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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Gophers linebacker Aaron Hill had a 39-yard interception return, but Wisconsin took a 13-7 lead to the locker room at halftime today at TCF Bank Stadium.
The Gophers lost two fumbles, and the second one by Philip Nelson led to Wisconsin’s go-ahead touchdown. It was Nelson's first turnover since Sept. 28.
The game-time temperature was 18 degrees, with a wind chill of 5, making it the coldest game in the five-year history of TCF Bank Stadium. The announced crowd was 53,090, also a record at TCF Bank Stadium.
On Wisconsin’s first play from scrimmage, James White took a hand-off, broke a tackle at the line of scrimmage, shook one more tackler and raced 49 yards to the Minnesota 12.
The Gophers held the Badgers to a field goal, though. And Minnesota held Wisconsin to another field goal with three seconds remaining in the half.
The Badgers gained 193 yards, and the Gophers 94 in the first half. White had 107 yards on the ground for Wisconsin.
It's 16 degrees at TCF Bank Stadium, and with that northwest wind, today's game against Wisconsin is shaping up to be one of the coldest home games in Gophers football history.
Update: The Wisconsin scribes told me that the Gophers and Badgers played on an 11-degree day in Madison on Nov. 21, 1964, so at least it won't be THAT cold.
The coldest kickoff in five years at TCF Bank Stadium was 23 degrees for the 2010 Iowa game. My colleague at the Star Tribune, Joel Rippel, compiled this research on other cold home games in Gophers history.
(A note from Rippel about the wind chills: For the games since 2009, they are approximate, using a NOAA wind-chill index chart. And for the earlier games, wind chill was figured slightly different than it is now (the formula was updated in 2001, and wind chills since then aren’t quite as cold. But the figures for those games were reported in the paper.)
Nov. 24: vs. Michigan St., 25 with wind of 10 mph. Wind chill of 15
Nov. 27: vs. Iowa, 23 with wind of 8 mph. Wind chill of 15.
MEMORIAL STADIUM ERA
Sept. 30, 1961: vs. Missouri, 42 at kickoff. Got colder as game went on. Snow showers.
Oct. 29, 1955: vs. USC. 33 at kickoff with 20 mph wind. Wind chill of 21.
Nov. 8, 1947: vs. Purdue, 28 at kickoff with 20-30 mph winds. Wind chill of 10.
Nov. 25, 1933: vs. Wisconsin, 40 at kickoff. Temps dropped during game to low 30s. Snowing/blizzard conditions by fourth quarter
No. 19, 1932: vs. Michigan, 12 at kickoff. Winds of 16 mph. Wind chill of -4.
A note about 1975: A two-day blizzard hit Minnesota and the Twin Cities – ending on the day before the game. Parts of Minnesota got 24 inches of snow with 15-30 mph winds. The Twin Cities got 7-9 inches. On Saturday, Nov. 22, the day of the game, it was clear, dry and little wind. At kickoff (1 p.m.), there was snow piled on the sidelines and the end zone of Memorial Stadium. But it was 27 degrees at kickoff with light, variable winds.
Update: Michigan State has a 24-point lead at Northwestern late in the fourth quarter, so it looks like the Spartans will wrap up the Legends Division race with that win.
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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.
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