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.
BY PHIL MILLER
Josh Campion jumped too early on a potential fourth-quarter touchdown drive Thursday, costing the Gophers five critical yards and enraging his offensive-line teammates.
They weren't upset at Campion. They were angry at the Rebels' defense -- and the officials.
"Our guys were pretty mad," offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover said. "They said (the reason for the false start) was exactly the same as the first time."
That reason? "Disconcerting signals," as referee Dan Capron described the penalty in the second quarter.
On crucial snaps, Rebels defenders were imitating the Gophers' snap count, several Gophers said, trying to confuse the offense and get them to jump offsides.
"It should have (been called) more than once," coach Jerry Kill said.
The first instance came in the second quarter, on a third-and-two from the UNLV 25. Offensive linemen jumped early, but officials ruled that UNLV's defense was intentionally mimicking Gray's calls, giving the Gophers five yards and a first down.
"You preach to your kids, hang in there, have discipline. Then they're over there yelling out your snap count," Limegrover said. "It's hard to focus through that, no matter who you are."
It was third-and-two once more, this time from the UNLV 15 in the fourth quarter, when it happened again. This time, the penalty on Campion stood, and when quarterback MarQueis Gray's run fell three yards short of a first down, the Gophers had to settle for a field goal. If the ploy was intentional, it worked.
"I don't know if they were doing it intentionally," Gray said. "I only heard it one time. The rest, I wasn't paying attention to what was being yelled."
There is plenty of noise at the line of scrimmage, Kill said, and sometimes confusion is inevitable and unintentional. "But it's happening more and more," he said. The NFL even warned its teams a year ago that mimicking snap counts wouldn't be tolerated.
"But defensively right now, a lot of people are shifting fronts and stuff on you to confuse the blocking schemes, and they'll get up there and (yell) 'Move, move, move,' " Kill said. "If you're in the middle of a snap count, and if your quarterback is not real decisive in his snap count, it sounds the same as 'move, move.' "
The Gophers have even experienced that confusion in practices, when their own defense is making calls.
The solution? Modern technology, Kill joked.
"If we had a cell phone, we'd get everything communicated, because (players are) on them all the time," Kill said. "But when them actually talking to each other, that seems to be difficult sometimes."
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