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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My bad; Miles Thomas deserves better

Posted by: Joe Christensen under NCAA: football Updated: November 24, 2014 - 10:36 AM

I'll have a correction in Tuesday's paper after writing the following on Page C5, in Monday's print editions. Under the "You might have missed" category from Saturday's win at Nebraska, I wrote:

• Fullback Miles Tarver made a big block to help spring Rodrick Williams on his 19-yard touchdown run, which came on fourth-and-1 with the Gophers trailing 24-14.

Yep, I mistakenly have former Gophers basketball player Miles Tarver playing fullback now. Brain cramp by me. It obviously should have been Miles Thomas.

Miles Thomas

I feel terrible because Thomas has been such an unsung guy anyway. Coach Jerry Kill was raving about that block Sunday and talking about how Thomas keeps getting better and better. Thomas walked on from Butler Community College and has filled the huge void left by Mike Henry's graduation.

Thomas has five receptions for 37 yards, and seemingly all of them have given the Gophers a key first down.

"Our fullback, shoot, some people don’t even know his name, what he’s done," Kill said Sunday.

And a few hours later, I proved it with what I wrote in the paper. Sheesh. My bad. I definitely regret the error.

Miles Tarver

 

Gophers climb to No. 22 in AP, coaches' polls

Posted by: Joe Christensen under Gophers awards and honors Updated: November 23, 2014 - 1:11 PM

The Gophers climbed to No. 22 in both the AP Poll and Coaches Poll on Sunday, coming off their 28-24 win at Nebraska.

This is the first time this season that they've cracked the AP Top 25. They were No. 24 in the Coaches Poll before their loss at Illinois on Oct. 25.

The Gophers (8-3, 5-2 Big Ten) have held down the No. 25 spot in the College Football Playoff rankings the past two weeks. Those rankings come out on Tuesdays.

The Gophers will play at Wisconsin (No. 14 both polls) on Saturday to determine the Big Ten West title.

On WCCO, Kill says Cobb's questionable for Wisconsin game

Posted by: Joe Christensen under Gophers injuries Updated: November 23, 2014 - 10:38 AM

Gophers coach Jerry Kill said Sunday on 830-AM that David Cobb (strained left hamstring) is questionable for next Saturday's game at Wisconsin. Kill also said Berkley Edwards suffered a concussion at Nebraska.

The winner of the game between the Gophers and Badgers will win the Big Ten West title and advance to the Big Ten title game against Ohio State.

"I think [Cobb's availability for the Wisconsin game] is a big question mark, and I think anytime you get a hamstring situation like that, it’s not an easy deal. So we’ll just have to see what happens. I told [Cobb] and Ed [head athletic trainer Ed Lochrie], 'Hey, you’ve got to get him ready to go.' But we’ll just have to see.

"But if he doesn’t go, Donnell [Kirkwood] and Rodrick [Williams] -- they’ll have to step it up. Hopefully we’ll get Berkley back because Berkley did some good things in the game, and then he got hit and got a concussion. So at the end of the game, we had two backs.

"So hopefully Berkley’s going to be OK, and David’s going to be OK. But if not, I know the other two young men will give us everything they’ve got, and that’s all you can ask."

Halftime analysis: Nebraska uses blocked FG touchdown to take a 21-7 lead

Posted by: Joe Christensen under Gophers game day Updated: November 22, 2014 - 12:42 PM

LINCOLN, NEB. – Nebraska leads the Gophers 21-7 at halftime. A few quick first-half takeaways:

* The Gophers had their biggest special teams disaster of the season late in the second quarter, as a blocked field goal turned into an 85-yard touchdown return for Nebraska.

Trailing 14-7, the Gophers took over at their 13-yard line and marched 74 yards on 11 plays. Ryan Santoso lined up a 30-yard field goal, and the 6-6 Randy Gregory blocked it. Corey Cooper bobbled the ball, but Nate Gerry picked it up and brought it all the way back.

Instead of trailing 14-10, the Gophers suddenly trailed 21-7.

* Nebraska knew it needed to give Tommy Armstrong Jr., some confidence, and he has established a rhythm completing 8 of 13 passes for 151 yards and a touchdown. Ameer Abdullah, running with an injured knee, has eight carries for 31 yards.

* Mitch Leidner has been more effective as a rusher than a passer. He is four of 10 for 54 yards through the air, and has 11 rushes for 70 yards. The Gophers don’t have a reception by a wide receiver – a problem last week, too.

David Cobb has 12 rushes for 52 yards and two receptions for 29 yards.

* Nebraska had a rough first quarter injury-wise. Starting center Mark Pelini, nephew of coach Bo Pelini, hobbled off with a leg injury. Fellow senior Kenny Bell appeared to suffer a concussion at the end of his 73-yard reception.

Gregory hobbled off after Mitch Leidner scored on a one-yard sneak, though Gregory soon returned. And wide receiver Alonzo Moore got injured, too.

Pregame: Links and updates to get you ready for Gophers/Huskers

Posted by: Joe Christensen under Gopher road games, Gophers game day Updated: November 22, 2014 - 8:31 AM

LINCOLN, NEB. – The stakes are huge for the Gophers, and the environment will be extremely tough.

Nebraska’s fans made a big impression on Jerry Kill two years ago. He noted how Memorial Stadium looked at least three-quarters full – during warm-ups. And it’ll be a sea of red for kickoff, with 340 consecutive sellouts here, and counting.

It’s Senior Day, just like it was for the Gophers visit in 2012. But that day, Nebraska was also honoring Tom Osborne for his last home game as A.D. The Huskers has Osborne lead the team out of the tunnel, and Kill said he knew his team was in trouble right there.

It was 24-0 at halftime, and 38-0 before MarQueis Gray ran for two fourth-quarter touchdowns to make the final 38-14.

But last year, the Gophers defeated Nebraska for the first time since 1960, a 34-23 triumph at TCF Bank Stadium. I caught up with Drew Goodger this week, reflecting on his unlikely role as hero in that win for Minnesota.

If the atmosphere doesn’t get to the Gophers today, I think they’ve got a good shot to win. Weather.com says it will be 41 degrees at kickoff, and 52 by game’s end. That should feel downright balmy to the Gophers.

Here’s a look at the challenge awaiting Minnesota. Here’s my prediction.

And don’t miss this column by Chip Scoggins, who went into the film room to study all 254 of David Cobb’s runs. He tracked how many yards Cobb has after contact, and it’s not a small number.

I’ll post any other pregame updates here.

Follow us on Twitter @JoeCStrib and @ChipScoggins.

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