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.

Posts about Gopher road games

Michigan game was a big one for Gophers freshman kicker

Posted by: Joe Christensen Updated: October 3, 2014 - 11:01 AM

Kicking 48-yard field goals in practice is one thing. Kicking them on the road, before 100,000 opposing fans, is another.

The Gophers knew redshirt freshman Ryan Santoso had a big leg. Last Saturday at Michigan, they learned he could be cool under pressure.

Santoso was 1-for-3 on his field goal attempts heading into that game. But he went 3-for-3 against the Wolverines, hitting from 24, 48 and 25 yards. The 24-yarder from the right hash as time expired on the first half gave the Gophers a 10-7 lead. The 48-yarder made it 13-7. Those were two critical kicks.

“It helps a lot, just getting that 100 percent in that one game,” Santoso said. “But you’ve just got to move on and go to the next game.”

Santoso has 19 of his 25 kickoffs (76 percent) into touchbacks. With that percentage, the Gophers rank fourth in the nation.

Another Little Brown Jug appearance -- Goal Line Club luncheon

The Gophers put the Little Brown Jug out for public display on Wednesday and Thursday at TCF Bank Stadium. I'm sure there will be other chances to see it, but a friend of mine e-mailed with a reminder about an upcoming Goal Line Club luncheon. These luncheons take place the Friday before each home game. On Oct. 10, the luncheon will be at Jax Café in northeast Minneapolis.

The program will include offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover and two players. Before it opens, at 11:15 a.m., there will be chances to get a picture with the jug. The cost is $25, and $20 for Goal Line Club members and their guests. Register at www.goallineclub.com before next Wednesday.

With Kill in attendance, Gophers win at Northwestern 20-17

Posted by: Joe Christensen Updated: October 19, 2013 - 2:11 PM

EVANSTON, ILL. – Gophers coach Jerry Kill just couldn't bear to watch from home.

Kill, who is officially on leave to treat his epilepsy, had his wife, Rebecca, drive him from their home in Minneapolis to Saturday’s game at Northwestern.

Kill watched from the press box coaching booth, though he was said not to be giving instructions. He did address the team at halftime, a team spokesman said.

The Gophers responded with the biggest win of the Kill era, holding on to defeat the Wildcats 20-17 before an announced crowd of 36,587 at Ryan Field.

Mitch Leidner started the game at quarterback for the Gophers (5-2, 1-2 in the Big Ten), but after four first-quarter punts, they gave Philip Nelson another chance.

Nelson immediately drove the Gophers down the field, hitting Derrick Engel with a game-tying, 29-yard touchdown pass. Nelson stayed in the game for the rest of the first half.

Leidner played the first drive of the second half, but after another quick punt, the Gophers turned back to Nelson.

He threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to Isaac Fruechte, but that got called back because the referees called passing interference on Drew Wolitarsky. It didn’t appear to be a good call.

James Manuel gave the Gophers a 14-7 lead when he picked off Northwestern quarterback Trevor Siemian and returned it 24 yards for a touchdown.

Northwestern (4-3, 0-3) played without two of its best offensive players, as quarterback Kain Colter and Venric Mark were both out with ankle injuries.

Chris Hawthorne’s 34-yard field goal stretched Minnesota’s lead to 17-7 with 14:55 remaining. Jeff Budzien came back with a 35-yard field goal, trimming the lead to 17-10.

Hawthorne added a 38-yarder, making it 20-10 with 5:24 remaining.

Northwestern came back with a 75-yard touchdown drive, converting on fourth down three times. Gophers cornerback Eric Murray was flagged for a questionable passing interference call on fourth down early in that drive.

Simian hit Tony Jones with a 10-yard touchdown pass, trimming the lead to 20-17 with 2:07 remaining. Nelson scrambled for a first down, clinching the win for the Gophers.

Jerry Kill attends Gophers game; Nelson replaces Leidner, throws touchdown pass; Gophers, Northwestern tied 7-7

Posted by: Joe Christensen Updated: October 19, 2013 - 1:18 PM

EVANSTON, ILL. – Gophers coach Jerry Kill just couldn't bear to watch from home.

Kill had his wife, Rebecca, drive him from their home in Minneapolis to today's game at Northwestern. Kill, who is on an official leave of absence to treat his epilepsy, is watching from the press box coaching booth, though he is said not to be giving instructions.

He did address the team at halftime, a team spokesman said.

Game details

Mitch Leidner started at quarterback for the Gophers, but after four first-quarter punts, they gave Philip Nelson another chance.

Nelson immediately drove the Gophers down the field, hitting Derrick Engel with a game-tying, 29-yard touchdown pass.

Nelson remained on the game, and the Gophers were poised to take the lead, but Chris Hawthorne missed a 44-yard field goal as time expired on the first half, with the score still tied 7-7.

Northwestern played without two of its best offensive players, as quarterback Kain Colter and Venric Mark were both out with ankle injuries.

Northwestern capitalized on some shoddy tackling by the Gophers to take a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter on a 72-yard drive.

The Gophers appeared to have Northwestern receiver Tony Jones stopped short of a first down early in the drive, but Cedric Thompson and Derrick Wells missed the tackle.

Thompson missed another tackle on the next play, as Stephen Buckley broke free for a 33-yard run. Buckley capped the drive with a three-yard touchdown run.

Ra’Shede Hageman had a pass break up and an interception, highlighting the Gophers’ defensive efforts in the first half.

Gophers and Northwestern to kick off on Oct. 19 -- at 11 a.m., on ESPN2

Posted by: Joe Christensen Updated: October 7, 2013 - 11:06 AM

The Gophers football team has announced the kickoff time for the next game at Northwestern, on Oct. 19. That game will start at 11 a.m., televised on ESPN2.

Q & A with Michigan beat writer Mark Snyder, from the Detroit Free Press

Posted by: Joe Christensen Updated: October 4, 2013 - 9:25 AM

It's been a strange season for Michigan already this year, as the Wolverines looked dynamite in wins over Central Michigan and Notre Dame and then looked surprisingly vulnerable in wins over Akron and Connecticut.

In an effort to figure out this Michigan team, I traded e-mails with Mark Snyder, veteran beat writer for the Detroit Free Press. You can see some of his outstanding work here, and check out my responses to his questions about the Gophers here.

Q: What effect do you think the bye week had, coming as it did after the close calls against Akron and UConn?

A: The coaches and players have all said it came at the perfect time. Over the first four weeks their fundamentals had begun to slip, caught in the grind of just preparing for a game and this allowed a rest button. That's natural with a young team, but they needed to be able to step back.

Q: Knowing Devin Gardner as you do, how do you think he’ll respond with all the angst his turnovers have created?

A: Gardner is an interesting case because he's supremely confident, but late in the UConn game he stopped throwing the ball because it had gone so poorly throughout the game. He's still dangerous with his legs so he was still effective, but the coaches have worked on his mental and physical approach, citing his footwork and balance, if only to show him his mistakes were correctable.

Q: There aren’t many nationally recognized names on Michigan’s defense. What makes that unit so good?

A: Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison is simply one of the best teachers in the country. He's a perfect example of how much a coach can mean to a defense's attitude and focus. Without a dominant player -- their most effective defender, linebacker Jake Ryan has missed the first four games and also this game with a knee injury -- they've had to rely on filling their role. Mattison is also a very talented play caller and not afraid to mix up defenses and pressure.

Q: I’ve heard the Big House is louder than it was when I went there with the Minnesota Daily in 1994. Have the fans changed, or did the acoustics change with the renovations?

A: Oh it's changed quite a bit. No one expected much in 2010 when the renovations were completed essentially enclosing two sides. That has kept the noise much more contained, instead of it floating away from the underground bowl as it did for the first 83 years. But it still is not an impassioned crowd like Madison, Columbus or State College.

Q: I’m heading to Ann Arbor early Saturday morning. I’d like to grab breakfast, read my Free Press, and see part of campus before heading to the stadium. Any advice?

A: There are a number of great spots for breakfast including the Broken Egg and Café Zola downtown, a healthy but reasonable walk from the stadium and Angelo's, which has legendary French toast, but requires a drive to the opposite edge of campus. The Free Press is available all across the city, of course, you just need to separate that from breakfast because of my mug in there :) Central Campus and "The Diag" and the Law Quad are the nicest part of campus and just a 10-minute walk from the stadium.

Twitter: @Mark__Snyder (double underscore)

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