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.
Eric Lair had not been shut out by an opposing defense since 2009, but he was held without a catch by New Mexico State last week.
But it's probably more precise to say that the Gophers' tight end was shut out by his own team's game plan. Lair was an option for MarQueis Gray, but when he lined up in the slot, the quarterback was instructed to look for a wide receiver first.
"We wanted to try and get some more speed on the perimeter," offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover said. "So some of the things that [Lair] was doing when he was split out went to Malcolm Moulton and Marcus Jones."
That's not something that Limegrover expects to happen often. Lair, after all, had 39 catches last season, third on the team, and two catches for 30 yards in the season opener at USC.
"It was kind of a combination of several things," Limegrover said. "We're going to keep working to make sure that Eric is part of what we're doing."
The absence of Lair's usual production was obscured, however, by the performance of the Gophers' other tight end, senior Collin McGarry. The Stillwater native caught a career-high three passes from Gray, picking up 26 yards. His sliding catch of a 10-yard pass from Gray just before halftime produced the Gophers' second touchdown, and the first of McGarry's career.
"He's been doing a great job for us this season," Gray said, "and he got his reward Saturday."
That may have been the highlight, but it wasn't the extent of McGarry's contribution, Limegrover said.
"Beyond the touchdown catch, he did some other things where he really got going as an on-the-line tight end, sticking with guys," Limegrover said of McGarry's blocking ability. "He really performed well. One of our players of the game."
McGarry has another important fan, too: Lair.
"Lair was the first one to high-five him" after the touchdown, Gray said.
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