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.
HOUSTON -- The Gophers offense is moving up and down the field -- yes, both forward and backward -- with amazing ease in the Meineke Car Care Bowl. It's not enough so far.
Minnesota rode a powerful running game to score on its first three possessions, its best first half in five games, but the Gophers lost their composure on their next drive and faced a remarkable third-and-49 situation. Meanwhile, Texas Tech returned a kickoff for a touchdown and used good field position to score just before the half, giving the Red Raiders a 24-17 halftime lead in Reliant Stadium.
Donnell Kirkwood piled up 59 yards on 11 carries, including a 3-yard touchdown run, as the Gophers' revolving-quarterback strategy was overshadowed by their ability to find holes in the Texas Tech defense.
The game may be most notable, however, for the misbehavior by both teams, starting with a near-brawl on the game's first drive. Four personal fouls have been flagged so far, including back-to-back penalties on Minnesota center Zac Epping that spoiled the Gophers' final drive of the half. The Gophers moved the ball to the Red Raiders' 31-yard line, but an illegal block penalty on tight end John Rabe negated a 17-yard run by Kirkwood, and Epping's violations moved the ball back to the Gophers' own 11 yard line, where they faced third-and-49.
The result was a punt that sailed out of bounds short of midfield, setting up Texas Tech's final scoring drive to break the 17-17 tie.
Philip Nelson started the game at quarterback for the Gophers, and led the Gophers inside the Raiders' 10 before consecutive sacks forced the Gophers to kick a 41-yard field goal to take the early lead.
It didn't last long. Texas Tech kick returner Jakeem Grant fielded the kickoff on the 1-yard line, burst into the middle of the Gophers' coverage, and sped through, going 99 yards for a touchdown.
Nelson answered with a 67-yard drive, however, and Rodrick Williams carried the ball the final two yards for the go-ahead score.
Senior MarQueis Gray took over for Nelson after that, and looked like the running threat of old, picking up 28 yards on eight rushes. Running out of the power-I formation, he led the Gophers on a 48-yard drive scoring drive, with Kirkwood getting the touchdown.
Texas Tech quarterback Seth Doege did some running of his own, too. Just before halftime, he scrambled into the end zone from four yards out to give the Red Raiders the halftime lead.
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