claeys weighed the reward of icing Thursday night's game against the slim chance of the call backfiring.
Gophers notebook: Claeys explains late two-point try

Gophers notebook: Claeys explains late two-point try

Claeys said he was trying to avoid a scenario where Oregon State got the ball back with a chance to tie the score and force overtime.
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