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.
FORT WORTH, TEXAS – The big story here is the weather. It was 102 degrees here earlier in the week, but it should be cloudy and about 70 at 3 p.m., when the Gophers and TCU get started here at Amon G. Carter Stadium.
This is an impressive place, newly renovated, and seats 45,000. The field is natural grass. It's a real nice campus. Reminds me of St. Thomas, with all the light-brick buildings.
In today's preview story, I wrote about Gary Patterson’s efforts to make TCU more competitive in the Big 12, with a new, up-tempo, no-huddle offense. Jerry Kill has compared the offense’s tempo to Baylor’s. And the Horned Frogs are always very good on defense.
Here’s an inside look at the game, and my prediction.
Over at ESPN.com, Brett McMurphy ran the results of a weekly poll of college football coaches. This week's question: "If you had a son playing college football, and you were no longer coaching, which current FBS coach would you want him to play for?"
Forty-four coaches received votes. Kill finished third overall (behind Georgia's Mark Richt and Oklahoma's Bob Stoops). Stanford's David Shaw was fourth, and Duke's David Cutcliffe was fifth. You can bet the Gophers will use that in their recruiting efforts.
One other note: Gophers WR Drew Wolitarsky missed the first game with a shoulder injury and played sparingly in Week 2, on special teams. He didn’t line up at wide receiver.
Kill explained this week that Wolitarsky had a poor week of practice leading up to the Middle Tennessee State game, but Wolitarsky should be good to go today.
I’ll have my eye on Mitch Leidner during pregame warmups. We’ll see how he’s moving around, etc. Check back here for updates.
Update: Leidner came out before warm-ups wearing a brace on his left knee and looked fine playing catch, doing short drop-backs. He jogged around the field and rode the exercise bike.
The Gophers are wearing their maroon helmets, white jerseys and gold pants. TCU has purple helmets, purple jerseys and black pants.
Mitch Leidner is not on the Gophers official injury report this week, as the team still has him listed as its starting quarterback for Saturday's game at TCU.
The team released its injury report and depth chart following Thursday's practice.
Defensive end Alex Keith remains out with a knee injury. The Gophers now list Ben Lauer as the starting right tackle, with Jonah Pirsig as his backup.
With Nick Rallis out for the season with a torn ACL, the Gophers moved true freshman Everett Williams into his spot on the depth chart, as the second-team middle linebacker.
The Gophers added another running back to their 2015 recruiting class Thursday, when they got a verbal commitment from Shannon Brooks, from Pickens High School, in Jasper, Ga.
The 5-10, 198-pound Brooks also had a reported offer from Georgia Tech. Rivals.com lists him as a two-star recruit.
The Gophers now have 13 commitments for their 2015 class, including three running backs -- Brooks, James Johannesson (Fargo South) and Jonathan Femi-Cole (Vaughan, Ontario).
The Gophers continued to insist Wednesday that Mitch Leidner will be back from his knee injury for Saturday's game at TCU.
"Mitch is going to play," Coach Jerry Kill said after watching Leidner practice for the second straight day. "He's a tough kid. ... He practiced, and he practiced hard [Wednesday]. He ran around good."
Kill added: "I’m pleasantly surprised after the shot he took [against Middle Tennessee State]."
The Gophers kept Leidner from meeting with the media this week, as they do with other players coming back from injury. It was interesting, though, that they kept reporters waiting in the hallway outside their locker room Wednesday, instead of conducting interviews on the practice field, as usual.
"We didn’t limit anything [in practice with Leidner]," Kill said. "We were smart and didn't get a bunch of bodies around him or anything of that nature. He went every rep we needed to except for the live stuff, when we went against the defense, but we hold him out of that sometimes anyway."
Backup quarterback Chris Streveler also sounded convinced.
"I’m pretty confident he’s going to be playing," Streveler said. "He’s been doing well in practice, but you never know, so I’m going to be ready to go no matter what happens."
Mitch Leidner will practice with the Gophers on Tuesday, testing his left knee injury, coach Jerry Kill said Tuesday. Kill said the Gophers need to have both Leidner and backup quarterback Chris Streveler ready to face TCU on Saturday.
"Mitch is going to go, no doubt in my mind," Gophers tight end Maxx Williams said. "Mitch is one of the toughest guys I know by far. ... I couldn’t even tell if anything was wrong with him. I don’t even really know what’s going on, all I know is he’s in there practicing with us."
Leidner got hit in the knee while releasing a pass in the fourth quarter of Saturday's 35-24 win over Middle Tennessee State. Kill didn't give specifics, but people familiar with the injury said the MRI showed a sprained medial collateral ligament, which runs along the outside of the knee. Leidner had a brace placed on the knee and was able to run forward Saturday but had trouble replicating his drop-back motion.
"We won't know until we get him out there," Kill said. "I can just tell you he's running and moving around. He actually moved around on Sunday. So he's a tough cat."
Kill said he would limit Leidner's reps, making sure Streveler and No. 3 QB Jacques Perra get chances.
"I don't want to wear [Leidner] out and be smart," Kill said. "But we'll see how it goes. I can't guarantee anything, but I can guarantee you that he's going to practice today and that will help us determine some things. But, you know, he's tough. He's been on the phone with Jordan Lynch. Jordan is pretty tough too."
Rallis out for the season
Gophers linebacker Nick Rallis is out for the season with a knee injury, Kill said. Rallis, the team's second-string middle linebacker behind Damien Wilson, injured the knee on punt coverage Saturday.
"We pulled a redshirt off Everett [Williams], and he's got to step up," Kill said. "That's really all you do. Certainly [Rallis] can play all three [linebacker] spots. That's what made him special. I feel bad for him. He's worked so hard and so forth."
The Gophers have now lost three players to season-ending knee injuries -- tight end Duke Anyanwu, defensive tackle Scott Ekpe and Rallis.
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