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.
So this is what a halftime lead feels like.
The Gophers are in their TCF Bank Stadium locker room, basking in the unfamiliar feeling of their first halftime lead of the season, 21-14 over Northwestern. Minnesota has benefitted from a pair of Wildcat fumbles, including one inside the Gophers' 5-yard line, and a series of ill-timed penalties.
But the Gophers have also played smarter and with more enthusiasm as the game as gone on. Four of Minnesota's first five possessions ended in punts -- uniformly short punts, too -- but the Gophers have put together a pair of long touchdown drives to end the half. They've mixed up the playbook by throwing to running backs (Duane Bennett was left unguarded for a 38-yard touchdown pass), to the tight end (Eric Lair set up a score with a 42-yard reception), and even a pass from the running back to the tight end (Bennett to Lair for an 8-yard score).
The defense has settled in, too, after surrendering a pair of worrisome quick-strike touchdowns in the game's first eight minutes. Northwestern, which came in 4-0, needed only 2:43 -- their total on a PAIR of touchdown drives -- to go 67 and 74 yards for scores. But the Gophers have forced a couple of fumbles and held the Wildcats on their last two possessions of the half, giving the offense time to take the lead.
It's been the shootout that fans expected -- the teams have combined for 485 yards in the first half -- but it's also been the most complete game (well, half-game) the Gophers have put together this year.
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