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.
As I waited for the elevator in the parking ramp a few moments ago, a Gophers fan in a down vest and maroon-and-gold stocking cap, looking more like he was going hunting than watching football, approached me with an offer: How would I like his extra pair of tickets, great upper-bowl seats around the 40-yard line? The price: Free.
"The scalpers would only give me $5 apiece, and I'd rather give them to someone who will use them," he told me.
So that's how I know there may be a few no-shows at today's season finale. It's probably a given that today's crowd will be the smallest in TCF Bank history, a distinction currently held by the 46,543 who attended the Gophers' victory over Iowa last month. The 42-degree temperatures, steady blustery wind and cold drizzle that fell all morning -- it's stopped at the moment, but the skies are still overcast -- don't exactly suggest a big walk-up crowd. Though as I can attest, the cost of tickets shouldn't be an issue.
The crowd that shows up should be rewarded with an intriguing game, at least, because both teams seem far more motivated than a game between teams that are a combined 8-14 would suggest. The Gophers appear genuinely determined to leave this season behind in a positive way, especially given their belief that they left a few victories on the field this season. And Illinois might be desperate to end its five-game losing streak -- or desperate to end the uncertainty about their coach.
Whatever the case, Illinois has a solid defense but a sputtering offense, which should lend itself to a close game.
The Gophers, by the way, are wearing bright yellow jerseys and white pants today, at least during warmups. It's a combination that makes everyone look like a quarterback, wearing don't-hit-me jerseys.
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