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 Gophers are getting ready for another 11 a.m., kickoff here at TCF Bank Stadium, with Penn State in town to battle for the Governor’s Victory Bell.
These teams haven’t played since 2010 and they won’t meet again until 2016.
Penn State (5-3, 2-2 Big Ten) is 4-0 in its past four games against the Gophers, with Minnesota’s last win in the series coming in 2004.
Of course, it’s a new era for both teams. The Gophers (7-2, 3-2) are in their third season under Coach Jerry Kill, looking to win a fourth straight Big Ten game for the first time since 1973, and Penn State is in Year 2 under Bill O’Brien.
The Nittany Lions are ineligible for a bowl game again and dealing with scholarship reductions from the Jerry Sandusky scandal. But O’Brien helped Penn State turn the page with an 8-4 finish last season and solid recruiting, especially getting quarterback Christian Hackenberg to stick with his commitment last year.
Now, Hackenberg and junior receiver Allen Robinson lead this offense, and the Nittany Lions are looking for win No. 6.
It’s cloudy and 43 degrees here, and the weather isn’t expected to change much through the game.
The Gophers are wearing their maroon jerseys, white pants and the ‘M’ on their helmets is red white and blue in a Veterans Day tribute.
For quicker updates, follow along on Twitter: @JoeCStrib
Update: Philip Nelson is working with the first-team offense in warmups, and Mitch Leidner with the second team. No surprise there, based on the past three weeks.
University President Eric Kaler met with the media before the game. His support for Kill has been unequivocal through Kill's battle with seizures, and now Kaler has been able to watch the football team reel off a three-game winning streak.
"It really is icing on the cake that the staff has been able to perform at the level they are at, and that our young men have stepped up to be so good on the field," Kaler said. "It’s really gratifying. We’re fortunate that we’re winning under these conditions, but even if we weren’t, I know we’ve made the right decision about how to let Jerry get back on his feet. And I’m glad he’s making progress, and I’m very glad the team’s making progress, and I’m glad there’s this excitement in the community about Gophers football again."
Kaler said it wasn't a hard decision leaving things up to Kill in terms of how best to handle his leave, etc.
"I don’t think we really had any other choice," Kaler said. "I had a lot of people in my ear saying, 'Well, we should fire him. He can’t do his job, etc.' That’s nonsense. We’re going to be compassionate, we’re going to be smart about how to let Jerry get back to full strength. And we’re really blessed to have a coaching staff. When we hired Jerry, we didn’t just hire Jerry Kill and Rebecca [Kill], who’s fabulous. We hired a team of coaches, and that team is absolutely delivering for us."
BLOOMINGTON, IND. – The Gophers football team struck again Saturday.
Lined up as an underdog against a Big Ten opponent for the third consecutive week, the Gophers made it three straight wins, defeating Indiana in a 42-39 thriller at Memorial Stadium.
Philip Nelson passed for 298 yards and four touchdowns, and David Cobb rushed for 188 yards, but a game that seemed headed for a Minnesota rout turned extremely tense at the end.
The Gophers had 35-13 lead with 6:24 remaining in the third quarter, and then the Hoosiers scored the next 26 points to go in front 39-35.
Nelson hit Maxx Williams with a 50-yard touchdown pass, putting the Gophers back in front. But the game clocked showed 2 minutes and 57 seconds remaining -- an eternity for the Hoosiers, who came in averaging 42.4 points per game, eighth-best in the country.
Indiana had the ball at Minnesota’s 8-yard line, when the Gophers called timeout with 25 seconds remaining. It didn’t look good at all, but then Minnesota caught a major break.
Hoosiers quarterback Nate Sudfeld misfired on a screen pass to Tevin Coleman, a play ruled a lateral, and linebacker Aaron Hill pounced on the fumble.
The Gophers could hardly believe their luck, as the offense went on the field to run out the clock.
Minnesota (7-2, 3-2 in the Big Ten) surpassed last year’s win total heading into what looks like another winnable game next week, when Penn State visits TCF Bank Stadium.
Indiana (3-5, 1-3) entered the game as nine-point favorites, but the Gophers were used to it, after being 12 1/2-point underdogs at Northwestern and 10-point underdogs against Nebraska, and still coming out on top.
BLOOMINGTON, IND. -- Philip Nelson passed for three touchdowns, including two to Derrick Engel, as the Gophers jumped to a 28-13 halftime lead today at Indiana.
Nelson made his first start since the Iowa game on Sept. 28. Mitch Leidner replaced him on the first drive of the second quarter and led a touchdown drive.
But when Leidner fumbled twice on Minnesota’s next series, both recovered by the Gophers, Nelson came back in. On fourth-and-2 from Indiana’s 10-yard line, the Gophers went for it, and Nelson hit tight end Drew Goodger for a touchdown pass, stretching Minnesota’s lead to 21-13.
The Gophers fumbled three times on that drive, yet still scored. Nelson found Engel for a 33-yard touchdown on the next drive.
The Gophers forced Indiana to punt on its final three possessions of the half.
The only negative in the first half for Minnesota was losing starting center Jon Christenson to an apparent left leg injury. Christenson was carted off the field and replaced by Tommy Olson.
Minnesota’s first play from scrimmage was a flea-flicker, as Nelson handed to David Cobb, who pitched it back to Nelson for a 40-yard completion to Engel. A few plays later, Nelson hit Engel on third-and-9 for a 10-yard touchdown pass.
It was the first time the Gophers had scored points on their first possession of a game this year, and the first time they’d done it in a Big Ten game since Nov. 19, 2011 at Northwestern.
Indiana came right back down the field, and the Gophers it to a field goal. The teams traded punts, and then Gophers running back Donnell Kirkwood.
It was the Gophers first turnover in three games, and the Hoosiers quickly made it hurt. Tre Roberson hit Kofi Hughes with an 18-yard touchdown pass.
BLOOMINGTON, IND. – Perfect football weather here, as the Gophers look to make it three straight Big Ten upset wins when they play Indiana at 2:30 p.m., on Big Ten Network.
It’s homecoming for the Hoosiers, who are nine-point favorites. The Gophers are 2-16 in their past 18 games here at Memorial Stadium and haven't played here since 2007.
Minnesota (6-2, 2-2 Big Ten) was a 12 1/2-point underdog against Northwestern, and a 10-point underdog against Nebraska, but won both of those games.
Why would Indiana (3-4, 1-2) be such a big favorite today? Part of it is the Gophers needing to prove themselves. The Hoosiers have a win over Penn State (44-24), and they were competitive in losses to Missouri (45-28), Michigan State (42-28) and Michigan (63-47).
Indiana ranks last in the Big Ten in most defensive categories, but the Hoosiers can really score. They have 51 plays this season of 20 yards or longer, and they've scored 19 touchdowns this year on drives that took fewer than 90 seconds.
The forecast calls for 54 degrees at kickoff. The Gophers will be wearing their white jerseys and gold pants. Neither team named a starting quarterback coming into the game, so it’ll be Mitch Leidner or Philip Nelson for the Gophers, and Nate Sudfeld or Tre Roberson for Indiana.
Follow along on Twitter: @JoeCStrib
Update: Gophers RB Rodrick Williams (turf toe) did not make the trip.
Update: Nelson lined up with the first-team offense, and Leidner was with the second-team during warmups.
The Gophers football team had been seeking a signature win. On Saturday, it finally happened.
David Cobb rushed 31 times for 138 yards, and Philip Nelson rushed for two touchdowns and passed for another, as the Gophers defeated No. 25 Nebraska 34-23 at TCF Bank Stadium.
An announced crowd of 49,995 was in attendance, and fans ran onto the field after the game. It was arguably the Gophers’ biggest victory since they won at then-No. 21 Michigan 23-20 on Oct. 8, 2005, under Glen Mason.
The Gophers (6-2, 2-2 Big Ten) became bowl eligible and defeated their first ranked opponent since they knocked off then-No. 24 Iowa in 2010. Minnesota snapped a 16-game losing streak against Nebraska, defeating the Cornhuskers for the first time since 1960.
Nebraska (5-2, 2-1) entered this game as 10-point favorites, but after falling behind 10-0 early, the Gophers led 17-13 at halftime.
Nelson scored on a one-yard sneak, and Chris Hawthorne added a 45-yard field goal, stretching the lead to 27-13.
Nebraska finally showed some signs of life late in the third quarter, when Taylor Martinez found tight end Sam Cotton for a three-yard touchdown pass. Nebraska kicker Pat Smith hit a 37-yard field goal with 9:26 remaining, trimming Minnesota’s lead to 27-23.
But the Gophers forced Nebraska to punt on its next possession, and caught a break when Sam Foltz shanked it, allowing Minnesota to take over at Nebraska’s 34-yard line. Nelson punctuated the victory with a one-yard touchdown run.
Offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover had talked this week about mixing in some new plays, and they used a variety of new ones throughout the game.
Mitch Leidner got the start at quarterback for the Gophers and led the team on a first-quarter touchdown drive, but Nelson took over for the rest of the game midway through the second quarter.
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