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.

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Posts about Gophers game day

Halftime analysis: Cobb's return gives Gophers a huge boost; they lead 17-13

Posted by: Joe Christensen Updated: November 29, 2014 - 4:24 PM

MADISON, WIS. -- The Gophers went to the locker room with a 17-13 lead at halftime. Some quick takeaways:

* The Gophers are 20-0 under Jerry Kill when leading at halftime. They led this one 17-3 lead, but Wisconsin scored the next 10 points to take momentum into the second half. The Badgers will get the ball right away. Keep in mind, Wisconsin trailed Nebraska 17-3 and wound up winning 59-24.

* All week long, it sounded like David Cobb wouldn’t play after straining his left hamstring against Nebraska. But there he was going through warm-ups and getting the start at tailback. And there he was, breaking a tackle and bursting 40 yards for a touchdown, stretching Minnesota’s lead to 14-3.

With that 40-yard run, Cobb broke Laurence Maroney’s single-season school rushing record (1,464) yards. Cobb has 16 carries for 95 yards, giving him 1,525 for the season.

* Melvin Gordon needed just one yard to break Ron Dayne’s single-season Big Ten rushing record (2,109 yards). Gordon has 14 carries for 55 yards, giving him 2,164 for the season.

* Gophers safety Cedric Thompson made five tackles on Wisconsin’s first drive. He tripped up Melvin Gordon with a touchdown-saving tackle at the 6-yard line, and the Gophers held the Badgers to a field goal on that drive.

* The Gophers entered with a plus-11 turnover margin (compared to minus-two for the Badgers), and this came into play immediately. Kenzel Doe fumbled on a punt return, when Jack Lynn delivered a hit, and Eric Murray fell on it at Wisconsin’s 13-yard line. Two plays later, Mitch Leidner scampered for a 10-yard touchdown run.

Leidner has completed 2 of 8 passes for 28 yards.

* Gophers left tackle Josh Campion limped off late in the first half, with a left knee injury. Ben Lauer replaced him.

Pregame: Cobb tests hamstring, appears ready to play

Posted by: Joe Christensen Updated: November 29, 2014 - 2:16 PM

MADISON, WIS. -- Gophers running back David Cobb went through warm-ups, looking like he fully expects to play against Wisconsin.

Cobb, who strained his left hamstring last week, came out before warm-ups and loosened up with assistant strength and conditioning coach Chad Pearson. Cobb did a lot of exercises to test the hamstring, including some running, and slapped hands with the coach before returning to the locker room.

Cobb came out for warm-ups and did everything he usually does. Granted, they are not running full speed, but it's an encouraging sign for the Gophers.

Cobb could still be limited, of course. But having him available would be an obvious boost for the Gophers.

It's a good day weather-wise. Should be about 40 degrees for kickoff. The second half will be played in darkness.

Personal note: This is my first time in the Camp Randall Stadium press box since 1994, when I was here as a beat reporter for the Minnesota Daily.

Follow us on Twitter: @JoeCStrib @ChipScoggins

Halftime analysis: Nebraska uses blocked FG touchdown to take a 21-7 lead

Posted by: Joe Christensen Updated: November 22, 2014 - 12:42 PM

LINCOLN, NEB. – Nebraska leads the Gophers 21-7 at halftime. A few quick first-half takeaways:

* The Gophers had their biggest special teams disaster of the season late in the second quarter, as a blocked field goal turned into an 85-yard touchdown return for Nebraska.

Trailing 14-7, the Gophers took over at their 13-yard line and marched 74 yards on 11 plays. Ryan Santoso lined up a 30-yard field goal, and the 6-6 Randy Gregory blocked it. Corey Cooper bobbled the ball, but Nate Gerry picked it up and brought it all the way back.

Instead of trailing 14-10, the Gophers suddenly trailed 21-7.

* Nebraska knew it needed to give Tommy Armstrong Jr., some confidence, and he has established a rhythm completing 8 of 13 passes for 151 yards and a touchdown. Ameer Abdullah, running with an injured knee, has eight carries for 31 yards.

* Mitch Leidner has been more effective as a rusher than a passer. He is four of 10 for 54 yards through the air, and has 11 rushes for 70 yards. The Gophers don’t have a reception by a wide receiver – a problem last week, too.

David Cobb has 12 rushes for 52 yards and two receptions for 29 yards.

* Nebraska had a rough first quarter injury-wise. Starting center Mark Pelini, nephew of coach Bo Pelini, hobbled off with a leg injury. Fellow senior Kenny Bell appeared to suffer a concussion at the end of his 73-yard reception.

Gregory hobbled off after Mitch Leidner scored on a one-yard sneak, though Gregory soon returned. And wide receiver Alonzo Moore got injured, too.

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. 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.

Halftime analysis: Buckeyes outgaining Gophers 354-133, but Minnesota has 14 points off turnovers

Posted by: Joe Christensen Updated: November 15, 2014 - 12:57 PM

Ohio State kicked a 22-yard field goal as time expired on the first half to take a 17-14 lead into the locker room. A few quick takeaways:

* Ohio State has outgained the Gophers 354-133, but Minnesota has been opportunistic. The Gophers lead the turnover battle 2-0 and have 14 points off turnovers. They trailed 14-0 before scoring the next 14 points.

* Mitch Leidner has completed just 2 of 6 passes for 15 yards, but David Cobb has 16 carries for 96 yards and two touchdowns.

* Briean Boddy-Calhoun has been the difference maker for the Gophers on defense. He returned an interception 56 yards, setting up Minnesota’s first touchdown, and forced the fumble near the goal line when Ohio State was about to take a 21-7 lead. De’Vondre Campbell recovered that fumble, and the Gophers went right down the field and scored to make it 14-14.

Boddy-Calhoun also had a big pass break up on Ohio State's last drive of the half. He's putting on a show.

* J.T. Barrett has nine rushes for 168 yards. Much of it has come on the same play. A QB keeper where he fakes right and takes off going left. That resulted in his 86-yard TD run to open the scoring.

* The game-time temperature was 15 degrees, making it the coldest for the Gophers in five years at TCF Bank Stadium. It was 18 degrees for kickoff last Nov. 23 against Wisconsin. There have been light flurries throughout the game.


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