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.
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.
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.
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.
EVANSTON, ILL. – Gophers coach Jerry Kill just couldn't bear to watch from home.
Kill had his wife, Rebecca, drive him from their home in Minneapolis to today's game at Northwestern. Kill, who is on an official leave of absence to treat his epilepsy, is watching from the press box coaching booth, though he is said not to be giving instructions.
He did address the team at halftime, a team spokesman said.
Mitch Leidner started at quarterback for the Gophers, 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 remained on the game, and the Gophers were poised to take the lead, but Chris Hawthorne missed a 44-yard field goal as time expired on the first half, with the score still tied 7-7.
Northwestern played without two of its best offensive players, as quarterback Kain Colter and Venric Mark were both out with ankle injuries.
Northwestern capitalized on some shoddy tackling by the Gophers to take a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter on a 72-yard drive.
The Gophers appeared to have Northwestern receiver Tony Jones stopped short of a first down early in the drive, but Cedric Thompson and Derrick Wells missed the tackle.
Thompson missed another tackle on the next play, as Stephen Buckley broke free for a 33-yard run. Buckley capped the drive with a three-yard touchdown run.
Ra’Shede Hageman had a pass break up and an interception, highlighting the Gophers’ defensive efforts in the first half.
EVANSTON, ILL. -- It's a beautiful fall day here along Lake Michigan for today's game between the Gophers and Northwestern at Ryan Field.
The Gophers (4-2, 0-2 Big Ten) will need to get their offense going if they're going to beat the Wildcats (4-2, 0-2) for the first time since 2009.
Minnesota has scored 17 points or fewer in its past six Big Ten games, dating to last year, averaging just 12.3 points in that span. That includes losses to Iowa (23-7) and Michigan (42-13) this year.
Defensively, the Gophers job will be a little easier today if Northwestern QB Kain Colter and RB Venric Mark are still hobbled with ankle injuries. But the Wildcats have several other weapons.
I'm hearing Antonio Johnson could start at safety for the Gophers today, with Brock Vereen moving to cornerback. We'll see if that plays out when the game begins.
The Gophers are wearing their white jerseys and maroon pants.
Update: I did not see Mark or Colter during warmups.
Vereen lined up at cornerback and Johnson at safety with the first-team defense. Derrick Wells, who normally starts at corner, was not with that unit.
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