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.
Jerry Kill was pleased with his offense, satisfied with his defense, and delighted to be 2-0 on the year. But the coach was practically giddy about a factor that few fans likely noticed:
Hey, how about that punt game.
Yes, Melbourne native Christian Eldred averaged 42.0 yards on four punts Saturday afternoon, and if that number doesn't impress you, you haven't been watching many Gopher games the past couple of seasons. Eldred wasn't just competent, Kill said, he was decisive.
"I'm very proud of Christian Eldred, the Australian. This is only the second game he's ever played in college football," Kill said. "He was the difference in the game, with field position early. ... You can win games on field position."
You can lose them, too, as the Gophers were fortunate not to learn last week at UNLV. Gopher punters averaged only 35.1 yards per kick last week, and that turned into a 14-yard average deficit in field position per drive.
This time, the Gophers were at their own 37, on average, when they received the ball, compared to New Hampshire, which started at its own 28. Those hidden yards are huge, Kill said.
"I'm excited about the field-position part of the game. We've got a chance if we can hold field position," he said. "Punting the football today was critical. That wind was strong, but (Eldred) punted the ball well into the wind."
The wind affected lots of kicks, and may have accounted for Jordan Wettstein's missed 52-yard field goal on the Gophers' final drive of the first half.
If punting isn't a very glamorous reason for victory, Kill didn't mind. He was clearly relieved to have survived this year's test against an FCS school.
"A win's a win. I've been on the other side of it," said the former Southern Illinois coach. "I've been a I-AA coach and gone into (FBS) places and won. Always wondered what it felt like. Well, I got a taste of it a year ago. It doesn't feel very good."
But winning 44-7? Improving to 2-0? That feels much better.
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