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.
Gopher fans are getting their first look at their new quarterback Saturday. They have to like what they see.
Philip Nelson threw three touchdown passes in the first 20 minutes of his first home game for the Gophers, and Minnesota holds a lead in a Big Ten game for the first time this season, 34-7 over Purdue at halftime.
Nelson completed 11 of his first 12 passes, three of them touchdown passes of 34 yards or longer, and the Gophers scored 31 consecutive points to shock the 3-4 Boilermakers, who had won 11 of the teams' last 14 meetings.
Purdue went 46 yards for a touchdown on its first possession, including a 40-yard running play by tailback Akeem Shavers that gave the game an air of here-we-go-again, considering how many rushing yards the Gophers have allowed in Big Ten play.
But Nelson changed all that. He hit Derrick Engel, open in the end zone, with a 34-yard touchdown strike to tie the game, then found MarQueis Gray inside the 5 for a 33-yard gain. That set up a 4-yard touchdown by Rodrick Williams on a punishing run up the middle, putting Minnesota in front of a Big Ten game for the first time all year.
Nelson wasn't done, however. He found A.J. Barker on the right sideline on the next possession, hitting the receiver in stride as he streaked to the end zone for a 38-yard score. And Barker, the Gophers' leading receiver on the season, got behind the Purdue secondary on the next drive and waited for a Nelson bomb, a 63-yard scoring play.
Minnesota, which had not scored more than 13 points in a game since Sept. 15, added field goals of 40 and 35 yards By Jordan Wettstein shortly before halftime, taking a 24-point lead -- their largest halftime lead since the Illinois game last season -- into the locker room.
For the half, Nelson, a 19-year-old freshman from Mankato West High, has 246 yards on 15-of-17 passing. Barker has caught five passes for 135 yards. Purdue, on the other hand, has 112 yards total, just 49 of them through the air.
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