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.
An interesting game, Minnesota's 28-23 victory over Western Michigan, and it sets up an interesting week -- and season, really -- for the Gophers. With Max Shortell thriving in MarQueis Gray's ankle-sprain absence, coach Jerry Kill will be asked about the backup quarterback all season long. Even if Gray comes back strong and plays well, they'll be asked about carving out a role for Shortell and his accurate passing.
Meanwhile, a stiff wind and no-man's-land field position caused Jerry Kill to take an interesting gamble in the fourth quarter.
With just under six minutes to play and Minnesota leading by 11, the Gophers had the ball on the Western Michigan 34, facing fourth-and-15. That set up either a 51-yard field goal or a very short punt.
Kill chose neither, in part because of the wind.
"I don't want to take a shot at snapping the ball, in case something (bad) happens with the punt game," Kill said. And Jordan Wettstein had already missed a 38-yard field goal into that wind, so kicking it was out.
But Kill sent his kicking team out anyway, and the Broncos set up for a kick. Then holder David Schwermann stood up, Wettstein split wide, and Western Michigan hurriedly called a time out, its second of the half.
"We made them use a timeout, which hurt them later on," Kill said.
During the delay, Kill decided to run another play rather than punt.
"If you try to pooch punt it 15 or 20 yards and it goes (into the end zone), they're going to start at the 20," he reasoned. "I felt at that time, we (could get) a guy open. We knew they were going to play cover-one, and we felt we could take a shot."
Quarterback Max Shortell's pass to Marcus Jones fell incomplete, however, giving the Broncos good field position. Western Michigan drove 66 yards in just five plays, putting the Gophers' win in jeopardy. Minnesota was bailed out when its defense held the Broncos on fourth-and-18 on their final drive.
Even though it failed, Kill judged the risk a good one. "If we throw and catch it, people say it's a good thing. We don't do it, it's bad coaching," he said. "We didn't execute it, so I'd call it bad coaching. But I'd do it again."
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