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.

Injuries to Scott Ekpe and Alex Keith concerning for Gophers

Posted by: Joe Christensen under Gophers injuries Updated: August 29, 2014 - 1:55 PM

Three Gophers defensive linemen are having MRIs for leg injuries today, and the team is particularly concerned about starting defensive tackle Scott Ekpe's right knee.

Ekpe injured his right knee early in Thursday's season opener. He went to the sidelines, had ice on the knee, and was later seen on crutches. Coach Jerry Kill didn't have any specific updates today, but confirmed that three players are having MRIs.

Defensive end Alex Keith also has a left knee injury that has the team concerned, and defensive tackle Yoshoub Timms appeared to injure his left ankle.

"You can’t lose any front-line players and be where you need to be," Kill said. "You can have all the depth in the world but then you get less depth. To be successful. You’ve got to stay healthy. You’ve got to be lucky, so hopefully we’ll get lucky on this deal, we’ll have to see."

Kill said he might not have details until Friday afternoon or Saturday morning.

Kill said defensive end Michael Amaefula and wide receiver Drew Wolitarsky will be back from their respective injuries for the Sept. 6 game against Middle Tennessee State. Offensive tackle Ben Lauer also should be ready to return from his high ankle sprain.

Filling in for Amaefula, Keith had a terrific game against Eastern Illinois, with a sack, a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries.

"Kids mature," Kill said of Keith. "I would say he’s the David Cobb of the defense. He’s matured. I just hope he’s OK."

Postgame: Aside from defensive injuries, a pretty good night for the Gophers

Posted by: Joe Christensen under Gophers game day Updated: August 29, 2014 - 12:14 AM

All in all, it was a pretty good night for the Gophers. Not a bad way to start the season.

Here's my game story. And here's my notebook, with items on Berkley Edwards, Drew Wolitarsky, the kicking game, etc.

The defense was terrific, as Amelia Rayno writes here, but coach Jerry Kill is admittedly concerned about injuries along the defensive line.

The talent is there for Mitch Leidner; he just needs to find it, Jim Souhan writes.

Sid Hartman thinks the Gophers have plenty of room to improve.

Halftime blog: Gophers overcome shaky start, lead Eastern Illinois 14-0

Posted by: Joe Christensen under Gophers game day Updated: August 28, 2014 - 7:33 PM

The Gophers took a 14-0 lead into the locker room at halftime against Eastern Illinois at TCF Bank Stadium.

Mitch Leidner got off to a shaky start for the Gophers as they punted twice and fumbled once on their first three drives.

But Eastern Illinois botched two snaps, with the first one derailing its first drive and the second one giving Minnesota the ball at the Panthers’ 5-yard line.

On third-and-goal, Leidner scrambled for a 2-yard touchdown run.

Minnesota’s defense kept holding strong, and then Leidner led the Gophers on a 90-yard touchdown drive late in the half. He found Maxx Williams for a 25-yard gain and then hit Donovahn Jones, who shook a defender and raced 35 yards for a touchdown.

Leidner completed his final five passes of the half. He was 7-for-12 overall for 100 yards.

David Cobb had eight carries for 47 yards.

The Gophers had two defensive tackles get hurt in the first half -- Scott Ekpe and Yoshoub Timms. Throw in Michael Amaefula, who hasn't played, and that's three defensive linemen injured.

Pregame: U receiver Wolitarsky injured and not in uniform

Posted by: Joe Christensen under Gophers game day Updated: August 28, 2014 - 5:52 PM

It looks like the rain could hold off tonight. A couple quick pregame items:

Wide receiver Drew Wolitarsky is wearing his road jersey, so it doesn't appear he'll play. Sounds like an upper body injury, near his shoulder, but it's not considered serious.

Left tackle Ben Lauer is moving around OK, considering he's coming back from a high ankle sprain. I don't think he'll play, unless there's an emergency.

And defensive end Michael Amaefula also is not expected to play, due to injury. Alex Keith will take his place with the first unit.

The Gophers are wearing their maroon helmets, gold jerseys and maroon pants. So they'll wait to debut their new gold helmets at another time.

For quicker updates, follow along on Twitter: @JoeCStrib

Gophers season preview blog: Links to get you up to speed

Posted by: Joe Christensen under Gophers game day Updated: August 28, 2014 - 9:51 AM

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