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 Gophers are getting ready for another 11 a.m., kickoff here at TCF Bank Stadium, with Penn State in town to battle for the Governor’s Victory Bell.
These teams haven’t played since 2010 and they won’t meet again until 2016.
Penn State (5-3, 2-2 Big Ten) is 4-0 in its past four games against the Gophers, with Minnesota’s last win in the series coming in 2004.
Of course, it’s a new era for both teams. The Gophers (7-2, 3-2) are in their third season under Coach Jerry Kill, looking to win a fourth straight Big Ten game for the first time since 1973, and Penn State is in Year 2 under Bill O’Brien.
The Nittany Lions are ineligible for a bowl game again and dealing with scholarship reductions from the Jerry Sandusky scandal. But O’Brien helped Penn State turn the page with an 8-4 finish last season and solid recruiting, especially getting quarterback Christian Hackenberg to stick with his commitment last year.
Now, Hackenberg and junior receiver Allen Robinson lead this offense, and the Nittany Lions are looking for win No. 6.
It’s cloudy and 43 degrees here, and the weather isn’t expected to change much through the game.
The Gophers are wearing their maroon jerseys, white pants and the ‘M’ on their helmets is red white and blue in a Veterans Day tribute.
For quicker updates, follow along on Twitter: @JoeCStrib
Update: Philip Nelson is working with the first-team offense in warmups, and Mitch Leidner with the second team. No surprise there, based on the past three weeks.
University President Eric Kaler met with the media before the game. His support for Kill has been unequivocal through Kill's battle with seizures, and now Kaler has been able to watch the football team reel off a three-game winning streak.
"It really is icing on the cake that the staff has been able to perform at the level they are at, and that our young men have stepped up to be so good on the field," Kaler said. "It’s really gratifying. We’re fortunate that we’re winning under these conditions, but even if we weren’t, I know we’ve made the right decision about how to let Jerry get back on his feet. And I’m glad he’s making progress, and I’m very glad the team’s making progress, and I’m glad there’s this excitement in the community about Gophers football again."
Kaler said it wasn't a hard decision leaving things up to Kill in terms of how best to handle his leave, etc.
"I don’t think we really had any other choice," Kaler said. "I had a lot of people in my ear saying, 'Well, we should fire him. He can’t do his job, etc.' That’s nonsense. We’re going to be compassionate, we’re going to be smart about how to let Jerry get back to full strength. And we’re really blessed to have a coaching staff. When we hired Jerry, we didn’t just hire Jerry Kill and Rebecca [Kill], who’s fabulous. We hired a team of coaches, and that team is absolutely delivering for us."
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