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.

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

Posted by: Joe Christensen under Gophers game day 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 under Gopher road games, Gophers game day 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.

Injury to keep Gophers safety Antonio Johnson out against Nebraska

Posted by: Joe Christensen under Gophers injuries Updated: November 20, 2014 - 1:51 PM

Gophers safety Antonio Johnson got hurt against Ohio State last week and won't be able to play at Nebraska on Saturday, coach Jerry Kill said Thursday on 100.3-FM.

Kill did not specify the injury. Johnson, a junior from Cleveland, ranks ninth on the team with 29 tackles and also has an interception.

"What it does is it hurts our depth a little bit," Kill said. "Cedric [Thompson] and Damarius [Travis] are going to have to play a lot of minutes. Grayson Levine will have to step up. Derrick Wells may have to play a little bit of safety. But we’re hoping that we can get [Johnson] back for the bowl game -- maybe next week. The kid’s really, really tough."

Kill thinks Doak Walker Award snub will add to Cobb's motivation

Posted by: Joe Christensen under Gophers awards and honors Updated: November 19, 2014 - 7:26 PM

David Cobb ranks seventh in the nation in rushing with 135 yards per game, but he didn’t make the list of 10 semifinalists for the Doak Walker Award, given annually to the nation’s top running back.

The list included three other Big Ten backs – Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon, Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah and Indiana’s Tevin Coleman – along with Miami’s Duke Johnson, Georgia Southern’s Matt Breida, Marshall’s Devon Johnson, Auburn’s Cameron Artis-Payne, USC’s Javorius Allen, and Boise State’s Jay Ajayi.

“I will tell you, that will highly motivate that young man,” Gophers coach Jerry Kill said of Cobb. “He’s played good, and he’ll get rewarded. He just needs to keep playing hard and playing well.”

Cobb will have a chance to match up against Abdullah and Gordon the next two weeks.

“It’s one of those moments that you wait for and you dream for, going against Abdullah and Gordon, two great backs that deserve to be on the list,” Cobb said.

Gophers remain at No. 25 in College Football Playoff rankings, despite loss to Ohio State

Posted by: Joe Christensen under Gophers awards and honors Updated: November 18, 2014 - 7:32 PM

A seven-point loss to Ohio State did not cost the Gophers their spot in the College Football Playoff Top 25 rankings.

For the second consecutive week, the Gophers were at No. 25, when the rankings were released Tuesday night. Once again, this came despite being unranked in the top 25 of the AP and Coaches polls.

The Gophers (7-3, 4-2 Big Ten) lost 31-24 to now-No. 6 Ohio State last Saturday but can still win the Big Ten West if they can pull off wins at No. 23 Nebraska, and at No. 16 Wisconsin.

The Buckeyes (9-1, 6-0) jumped two spots after their win at Minnesota, and now trail No. 1 Alabama, No. 2. Oregon, No. 3 Florida State, No. 4 Mississippi State and No. 5 TCU.

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