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.
He understands the impulse, and sympathizes with the spontaneity. But when it comes to celebrating on the football field, Jerry Kill appreciates the style of a fellow Kansan.
Barry Sanders, the Hall of Fame tailback who grew up in Wichita, roughly a half-hour from Kill's hometown of Cheney, was famous for his ho-hum reaction when he reached the end zone -- he simply handed the football to an official.
"I happen to know [Sanders]. And I said, 'You never celebrate too much, Barry,' " Kill said. "He said, 'Well, I'm used to being in there.' "
That's an attitude that Kill hopes to convey to his team, not necessarily to tamp down their joy at scoring -- he's no killjoy, he realizes his team has scored the fewest touchdowns in the Big Ten -- but to avoid future penalties, at least. After a brilliant leaping catch of a fade pass late in the first quarter Saturday at Michigan State, Gopher receiver Da'Jon McKnight was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for spiking the ball in the end zone.
Backed up 15 yards on the following kickoff, the Gophers handed the Spartans great field position, starting just 43 yards from the end zone. The drive fizzled when Minnesota's defense held on a fourth-down play, but Kill said putting the team in such a predicament is not acceptable.
"Yeah, you can be emotional. But great players control their emotions," the coach said.
He doesn't necessarily support the movement over the past decade to restrict demonstrative celebrations on the field so completely, but "when they make the rules, you've got to follow them whether you like them or not. ... They are what they are, so we follow them. We didn't follow them on that play, and it should have been a penalty."
Kill blamed himself, he said, because "evidently I'm not getting that across. That's a lack of discipline," and one he's definitely aware of as an intense rivalry game with Wisconsin approaches.
But he also said the increase in nit-picky rules and hard-to-discern judgement calls is making like difficult on officials. "We keep adding rules," Kill said. "We've got more rules and regulations like the NFL. So you have to worry about what you can control. We all understand what a celebration penalty is. They've all been told. They've all been shown video, and we've had officials come in [to explain it]. But the game is football is emotional. And sometimes, young people make mistakes. We certainly corrected it, and we'll move on."
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