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.
Outgoing Gophers senior Brock Vereen will get another chance to perform before NFL scouts on Saturday, when he plays in the East-West Shrine Game in St. Petersburg, Fla.
The game will be televised on NFL Network, with the kickoff at 3 p.m. Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch and Purdue defensive tackle Bruce Gaston are among the other standouts who'll be there.
Vereen, a first-team All-Big Ten defensive back, is a potential late-round pick. His brother, Shane, is a running back for the New England Patriots.
"Coming into college, I think it’s safe to say most players have aspirations to play at the NFL level," Brock Vereen said last month. "I’ve been fortunate enough to see Shane go through his whole process, and I think the biggest thing I’ve taken from that is whether you’re the first pick or a free agent, all you need is an opportunity.
"So I’m not worried about when I’m taken, if I’m taken. As long as I can get a chance I know I’ll make the most of it."
Note: Gophers defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman, a potential first-round pick, is gearing up to play in the Senior Bowl, on Jan. 25 in Mobile, Ala.
The Gophers announced today that they've promoted longtime director of football operations, Dan O'Brien, to Senior Associate Athletics Director overseeing the football program and facilities.
O'Brien, who has been with the athletics department since 2008 and worked closely with head football coach Jerry Kill for the past three years, moves into the role vacated by David Benedict, who has moved on to become chief operating officer at Auburn.
"We are extremely excited for Dan to take on his expanded role within the Athletics Department,” Gophers AD Norwood Teague said in the press release. "His work with the Gopher football program speaks for itself, and his more than ten years of experience as Director of Athletics at both Hamline and Concordia Universities will be a welcome addition to our current staff.”
To fill O'Brien's role as director of football operations, Kill promoted Adam Clark, the Gophers director of player personnel.
My assignment for the Tuesday paper was to write about the five biggest reasons for this year's Gophers football turnaround. Look for that later in tonight's first editions.
Meantime, I looked up a bunch of Gophers stats, comparing this year to last year. In no particular order, here's what I found:
Average time of possession: 31:03/33:23
Philip Nelson’s passer rating: 104.4/141.6
Turnover margin: -2 (22 committed, 20 caused)/+6 (9 committed, 15 caused)
Points scored per game: 22.1/30.7
Points allowed per game: 24.7/23.4
Yardage allowed per game: 358.6/380.8
Yardage gained per game: 321.4/367.9
Rushing yardage per game: 151.9/218.5
Leading rusher: Donnell Kirkwood 73.7 yards per game/David Cobb 94.2
Fourth down conversions: 7-for-16, 44%/11-for-14, 78.6 %
Penalty yardage per game: 50.2/36.4
Net punting average: Christian Eldred (primarily) 34.2 yards per punt/Peter Mortell 38.1
Field goals: Jordan Wettstein 14-for-22/Chris Hawthorne 12-for-15
The Gophers have a bye Saturday, but they’ll have their eyes on two Big Ten games.
INDIANA AT WISCONSIN (11 a.m., ESPN2)
Line: Badgers by 23
Why it matters to the Gophers: Wisconsin is their next opponent, so it’ll be interesting to see if the Hoosiers can give the Badgers a scare at Camp Randall. A Wisconsin win would make the Badgers and Gophers both 8-2 heading into their Nov. 23 showdown at TCF Bank Stadium.
There’s an outside chance “ESPN College GameDay” would come to Minnesota for that game, though the more likely draw that day would be Oklahoma State at Baylor. As GameDay host Chris Fowler tweeted (@cbfowler), “Minnesota fans campaigning for 11/23 @CollegeGameDay: Root for Texas S'day. And TX Tech. And WIS. The November grid is interconnected!”
Texas is a 3-point underdog at home against Oklahoma State, and Texas Tech is a 27-point underdog against Baylor in a game played in Arlington, Texas.
MICHIGAN STATE AT NEBRASKA (2:30 p.m., ABC)
Line: Spartans by 6
Why it matters to the Gophers: This game will have a direct impact on Minnesota’s Legends Division Title chances. If Michigan State (5-0 in the Big Ten) wins, the Gophers (4-2) would need the Spartans to lose the following week at Northwestern (0-5) before Minnesota visits Michigan State on Nov. 30. If Nebraska (4-1) wins, the Gophers will be right in the hunt. At that point, Minnesota could claim the division title with wins over Wisconsin and Michigan State – and one Nebraska loss to either Penn State or Iowa.
It’s already been a storybook season for the Gophers. On Saturday, things could get even more interesting.
The Big Ten announced its 2018-2019 football schedules today. Here's how it looks for the Gophers, with crossover games against the Big Ten East Division in bold.
Sept. 29 -- at Maryland
Oct. 6 -- Iowa
Oct. 13 -- at Ohio State
Oct. 20 -- at Nebraska
Oct. 27 -- Indiana
Nov. 3 -- at Illinois
Nov. 10 -- Purdue
Nov. 17 -- Northwestern
Nov. 24 -- at Wisconsin
Sept. 28 -- at Purdue
Oct. 5 -- Illinois
Oct. 12 -- Nebraska
Oct. 19 -- at Rutgers
Oct. 26 -- Maryland
Nov. 9 -- Penn State
Nov. 16 -- at Iowa
Nov. 23 -- at Northwestern
Nov. 30 -- Wisconsin
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