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.
The numbers were ugly, but the reality was worse. Michigan's 58-0 rout of the Gophers last October was only the third-biggest in Minnesota history because the Wolverines either lost interest or took pity. Michigan scored on all six first-half possessions, five of them touchdowns, but didn't bother reaching the end zone after halftime except on a fumble return. The Wolverines gained 10 or more yards on 18 different plays, and completed 10 of their first 11 passes.
So is that tape being pored over this week in the Gibson-Nagurski Building? Or even mentioned?
Not so much.
"Some things you don't have to bring up," Gophers coach Jerry Kill said. "I mentioned it (Saturday) after our game. I think we all understand we flat got embarrassed. So (I told them), 'Enjoy tonight. Enjoy the victory. Enjoy the moment. But tomorrow, it's back to work."
And it's a new year, with some big changes. The Gophers, now 5-3 on the season, are a better team than a year ago, and though they will be led by a freshman quarterback, just as they were last year in Michigan Stadium, at least Philip Nelson won't be making his first start, as Max Shortell was then. Plus, the game is in TCF Bank Stadium, before a much friendlier and less intimidating crowd, and it's Michigan's quarterback, Denard Robinson, who's hurt this time. Last year, MarQueis Gray was unable to play due to a turf-toe injury.
Besides, Purdue embarrassed Kill's team last year, too, whipping the Gophers 45-17. And Minnesota's players took revenge on Saturday, pasting the Boilermakers with 44 straight points en route to a 44-28 victory.
"I may have mentioned how in the third or fourth quarter against Purdue (in 2011), they were pretty loose, talking," Kill said. "I said, 'they basically laughed at us because we were getting our butts kicked.' I said, 'Some of you guys remember that?' "
Here's guessing they remember plenty about that trip to Michigan, too. It doesn't mean they can easily turn it around the way they did against Purdue. But motivation shouldn't be a problem.
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