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.
The knee injury Gophers wide receiver Derrick Engel suffered last Sunday is a torn anterior cruciate ligament that likely spells the end of his college career, a person familiar with the injury told the Star Tribune on Friday.
Engel, a senior from Chaska, has returned punts in practice this week and is listed as questionable on the injury report. But there is virtually no chance he'll play in Saturday's game against Wisconsin. Coach Jerry Kill has declined to go into specifics about Engel's injury, not wanting to tip the team's hand.
Engel leads the Gophers with 25 receptions for 405 yards and five touchdowns. The Gophers don't have another wide receiver with more than eight receptions or a single touchdown catch this season.
Tight end Maxx Williams ranks second on the team with 17 receptions for 299 yards and four touchdowns.
At receiver, the Gophers will be leaning more heavily on junior Isaac Fruechte (eight catches, 97 yards) and two true freshmen -- Drew Wolitarsky (eight catches, 109 yards) and Donovahn Jones (six catches, 79 yards).
"Our young kids have just gotten better and better," offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover said this week. "You couldn’t ask for better progress from Drew Wolitarsky and Donovahn Jones. Isaac Fruechte -- he’s primed to have a good game, and we'll maybe get him in some of the spots that’s Derrick is usually in and maybe get him a few touches.
"A couple other guys will have an opportunity to step up, and hopefully they take advantage of it."
The Gophers listed their leading wide receiver, Derrick Engel, as questionable on this week's injury report. He is listed as a possible punt returner but isn't among the receivers on the two-deep roster for Saturday's game against Wisconsin.
Engel suffered a knee injury in Sunday's practice and has been limited to punt return duty in practice, Coach Jerry Kill said, declining again Thursday to give more specifics about the injury.
Gophers coach Jerry Kill gave a few injury updates after Wednesday's practice:
* WR Derrick Engel (knee injury) was able to catch some punts in practice. Kill hasn't ruled him out for Saturday but also said he couldn't go into much detail about the injury.
* G Caleb Bak remains out because of a concussion. Foster Bush will make his second consecutive start at right guard.
* RB Rodrick Williams (turf toe) is back to full health.
* S Cedric Thompson, who injured an ankle against Penn State, has been back practicing full-speed.
* LB Damien Wilson also was banged up in the Penn State game but he's been practicing, too.
Gophers wide receiver Derrick Engel suffered a knee injury this week that could sideline him for Saturday’s showdown against Wisconsin.
Coach Jerry Kill said the team won't know the severity of Engel's injury until mid-week.
Engel, a senior from Chaska, leads the team with 25 receptions for 405 yards and five touchdowns. Engel sprained his ankle at Indiana on Nov. 2 but returned to make three catches for 40 yards in the Nov. 9 win over Penn State.
The Gophers were hoping the bye week would give everyone time to heal before the Wisconsin game on Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium.
The Gophers don’t have another wide receiver with more than eight receptions or a touchdown catch this season. That list includes true freshman Drew Wolitarsky (eight catches, 109 yards), junior Isaac Fruechte (eight catches, 97 yards), true freshman Donovahn Jones (six catches, 79 yards), sophomore KJ Maye (six catches, 70 yards) and junior Logan Hutton (three catches, 31 yards).
Redshirt freshman tight end Maxx Williams is second on the team with 17 catches for 299 yards and four touchdowns, followed by running back David Cobb, who has 14 catches for 148 yards.
The Gophers lost junior cornerback Briean Boddy-Calhoun to a season-ending knee injury in the second game of the season, and starting center Jon Christenson broke his leg in the Indiana game. The team has weathered other injuries, too, but those were the two that shelved starting players for the season.
I sat down with Gophers quarterback Philip Nelson today for a story that will run next week. The Gophers have a bye before playing Wisconsin on Nov. 23 in one of their most anticipated games in years.
Nelson said the hip pointer that he suffered during the Indiana game on Nov. 2 feels better now than it did last week. He took another hit on the same right hip early in last Saturday's victory over Penn State.
"The training staff created a little extra padding around that hip, and that saved me really," he said. "You've just got to realize that hip pointers are just a bruise, and it's just a matter of playing through pain, moving around and getting blood flow through it."
Nelson hasn't fumbled or thrown an interception since the Sept. 28 loss to Iowa. During the Gophers' four-game winning streak, he has passed for seven touchdowns and rushed for three more. In Big Ten games, he ranks fourth in Pass Efficiency, at 159.4, behind Braxton Miller (178.4), Devin Gardner (167.5) and Tre Roberson (160.4).
As a team, the Gophers have just two turnovers during their winning streak, compared to eight for their opponents.
"Our coaches do a great job of really emphasizing that," Nelson said. "All throughout fall camp, you don’t want to turn the ball over because then you end up on the Critical Error Chart. I think us an offense not turning the ball over that much lately is a credit to our coaches really putting a great emphasis on that."
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