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.
This is the life of an offensive lineman: Tommy Olson injuries his ankle, and the Gophers need another left guard. Jon Christenson is the guy, even though he spends most of his time preparing to play center. But backup guard Joe Bjorklund is recovering from a concussion, and Christenson is next up.
And by all accounts, he does a creditable job in the new role. Even his teammates notice how well he's playing, especially considering he's just a 20-year-old redshirt freshman.
"It's not an easy job. My hat's off to him, because he's doing a good job at it," said Caleb Bak, who's started the past two games at right guard. "It's nice to see someone move in so quickly and do a good job."
Only problem: The one time that fans may have noticed Christenson was when his number was called by the referee. The Minnetonka native was flagged for a holding penalty at the worst possible time, just as quarterback Max Shortell was connecting with Devin Crawford-Tufts on a 34-yard touchdown pass.
The penalty was unacceptable, Bak said, but shouldn't obscure all the good work that Christenson did. And besides, holding penalties aren't the worst thing a lineman can do.
"Holding happens. It's a technique issue, something that can be fixed," Bak said. "We don't put as much stress on it as we do something like jumping offsides, because that's completely mental. We're really emphasizing avoiding those."
So in the film room on Sunday, Christenson heard about the hold, no doubt. But the real reprimands, he said, were saved for Zac Epping, Drew Goodger and K.J. Maye, who cost the Gophers five yards apiece.
False-start penalties "are definitely worse, because that's something that is very easily preventable," Bak said. "It's just about keeping a calm mind."
Hard to stay calm in those film sessions when you know what's coming, isn't it? "It depends on what you mean by punishment," Bak said. "You'll be getting a scolding, for sure."
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