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.
Jerry Kill erupted at his team on Thursday, frustrated by what he sees as an unwillingness to fight through the fatigue of three weeks worth of spring football. Kill was constantly yelling reminders to keep working, to keep the pace up, until finally bringing the team together at the end and delivering a blistering critique that got him so worked up, he spiked his hat into the ground at one point.
"You're not fighting back!" he yelled, before forcing the players to do several sets of up-downs. "You're giving in!"
It's not unexpected, Kill said, but "this is when you find out who you are. We've got four practices left, so we've got to make sure we do a good job of delivering the message of what we want."
What they want is 100 percent effort, and no concessions to fatigue, no mental errors because of a loss of focus. When defensive lineman D.L. Wilhite missed a call during a scrimmage, Kill had him stand beside him doing up-downs for almost 10 minutes. "My bad," Wilhite said. "I've got to be better."
It was cold and windy as the Gophers held practice No. 11, and it's expected to be worse Friday night, for a 7:15 p.m. scrimmage in TCF Bank Stadium. The session was scheduled so recruits and other VIPs who can't normally make a daytime practice can attend, and was promoted to students on campus, too, as "Field Frenzy" night. But with the weather expected to be bad, the freebies for the first 500 students -- pizza, soda and blankets -- have been postponed for next Thursday's 3 p.m. practice.
(A youth clinic set for Friday has been pushed back by one week; it will begin at 6 p.m. on April 22. Registration is free for kids ages 7-13, and includes football drills and an autograph session.)
A few more notes from Thursday's practice:
-- MarQueis Gray continued to play confidently at quarterback, engineering a 70-yard drive during the scrimmage in five or six plays. The last was a 30-yard touchdown strike to Victor Keise in a corner of the end zone, a pass that looped over Troy Stoudermire's head.
It wasn't all perfect, though; the next time Gray tried to connect with Keise, the ball bounced off the receiver's hands and high into the air, and linebacker Keanon Cooper grabbed the interception. Still, Kill complimented Gray's ability to absorb information. "He's being pushed very hard -- we're throwing it all at him. He's seeing every blitz, every coverage, and he's done good," the coach said.
-- Senior receiver Da'Jon McKnight looked almost forlorn as he went through an upper-body workout while his teammates were practicing. McKnight injured his left knee on Tuesday, but Kill said the injury is not serious. Brandon Green, Lamonte Edwards and Jimmy Gjere were among those also sitting out.
-- Mike Rallis seemed to have a noticeably good day at linebacker, making tackles all over the field.
-- During a red zone drill, walk-on kicker Jordan Wettstein was lining up for a 40-yard field goal when the defensive reserves began chanting "Block that kick! Block that kick!" They didn't, but Wettstein's kick was wide left, and the defense celebrated like it won a game.
-- Kendall Gregory-McGee got to Gray for a no-contact sack at one point, too.
-- Without prompting, Kill described walk-on safety Chase Haviland from Thief River Falls as one of the pleasant surprises of the spring. "He's had a great spring. Probably you guys didn't know that name, but he's showed up now," Kill said. "He's caught my eye because he does everything he's supposed to. He'll hit you, he tackles pretty good, he's always in a good football position."
Haviland intercepted a Tom Parish pass on Thursday, one of several he has had this month.
-- Thursday's practice was the final one of the spring at the football complex; the Gophers will hold their final four practices, including the spring game next Saturday, in TCF Bank Stadium. The practice field, meanwhile, will be ripped up in the next couple of days so the worn-out artificial turf can be replaced.
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