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.
EAST LANSING, MICH. – The Gophers are hoping for their first nine-win season since they went 10-3 in 2003, but to get there today, their offense needs to find a way to solve one of college football’s best defenses.
No. 11 Michigan State leads the nation in total defense (236.6 yards per game), and the Gophers have a streak of six consecutive quarters of scoreless offense. Minnesota scored all 24 of its points against Penn State in the first half, and its only touchdown against Wisconsin came on Aaron Hill’s interception return.
Michigan State (10-1, 7-0 Big Ten) is concerned about no shows today at 75,000-seat Spartan Stadium. Fans know no matter what happens against the Gophers, the Spartans have a date with Ohio State next Saturday in the Big Ten Championship Game.
From Graham Couch’s column in today’s Lansing State Journal:
MSU is bracing for 20,000 or more empty seats Saturday, fearing cold weather, the brand of its opponent and the Thanksgiving holiday will put a severe dent in attendance. The Spartan coaching brass — Mark Dantonio and Tom Izzo — are pleading for your consideration, for your respect of the winningest senior class in MSU football history, to your sense of loyalty to the program.
"We need you there," Dantonio said. “If you’re a Spartan, you need to be there. ... If you can make it, come on.”
Added Izzo: “If people don’t want to go because of the weather or this or that, find somebody to give their tickets to. A lot of needy people out there.”
It’s expected to be about 33 degrees for kickoff, and warming into the upper 30’s during the game. That should feel a lot better for the Gophers after playing last week’s game with a 5-degree wind chill.
Update: The Gophers are wearing white jerseys with maroon pants today. The Spartans are wearing green jerseys with white pants.
Follow along on Twitter: @JoeCStrib
Gibson could play wide receiver, tight end, running back or perhaps even defense in college. He is rated as a two-star recruit by Rivals.com, which lists Northern Illinois and Louisiana Tech among Gibson's other offers.
He is the 10th player in the 2014 class to give the Gophers a verbal commitment.
After a tense standoff Saturday during Wisconsin's post-game celebration with Paul Bunyan's Axe, Gophers coach Jerry Kill said Tuesday that the two sides need to talk about how best to handle those celebrations in the future.
Wisconsin won the Axe for the 10th consecutive year and pretended to chop down the west goal post at TCF Bank Stadium. The Badgers waited until the Gophers players finished singing "Hail! Minnesota" with the band, and then moved in on the east goal post.
But the Gophers wouldn't let them get to it. This led to a standoff, and security had to help separate the teams. Kill was asked Tuesday, during the Big Ten teleconference, if the teams need to establish an understanding for future celebrations.
"I don’t point fingers at anything," Kill said. "There are some traditions when somebody wins the Axe and so forth. I’ve only been here [three] years, and Coach [Gary Andersen] has been there only one year.
"Whether we go around the field, or they go around the field, and our team needs to get off, or we sing the song and get off -- the administrations know we need to handle it in a different way on both sides. So we’ll let them work it out, and I’m sure they’ll get it right, and then they’ll pass it along to both coaches."
GOOD NEWS ON INJURY FRONT
The Gophers knew these last two regular season games against Wisconsin and Michigan State would be physical.
Aside from some bumps and bruises, the Gophers appeared to emerge from Saturday's 20-7 loss to Wisconsin pretty healthy. Eric Murray, Cedric Thompson and Maxx Williams all were shaken up during the game but returned to play.
"For a physical football game, and the coldest football game here in a long time -- the turf was pretty much frozen -- we came out of it pretty good, really," Kill said. "... You’re going to be bruised and battered, but I think we’ll be alright this weekend."
The Gophers landed a verbal commitment this weekend from Julien Kafo, a defensive end from Mont-Tremblant, Quebec, the Star Tribune has confirmed.
Rivals.com lists Kafo as a two-star recruit, who also has offers from Nebraska and Iowa. He is the Gophers' ninth commitment for the 2014 class.
Wisconsin used a suffocating defense and a heavy dose of running back James White to defeat the Gophers 20-7 on Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium.
It marked the 10th consecutive year the Badgers have claimed Paul Bunyan’s Axe, the longest winning streak for either team in a series that dates to 1890.
White carried 26 times for 125 yards, as Wisconsin outgained the Gophers 324 to 185.
Minnesota’s only points came on a 39-yard interception return by linebacker Aaron Hill in the second quarter.
The Badgers came in ranked fifth in the nation in scoring defense, at 14.0 points per game, and this was the third straight game they’ve held their opponent without an offensive touchdown.
Gophers quarterback Philip Nelson had a rough day, completing seven of 23 passes for 83 yards. The Gophers missed senior wide receiver Derrick Engel, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in practice last week.
Nelson missed several targets, but the Gophers had dropped passes by Maxx Williams, Drew Wolitarsky, Donovahn Jones.
Running back David Cobb had his streak of four consecutive 100-yard rushing games snapped, as he carried 17 times for 68 yards.
The Badgers led 13-7 at halftime and opened the second half with a 12-play, 83-yard touchdown drive that took seven minutes, five seconds. Joel Stave capped it with a 3-yard pass to Jared Abbrederis.
The game-time temperature was 18 degrees, with a wind chill of 5, making it the coldest game in the five-year history of TCF Bank Stadium. The announced crowd was 53,090, also a record at TCF Bank Stadium.
The Gophers (8-3, 4-3 in the Big Ten) were trying to win a fifth consecutive Big Ten game for the first time since 1962.
During their winning streak, the Gophers had committed just two turnovers, compared to eight for their opponents, but on Saturday, they had three turnovers to Wisconsin’s one.
The Badgers (9-2, 6-1) extended their winning streak to six games.
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