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. -- Jerry Kill takes a lot of pride in his teams' special teams play, so you could tell how much it bugged him to watch his kicking team's subpar day in windy Ryan Field. Especially since he believes it's the biggest reason his team let a winnable game slip away -- the Gophers ran the ball effectively, played good defense after a disastrous start, and outgained the Wildcats.
"You can follow my career a long time, and we've always been good in the kicking game," Kill said after the Gophers' 28-13 loss. "Frustrating, that's all I'm going to say about it."
He was obviously unhappy on the sidelines when Dan Orseske's first punt traveled only 9 yards -- with the wind at his back. When a second Gopher drive stalled later in the quarter, backup punter David Schwerman made only his second appearance of the year. But his kick traveled just 22 yards, and Orseske handled the Gophers' final two punts.
"Just trying to make a play," Kill said of the temporary switch. The Gophers' finished the day averaging just 24.0 yards per punt, well below their 36-yard average this year.
Making matters worse was how well Northwestern punter Brandon Williams kicked; his three kicks averaged 58.3 yards, including one 77-yard boot that pinned the Gophers on their own 4.
The kickoff-coverage team wasn't much better; the Gophers are ranked atop the Big Ten for snuffing kick returns, but they gave up returns of 44 and 42 yards on Saturday.
"We got beat in the kicking game," Kill grumbled.
One bright spot: Jordan Wettstein nailed a 48-yard field goal in the fourth quarter, the longest by a Gopher kicker since Joel Monroe hit a 54-yarder against Iowa on Nov. 10, 2007.
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