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

Halftime: Leidner and Cobb struggle, as TCU builds 24-0 lead

Posted by: Joe Christensen Updated: September 13, 2014 - 4:44 PM

TCU leads the Gophers 24-0 at halftime. Minnesota looks terrible. Here are three quick takeaways:

* Mitch Leidner is really struggling. He’s out there with a brace on his left knee. The Gophers haven’t been afraid to run him. But he has thrown two interceptions and was nearly picked off two other times. He is 7-of-17 for 72 yards.

* David Cobb, who had a career-high 220 yards rushing last week, has 11 carries for 25 yards. As a team, the Gophers have just 39 yards on 22 carries. Gary Patterson’s defense is just as tough as advertised.

* TCU’s first two touchdowns came on impressive passes from Trevone Boykin to Josh Doctson – corner routes with Gophers sophomore Jalen Myrick defending. The first one was a perfect over the shoulder, 13-yard pass. The second one was a 7-yard pass that looked overthrown, but Doctson made a leaping, one-hand grab.

Pregame: Unseasonably cool weather greets Gophers at TCU

Posted by: Joe Christensen Updated: September 13, 2014 - 2:17 PM

FORT WORTH, TEXAS – The big story here is the weather. It was 102 degrees here earlier in the week, but it should be cloudy and about 70 at 3 p.m., when the Gophers and TCU get started here at Amon G. Carter Stadium.

This is an impressive place, newly renovated, and seats 45,000. The field is natural grass. It's a real nice campus. Reminds me of St. Thomas, with all the light-brick buildings.

In today's preview story, I wrote about Gary Patterson’s efforts to make TCU more competitive in the Big 12, with a new, up-tempo, no-huddle offense. Jerry Kill has compared the offense’s tempo to Baylor’s. And the Horned Frogs are always very good on defense.

Here’s an inside look at the game, and my prediction.

Over at, Brett McMurphy ran the results of a weekly poll of college football coaches. This week's question: "If you had a son playing college football, and you were no longer coaching, which current FBS coach would you want him to play for?"

Forty-four coaches received votes. Kill finished third overall (behind Georgia's Mark Richt and Oklahoma's Bob Stoops). Stanford's David Shaw was fourth, and Duke's David Cutcliffe was fifth. You can bet the Gophers will use that in their recruiting efforts.

One other note: Gophers WR Drew Wolitarsky missed the first game with a  shoulder injury and played sparingly in Week 2, on special teams. He didn’t line up at wide receiver.

Kill explained this week that Wolitarsky had a poor week of practice leading up to the Middle Tennessee State game, but Wolitarsky should be good to go today.

I’ll have my eye on Mitch Leidner during pregame warmups. We’ll see how he’s moving around, etc. Check back here for updates.

Chip Scoggins is here with me. Follow us on Twitter, @ChipScoggins and @JoeCStrib.

Update: Leidner came out before warm-ups wearing a brace on his left knee and looked fine playing catch, doing short drop-backs. He jogged around the field and rode the exercise bike.

The Gophers are wearing their maroon helmets, white jerseys and gold pants. TCU has purple helmets, purple jerseys and black pants.

First-half analysis: Gophers lead Middle Tennessee State 28-0

Posted by: Joe Christensen Updated: September 6, 2014 - 4:12 PM

The Gophers lead Middle Tennessee State 28-0 at the half. A few takeaways:

* David Cobb has 14 carries for 111 yards (7.9 average) and a touchdown. The Gophers kept handing it to him early to set the tone, and the offensive line responded. Donnell Kirkwood burst through a huge hole for a 17-yard run, setting up his 1-yard touchdown run.

* Jalen Myrick is really fast. The sophomore cornerback had an interception negated by penalty in last week's opener. Today, he grabbed a pass from Austin Grammer and raced 31 yards for a pick six. Myrick had one of the nation's fastest 100-meter dash times as a junior at Savannah (Ga.) Christian Prep High School.

* The Gophers defense has been terrific. Beyond pitching a shutout so far, they have two interceptions, including Myrick's pick six and Damien Wilson's, which came when Theiren Cockran hit the arm of quarterback Austin Grammer. They've also forced Middle Tennessee to turn the ball over on downs twice.

* Mitch Leidner has has completed 5 of 9 passes for 67 yards. He threw a perfect 27-yard touchdown pass to Maxx Williams on the first play after Wilson's interception, but Leidner was picked off in the end zone with 21 seconds left in the half.

Pregame: Links to get you ready for Gophers/Middle Tennessee

Posted by: Joe Christensen Updated: September 6, 2014 - 12:29 PM

It's a picture perfect day here at TCF Bank Stadium, with the Gophers getting ready for a 2:30 kickoff against Middle Tennessee State.

In case you missed it, I focused on the secondary for today's feature story. I knew DB coach Jay Sawvel had found some hidden gems but hadn't realized all four starters for the Gophers had offers from exactly one Power 5 conference school -- Minnesota. It also surprised me to realize that all four defensive backs Sawvel and Jerry Kill left behind at Northern Illinois have gone on to play in the NFL.

Here's Patrick Reusse's column: Kill looking in charge and on top of his game.

Here's my game preview and prediction. I think Middle Tennessee has a talented roster, but the opening week 61-7 victory over Savannah State shouldn't scare anyone with the Gophers. Savannah State is an FCS team that is 4-42 since 2010.

Here are 5 keys to an MTSU win, from Adam Sparks of the Daily News Journal.

I'll post other pregame notes here, as they come.

Chip Scoggins is here in the press box. Follow us on Twitter: @ChipScoggins @JoeCStrib

Postgame: Aside from defensive injuries, a pretty good night for the Gophers

Posted by: Joe Christensen Updated: August 29, 2014 - 12:14 AM

All in all, it was a pretty good night for the Gophers. Not a bad way to start the season.

Here's my game story. And here's my notebook, with items on Berkley Edwards, Drew Wolitarsky, the kicking game, etc.

The defense was terrific, as Amelia Rayno writes here, but coach Jerry Kill is admittedly concerned about injuries along the defensive line.

The talent is there for Mitch Leidner; he just needs to find it, Jim Souhan writes.

Sid Hartman thinks the Gophers have plenty of room to improve.


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