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.
Gophers quarterback Philip Nelson has decided to transfer, his father Pat Nelson confirmed to the Star Tribune.
In a statement, Philip Nelson said, "I want to thank Coach Kill for the opportunity to play football at the University of Minnesota. I have the utmost respect for Coach Kill and what he's done for this program. I also want to reach out to all the great Minnesota fans that supported the football program and say thank you. Your effort makes a difference.
"For me, I am looking to play in a system that centers more around the pass game which utilizes my skill sets. I am excited to go out and meet with programs that match up with my talents."
Nelson met with Gophers coach Jerry Kill on Wednesday, and it was an amicable parting according to Nelson’s father.
Pat Nelson said Kill offered to use his contacts to help the quarterback find the best landing spot possible. Nelson hopes to enroll somewhere quickly so he’s eligible to play in spring football.
He hasn’t used his redshirt season yet, so he’ll have three years to use his two remaining years of eligibility.
Pat Nelson said his son is open to transferring anywhere outside of the Big Ten. If he stayed within the conference, he would lose a year of eligibility.
As for the reasons for the transfer, Pat Nelson said it really came down to looking for a more pass-heavy offense.
“I hope there isn’t going to be a perception that this is about the quarterback competition,” Pat Nelson said. “The people who have the best relationship on the team are Philip Nelson and Mitch Leidner.”
Nelson played in just three series in the bowl game loss to Syracuse. Asked if frustration over that led to the decision, Pat Nelson said, “This whole entire conversation started a long time ago. The bowl game had nothing to do with it.”
Kill released a statement on Twitter (@GopherFootball), saying, "Philip is a terrific young man. I wish him all the best as he continues his education and football career elsewhere. I want to thank Philip for the contributions he made to our football program both on and off the field. And I will do anything I can to help him both now and in the future.”
Come back to startribune.com later for more on this story.
The Gophers were holding their breath after tight end Maxx Williams suffered a knee injury in the final minute of Friday's loss to Syracuse in the Texas Bowl.
Williams limped to the bus after the game, and the team feared the worst. But Coach Jerry Kill said Sunday on his weekly WCCO (AM-830) appearance that Williams' injury won't require surgery.
"We certainly didn't want to lose that kid during [spring practice]," Kill told Sid Hartman and Dave Mona. "We found out it's not great but not as bad as it was. It won't require surgery. So that started my new year right. We're excited that it wasn't as bad as we thought originally."
Little clarity on quarterback competition
The Texas Bowl appeared to throw the quarterback competition wide open for next season between Philip Nelson, Mitch Leidner and, perhaps, Chris Streveler, who redshirted this season. Kill tiptoed around that question on Sunday, however.
"It’s one of those things that I’m not really going to say a whole lot about," Kill said. "All that will work out. … I think time will take care of all that, and we’ve got a lot of things that we need to work on. We went through those things [at Northern Illinois] with Chandler [Harnish] and Jordan [Lynch]. And Chandler, a kid that played for me at Northern had been through some times, and we had to do different things his first year as a sophomore and so forth ... so it all works out."
HOUSTON -- Playing their first game in 27 days, the Gophers showed serious signs of rust in the first half of their Texas Bowl matchup against Syracuse on Friday and went to the locker room trailing 7-3.
Minnesota has now played 12 consecutive quarters without an offensive touchdown.
With only a few thousand fans on hand at 71,000-seat Reliant Stadium, the Gophers tried two quarterbacks but could get nothing going offensively.
Philip Nelson started the game and played the first two series – a three-and-out, followed by a fumble by Isaac Fruechte.
Mitch Leidner took over for the third series and finished the half. It might have been injury related for Nelson, as Leidner had some shaky moments of his own. Nelson loosened up on the sidelines but didn’t return.
Syracuse went on an 11-play, 80-yard drive, capped by a 1-yard touchdown run from Jerome Smith for a 7-0 lead early in the second quarter.
Chris Hawthorne trimmed the lead to 7-3 with a 41-yard field goal at the end of the half.
Update: Jerry Kill returned to the sideline for the start of the second half. Tracy Claeys remained on the sideline, too.
Gophers offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover was asked if he'll be back next season or if he might go looking for a head coaching job.
"No, I’m back, I’m having too much fun," he said. "I’ve had more fun this year than I have probably in my entire career, coaching the group of guys that we have, working with the offensive staff, so unless you know something I don’t -- that they’re going to kick me out -- I’d like to be back."
Asked if he'd like to become a head coach someday, Limegrover said, "I’d like to, yeah. But I think the biggest thing is that we’ve got a lot of work to do here, and I don’t like leaving work unfinished. So until I can get that squared away, I think I’m right where I need to be."
KILL NOT SURE WHERE HE'LL COACH
Kill was asked if he plans to continue coaching in the press box or return to the sideline for the bowl game, and he said he doesn't know.
"I’m not avoiding your question." Kill said. "I really can’t comment on any of that right now because I don’t know. I just have to see. And we’ll do what’s best for the program, like we always have, and everybody – I’m doing fine, but it’s one of those things. I talked to Coach [Tracy Claeys] a couple days ago, and we talked a little bit, and we’ll worry about that as we get closer."
NELSON BACK TO FULL STRENGTH
Gophers quarterback Philip Nelson, offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover and head coach Jerry Kill were among those who met with the media after Wednesday's practice.
Nelson said it took him "about a week" to recover physically after getting shaken up in the regular season finale against Michigan State. But he's been able to practice at full speed in preparation for the Texas Bowl against Syracuse on Dec. 27 and sees similarities to how things went leading up to last year's bowl game.
"I think we’re doing a good job right now of just getting our feet underneath us again, and really putting in some new things and keep working hard on the things we already do well," Nelson said. "So we’ve got a good little balance going right now, and it’s feeling a lot like last year. So hopefully it plays out like last year, with how we played."
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
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