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.
It's 60 degrees and sunny in downtown Minneapolis, and the streets around TCF Bank Stadium are full of fans -- a huge number of them, perhaps half of the early-arrivers, wearing red and white. I've never seen so many visiting fans at a college game before.
The Gophers are in gold pants and maroon jerseys, while Nebraska is in its classic red pants and white jerseys.
There's a lot of talk in the press box about whether Minnesota can even be competitive with the Cornhuskers, for obvious reasons. Nebraska has scored 111 consecutive points against the Gophers, after all.
It's hard for the players not to feel that negative vibe, too, which is why not falling behind early is the most important thing the Gophers can do today. Their confidence was deflated in the first five minutes at Michigan and Purdue, but confidence grows if you keep the game close.
"Is it mentally tough on kids and coaches?" Minnesota coach Jerry Kill said earlier this week. "Sure it is, but at the end of the day, you'll know who's really mentally tough, and we may need that."
It's as much for the long-term health of the program as for this year, he added.
"At the end of the season, I want to be able to say, 'this guy is mentally tough, this one can play in the Big Ten, this one is not mentally tough, this one ain't going to make it," Kill explained. "I want to find out, and sometimes you have to find lessons out the hard way."
Yeah, 58-0 at Michigan was hard. So was 45-17 at Purdue. But there were positives to those games, too. "We'll find out some kids that were a lot tougher than we thought they were," Kill said. "We've found some out to this point."
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