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 wide receiver Derrick Engel suffered a knee injury this week that could sideline him for Saturday’s showdown against Wisconsin.
Coach Jerry Kill said the team won't know the severity of Engel's injury until mid-week.
Engel, a senior from Chaska, leads the team with 25 receptions for 405 yards and five touchdowns. Engel sprained his ankle at Indiana on Nov. 2 but returned to make three catches for 40 yards in the Nov. 9 win over Penn State.
The Gophers were hoping the bye week would give everyone time to heal before the Wisconsin game on Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium.
The Gophers don’t have another wide receiver with more than eight receptions or a touchdown catch this season. That list includes true freshman Drew Wolitarsky (eight catches, 109 yards), junior Isaac Fruechte (eight catches, 97 yards), true freshman Donovahn Jones (six catches, 79 yards), sophomore KJ Maye (six catches, 70 yards) and junior Logan Hutton (three catches, 31 yards).
Redshirt freshman tight end Maxx Williams is second on the team with 17 catches for 299 yards and four touchdowns, followed by running back David Cobb, who has 14 catches for 148 yards.
The Gophers lost junior cornerback Briean Boddy-Calhoun to a season-ending knee injury in the second game of the season, and starting center Jon Christenson broke his leg in the Indiana game. The team has weathered other injuries, too, but those were the two that shelved starting players for the season.
I sat down with Gophers quarterback Philip Nelson today for a story that will run next week. The Gophers have a bye before playing Wisconsin on Nov. 23 in one of their most anticipated games in years.
Nelson said the hip pointer that he suffered during the Indiana game on Nov. 2 feels better now than it did last week. He took another hit on the same right hip early in last Saturday's victory over Penn State.
"The training staff created a little extra padding around that hip, and that saved me really," he said. "You've just got to realize that hip pointers are just a bruise, and it's just a matter of playing through pain, moving around and getting blood flow through it."
Nelson hasn't fumbled or thrown an interception since the Sept. 28 loss to Iowa. During the Gophers' four-game winning streak, he has passed for seven touchdowns and rushed for three more. In Big Ten games, he ranks fourth in Pass Efficiency, at 159.4, behind Braxton Miller (178.4), Devin Gardner (167.5) and Tre Roberson (160.4).
As a team, the Gophers have just two turnovers during their winning streak, compared to eight for their opponents.
"Our coaches do a great job of really emphasizing that," Nelson said. "All throughout fall camp, you don’t want to turn the ball over because then you end up on the Critical Error Chart. I think us an offense not turning the ball over that much lately is a credit to our coaches really putting a great emphasis on that."
Some quick updates from Wednesday's practice:
Coach Jerry Kill said he was surprised with how much Derrick Engel was able to do in practice tonight after spraining his ankle last Saturday at Indiana.
Quarterback Philip Nelson is still dealing with some hip pain, but he practiced again.
Wide receiver Jamel Harbison, who did not make the trip to Indiana, will not play against Penn State on Saturday, Kill said, declining to elaborate.
Gophers quarterback Philip Nelson knew he’d be sore after getting a hip pointer injury in Saturday’s win at Indiana. But Nelson is managing the pain, and he said he’d be able to practice Tuesday afternoon.
“It’s just a little painful, but the good thing with hips is they can’t get much worse,” Nelson said. “And the only way you can make them better is by continuing to keep moving them, so that’s where I’m at right now.”
In other injury news, Gophers coach Jerry Kill said wide receiver Derrick Engel is questionable for Saturday’s game against Penn State because of a sprained ankle.
“He’s going to be limited [in practice] today, and we’ll see how his progression goes through the week,” Kill said. “He’s got an ankle sprain, and didn’t do much on Sunday, ran a little this morning. … He’s not running full speed. We’ll know more Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and he’s going to do everything he can to be ready.”
Kill said he plans to coach from the press box again Saturday, with Tracy Claeys remaining on the sideline as acting head coach.
“I guess I’m CEO right now, and me in the box right now is the best for the football team and the best for the coach,” Kill said. “And you have to have somebody operating down on the field, an Tracy’s the guy that needs to do that.
“If there’s a situation where if it’s a difficult situation, and I need to come down [to the sideline], then I’m going to do what’s best for the football team, and I’m going to suck it up. Coach [Claeys] is doing a good job.
“I called plays for a lot of years on the boundary. It’s not easy but you can do it, and he’s a pretty gifted, smart, guy.
“Right now, it all goes back to – we’ve won three straight games, and I know from being up in the box, actually I can see better. So I can be a part of a lot of things, and I’ve got people I trust. So why fix something that’s working? My ego’s not that big.”
After Tuesday’s press conference, Kill sat down for an interview with ESPN’s Samantha Ponder for a segment that will run as part of “College GameDay” on Saturday morning.
Gophers coach Jerry Kill handled the team's regular Sunday beat writer briefing today for the first time since Sept. 29, and he was in great spirits coming off the 42-39 victory over Indiana.
The Gophers (7-2, 3-2 in the Big Ten) play host to Penn State next week with a chance to reach eight victories for the first time since they went 10-3 in 2003 under Glen Mason.
"We’re playing for something in November, and we’re playing at home, which is even better," Kill said. "I’m happy for our fans, but by gosh, we need everybody right now. Playing Penn State for the first time [since 2010], we need a packed house, and our players need to be hungry."
* Kill had some somber news, as starting center Jon Christenson will indeed miss the rest of the season with a left leg injury that required surgery Sunday afternoon. Kill couldn't provide other details but said, "I just feel terrible. The game of football’s a great game, but it’s a hard game, and ... he is a beautiful kid, and smart, so it’s a shame."
Kill added, "It’s a shame, however the kid that came in [at center] just did a tremendous job, Tommy Olson. So that’s why we always preach about depth."
* The Gophers aren't ranked in the Top 25 in either poll, but they climbed to No. 31 in the AP poll and No. 30 in the Coaches' poll.
|Sports (4)||Football (10)|
|College football (569)||Bowl games (14)|
|Gopher coaches (90)||Gopher quarterbacks (68)|
|Gopher recruiting (38)||Gopher road games (23)|
|Gophers disciplinary action (12)||Gophers injuries (84)|
|Gophers on TV (9)||Gophers preseason practice (66)|
|Gophers recruiting (22)||Gophers spring football (60)|
|TCF Bank Stadium (8)||The Big 10 (66)|
|NCAA: football (7)||Gophers game day (109)|
|Gophers postgame (48)||NCAA (17)|
|Gophers awards and honors (18)||Gophers post season (6)|
|Gophers roster moves (17)||Coaching (44)|
|Gophers player capsules (13)|