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.
EVANSTON, Ill. -- It took awhile for the Gophers to figure out how to slow down Northwestern's up-tempo offense Saturday, and by the time they did, the Wildcats had scored three first-quarter touchdowns.
But Minnesota held Northwestern scoreless in the second period, and headed to halftime at Ryan Field trailing, 21-10.
The Wildcats, seeking bowl eligibility with a victory, needed only 86 seconds to reach the end zone for the first time, taking a 7-0 lead on a 7-yard pass from Dan Persa to Kain Colter. Minnesota responded with an equally quick drive, going 66 yards in just 2:25, with MarQueis Gray bulling his way into the end zone on a 5-yard scoring rush.
But Northwestern's next two drives, aided by great field position -- the Wildcats started in Gophers territory both times, thanks to a long kick return and a 9-yard punt -- were almost as effortless, and the Gophers couldn't keep up. They hurt themselves with a mental error, too, defending two straight plays with only 10 men on the field, the latter of them a 28-yard touchdown pass from Persa to Demetrius Fields.
The Gophers finally found a way to stop the Wildcats in the second period. Minnesota safety Kim Royston picked off a Persa pass to kill one drive -- the Gophers' first interception since Troy Stoudermire's pick against Miami (Ohio), back in mid-September -- and the Gophers forced Northwestern to punt away their next two drives.
Minnesota kicker Jordan Wettstein kicked a 28-yard field goal in the second quarter to pull the Gophers within 11 points at halftime.
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