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.
It's the nature of a coach, particularly one with a rebuilding job as big as Jerry Kill's, to see the flaws in his team first. And so it was Sunday, when Kill aired a laundry list of worries in the wake of the Gophers' most lopsided victory since 2006, as I detailed in today's Star Tribune. Fumbles, penalties, drops -- the coach even held up a memo pad with three or four pages of dense notes, his list of items, he said, to take up with his coaching staff in Sunday's post-mortem.
But even a perfectionist like Kill had to admit that there were plenty of aspects to Saturday's game that pleased him.
"I was tired of not being good in the punting game," Kill said, and voila -- Christian Eldred was steady, if not spectacular, at putting a little distance in his punts.
"I don't want to drop punts, either," Kill said, and A.J. Barker took care of that one. The junior receiver from DeLaSalle High returned three punts for 47 total yards, and now leads the Big Ten with a 14.0-yard average after two games. "Barker did a good job on the returns," Kill said.
He wanted to cut down on penalties -- well, being a coach, he wants to eliminate them. But after committing 11 infractions, many of them at the worst times, in Las Vegas and handing the Rebels 86 yards, the Gophers committed only three Saturday for 33 yards.
He wanted to establish the run and avoid getting into a run-and-shoot duel with New Hampshire. The Gophers called 52 running plays and threw only 14 passes.
And Kill had encouraging words for several players, in particular defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman. The junior from Washburn High had three tackles, two sacks, and strangled New Hampshire's attempts to run the ball. The Wildcats had 68 yards on the ground, on 32 carries, an average of 2.1 yards per carry.
The best part? "He'll keep getting better," Kill said. "He's not even close to what he'll be."
He complimented Derrick Wells, too, for learning the defensive gameplan so thoroughly in just his second game as a safety. "I was concerned about (Wells') abilities to make calls," Kill said, "but he did very well."
So, must have been a happy film session Sunday, right?
Ha. That's not how coaches work. "As soon as you get something fixed," Kill said, "something else pops up that needs to get fixed next week."
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