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.
The Gophers football team hadn't been honored with a first-team All-Big Ten selection since Eric Decker in 2009. This year, they have two.
Big Ten coaches voted defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman and defensive back Brock Vereen onto the first-team all-conference list. Hageman also received first-team honors from the media, which made Vereen an honorable mention selection.
In addition, sophomore defensive end Theiren Cockran was named second-team All-Big Ten by the media.
Other honorable mention selections for the Gophers included guard Caleb Bak, punter Peter Mortell and cornerback Eric Murray (all coaches and media), linebacker Aaron Hill (coaches), tackle Josh Campion (media) and guard Zac Epping (media).
Here's a link to the Big Ten's release.
The game time for Saturday's football game between the Gophers and Wisconsin finally was announced this morning. The teams will play at 2:30 p.m.
It took this long to decide because of television. The game will be televised on ESPN.
Both teams are 8-2. They play for Paul Bunyan's Axe, and the Gophers are looking to claim it for the first time since 2003.
TOP 25 UPDATE
The Gophers received enough votes to sit at No. 26 in the AP poll, behind USC (No. 23), Ole Miss (No. 24) and Duke (No. 25).
The Badgers are at No. 16 in the AP poll and No. 17 in the Coaches Poll.
Defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman has had two quiet games for the Gophers, since I spoke to ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay, who had moved Hageman from a potential third-round pick to No. 22 overall on his last of top 2014 NFL draft prospects.
Today, ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr., held a conference call, so I spoke to him about Hageman's stock. Kiper had Hageman ranked No. 21 on his Big Board two weeks ago, but has since dropped him out of the Top 25.
The 6-6, 311-pound Hageman, who often gets double-teamed, and rotates in and out of each game quite often, registered just one tackle against Indiana and Penn State. He did swat down another pass against Penn State. For the season, Hageman has 29 tackles, including nine tackles for a loss and two sacks, in addition to seven pass breakups.
Here's what Kiper said today:
"He flashes [his potential] is what he does. Of course, you see glimpses of the big-time ability he has. He’s got incredible talent from a physical standpoint, and he can run. I’ve seen him pursue the sidelines and run like a linebacker, and he’s a big kid. I mean, this is a kid who’s got enormous potential. You coach him up in the NFL, improve his technique, and certainly in a rotation situation, he can be a very good player.
"I think he’s probably a second-round type of player now. He was on the Big Board; I took him off because obviously you don’t see that type of consistency from the first to the fourth quarters and the dominant performances like some of the other guys like say an Aaron Donald at Pittsburgh, who has 19 tackles for a loss and nine sacks.
"You’ve got guys out there that are just really taking over games, and [Hageman] hasn’t been able to do that on a consistent basis. But the flashes are enough, the physical ability. I think with the combine, when you stack him up against the other defensive tackles, I think it could put him in the second-round mix."
Gophers punter Peter Mortell earned Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week honors for the second consecutive week Monday, after a big second half in Saturday's 24-10 victory over Penn State.
The Gophers didn't punt in the first half, and Mortell was a big reason they shut down Penn State in a scoreless second half. The redshirt sophomore from Green Bay, Wis., had punts that pinned the Nittany Lions at the 1-, 2- and 12-yard line. He averaged 46 yards on his four punts, including a career-best 62-yarder.
For the season, Mortell is averaging 42.8 yards per punt, which is tied for second best in the Big Ten.
Also, the Gophers announced that the game time for their Nov. 23 tussle with Wisconsin will be set after the Big Ten games next Saturday. The Gophers and Badgers will kick off at TCF Bank Stadium at either 11 a.m., or 2:30 p.m. It all depends on TV, of course.
After winning their fourth consecutive Big Ten game Saturday, the Gophers moved into the Top 25 of the USA Today Coaches' Poll on Sunday, at No. 25.
The Gophers didn't crack the AP Top 25, receiving 60 voting points to sit at No. 27 on that list behind No. 26 Ole Miss (68 points) and No. 25 Georgia (78 points).
It's the first time the Gophers have been ranked since they were No. 20 in both polls on Oct. 26, 2008.
The Gophers have a bye next week before playing host to Wisconsin on Nov. 23. The Badgers are ranked No. 17 in the AP poll and No. 20 in the Coaches' Poll.
"I told [the players] in the team meeting today, that, 'Hey, we enjoyed [beating Penn State] yesterday, but that’s yesterday. So that’s over with, and today you need to have a great day. ... Take it one day at a time. ... And don’t forget where you came from.'"
The Gophers (8-2, 4-2 in the Big Ten) have reached the eight-win mark for the first time since they went 10-3 in 2003.
"We’re 8-2, but our expectations are a heck of a lot more than that," Kill said.
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