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.
Judging by Mike Kaszuba's story in this morning's Star Tribune, Minnesota students don't possess much optimism yet about this year's Gophers' team. Hard to blame them, given the disappointments of the past several years.
But they might want to consider the track record of their football coach.
In his four previous college head-coaching stops, Jerry Kill's teams have never failed to improve in their second season from his first, a good harbinger for this season. And sure, perhaps expecting improvement on Kill's 3-9 debut isn't a particularly challenging standard. After all, the last seven Gopher coaches have posted a better record in their second season than in their first; Murray Warmath in 1955 was the last Minnesota coach to experience any backsliding in Year 2.
Kill's resume doesn't stop there, however. It's in his third season where Kill has ramped up his programs' strength. The native Kansan owns 27 third-year victories, or an average of nine a year, in stints at Saginaw Valley State (7-3), Southern Illinois (10-2) and Northern Illinois (10-3). (He left Emporia State after two seasons.) And he's never had a losing season after Year 2.
Can Kill add to that amazing record of quick turnarounds here? No doubt the challenge, and particularly the schedule, is tougher at this level. But that record of success has to make the Gophers more intriguing than they've been in awhile. We'll find out if that eventually translates to optimism among the ticket-buying student population.
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