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

Pregame: Links and updates to get you ready for Gophers/Huskers

Posted by: Joe Christensen Updated: November 22, 2014 - 8:31 AM

LINCOLN, NEB. – The stakes are huge for the Gophers, and the environment will be extremely tough.

Nebraska’s fans made a big impression on Jerry Kill two years ago. He noted how Memorial Stadium looked at least three-quarters full – during warm-ups. And it’ll be a sea of red for kickoff, with 340 consecutive sellouts here, and counting.

It’s Senior Day, just like it was for the Gophers visit in 2012. But that day, Nebraska was also honoring Tom Osborne for his last home game as A.D. The Huskers has Osborne lead the team out of the tunnel, and Kill said he knew his team was in trouble right there.

It was 24-0 at halftime, and 38-0 before MarQueis Gray ran for two fourth-quarter touchdowns to make the final 38-14.

But last year, the Gophers defeated Nebraska for the first time since 1960, a 34-23 triumph at TCF Bank Stadium. I caught up with Drew Goodger this week, reflecting on his unlikely role as hero in that win for Minnesota.

If the atmosphere doesn’t get to the Gophers today, I think they’ve got a good shot to win. Weather.com says it will be 41 degrees at kickoff, and 52 by game’s end. That should feel downright balmy to the Gophers.

Here’s a look at the challenge awaiting Minnesota. Here’s my prediction.

And don’t miss this column by Chip Scoggins, who went into the film room to study all 254 of David Cobb’s runs. He tracked how many yards Cobb has after contact, and it’s not a small number.

I’ll post any other pregame updates here.

Follow us on Twitter @JoeCStrib and @ChipScoggins.

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.

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