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.
Lost amid the discussion of Lane Kiffin's habit of trying two-point conversions -- and L.A. Times columnist Bill Plaschke skewered the USC coach pretty thoroughly for Saturday's failed attempts -- was a point-after decision that Jerry Kill had to make.
When Duane Bennett powered into the end zone from nine yards out on the Gophers' first series of the second half, the scoreboard read 19-9 (thanks to those two failed conversions), and Kill was confronted with a decision: Go for two and cut the Trojans' lead to one score -- another touchdown and two-pointer -- or take the single point and trust that the defense would keep USC's offense in check.
The Gophers lined up in the "swinging-gate" formation, with the offensive line standing several yards to the right of the football, and quarterback MarQueis Gray under center. But rather than calling signals and running a two-point play, Gray motioned for the kicking team to come on the field, and Chris Hawthorne kicked the PAT to make the score 19-10.
"If they gave it to us, we would have" gone for two," Kill said of USC's defensive formation. "They didn't give it to us. [Gray] got coached on what to look for in that situation. MarQueis is a smart kid who spends a lot of time with me on what we can and can't do. And it wasn't there."
There were still nearly 25 minutes to play, so Kill didn't think pulling within one score was important, and he turned out to be right; the Gophers had a chance to win the game with a field goal in the final two minutes.
Of course, that wouldn't have been true had Kiffin not elected to try the two-pointers in the first half. But Kill said those unusual plays had a purpose, too.
"They showed last year 30 different ways to go for two," the Gophers coach said. "People do that to make you prepare, so you spend half your time preparing for that stuff and you can't work on everything else. But our defense did a good job on that."
And now New Mexico State and future Gopher opponents will have to prepare for Minnesota's two-point formation, too.
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