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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Posts about Gophers game day

Pregame: Underdog Gophers get ready for high-flying Indiana offense

Posted by: Joe Christensen Updated: November 2, 2013 - 2:12 PM

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.

Gophers top No. 25 Nebraska, becoming bowl eligible

Posted by: Joe Christensen Updated: October 27, 2013 - 9:59 AM

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.

Halftime: Gophers lead Cornhuskers 17-13

Posted by: Joe Christensen Updated: October 26, 2013 - 12:35 PM

After falling behind No. 24 Nebraska 10-0 in the first quarter, the Gophers took a 17-13 lead into halftime today at TCF Bank Stadium.

Mitch Leidner got the start at quarterback for the Gophers. Taylor Martinez started for Nebraska. Gophers coach Jerry Kill gave a pregame talk to the team and watched from the press box coaching booth.

Nebraska took the opening kickoff and marched down the field for a 75-yard touchdown drive capped with a two-yard run by Imani Cross. The Gophers went three-and-out with their first possession, and Nebraska came right back and hit a 45-yard field goal to take a 10-0 lead.

But the Gophers had a strong second drive, going 75 yards on 13 plays for a touchdown. Leidner’s one-yard sneak capped the drive, which took six minutes, 48 seconds.

Philip Nelson came on at quarterback midway through the second quarter and led a touchdown drive of his own. On fourth-and-10 from Nebraska’s 33-yard line, Nelson threw toward the end zone, and Derrick Engel made a terrific leaping catch for the go-ahead touchdown.

Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah suffered a left leg injury in the second quarter. He returned after the Gophers took a 14-10 lead and fumbled on his next carry. Aaron Hill forced the fumble, and Cedric Thompson recovered.

Chris Hawthorne’s 26-yard field goal made it 17-10.

Martinez took a shot into the end zone late in the first half, but Kenny Bell couldn’t make the catch, and Nebraska settled for a 42-yard field goal.

Pregame: Leidner lines up with first-team offense; Martinez reportedly will start for Nebraska

Posted by: Joe Christensen Updated: October 26, 2013 - 11:14 AM

Mitch Leidner lined up with the first-team offense during warm-ups and could get a surprise start today for the Gophers. Philip Nelson worked with the second-team.

Acting head coach Tracy Claeys has said both will play, no matter who starts.

Update: Leidner did indeed get the start.

Gophers head coach Jerry Kill is at TCF Bank Stadium and will watch from the press box coaching booth, as expected.

Taylor Martinez will start for Nebraska at quarterback today, ESPN.com reported last night. Not a big surprise. Martinez had missed the previous three games with a turf toe injury, but he was expected to return for this game, coming off the bye week.

It's going to be a cold one at TCF Bank Stadium. The hourly forecast on Weather.com predicts 40 degrees at kickoff with a northwest wind of 17 mph that will make it feel like 31 degrees.

Follow along on Twitter: @JoeCStrib

Updates to come...

* The Gophers are wearing their maroon jerseys and gold pants. The Cornhuskers are in their traditional road uniforms, white jerseys and red pants.

* Both bands are here.

* Running back Rodrick Williams (foot injury) is not in uniform today.

With Kill in attendance, Gophers win at Northwestern 20-17

Posted by: Joe Christensen Updated: October 19, 2013 - 2:11 PM

EVANSTON, ILL. – Gophers coach Jerry Kill just couldn't bear to watch from home.

Kill, who is officially on leave to treat his epilepsy, had his wife, Rebecca, drive him from their home in Minneapolis to Saturday’s game at Northwestern.

Kill watched from the press box coaching booth, though he was said not to be giving instructions. He did address the team at halftime, a team spokesman said.

The Gophers responded with the biggest win of the Kill era, holding on to defeat the Wildcats 20-17 before an announced crowd of 36,587 at Ryan Field.

Mitch Leidner started the game at quarterback for the Gophers (5-2, 1-2 in the Big Ten), but after four first-quarter punts, they gave Philip Nelson another chance.

Nelson immediately drove the Gophers down the field, hitting Derrick Engel with a game-tying, 29-yard touchdown pass. Nelson stayed in the game for the rest of the first half.

Leidner played the first drive of the second half, but after another quick punt, the Gophers turned back to Nelson.

He threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to Isaac Fruechte, but that got called back because the referees called passing interference on Drew Wolitarsky. It didn’t appear to be a good call.

James Manuel gave the Gophers a 14-7 lead when he picked off Northwestern quarterback Trevor Siemian and returned it 24 yards for a touchdown.

Northwestern (4-3, 0-3) played without two of its best offensive players, as quarterback Kain Colter and Venric Mark were both out with ankle injuries.

Chris Hawthorne’s 34-yard field goal stretched Minnesota’s lead to 17-7 with 14:55 remaining. Jeff Budzien came back with a 35-yard field goal, trimming the lead to 17-10.

Hawthorne added a 38-yarder, making it 20-10 with 5:24 remaining.

Northwestern came back with a 75-yard touchdown drive, converting on fourth down three times. Gophers cornerback Eric Murray was flagged for a questionable passing interference call on fourth down early in that drive.

Simian hit Tony Jones with a 10-yard touchdown pass, trimming the lead to 20-17 with 2:07 remaining. Nelson scrambled for a first down, clinching the win for the Gophers.

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