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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It's a picture perfect day here at TCF Bank Stadium, with the Gophers getting ready for a 2:30 kickoff against Middle Tennessee State.
In case you missed it, I focused on the secondary for today's feature story. I knew DB coach Jay Sawvel had found some hidden gems but hadn't realized all four starters for the Gophers had offers from exactly one Power 5 conference school -- Minnesota. It also surprised me to realize that all four defensive backs Sawvel and Jerry Kill left behind at Northern Illinois have gone on to play in the NFL.
Here's Patrick Reusse's column: Kill looking in charge and on top of his game.
Here's my game preview and prediction. I think Middle Tennessee has a talented roster, but the opening week 61-7 victory over Savannah State shouldn't scare anyone with the Gophers. Savannah State is an FCS team that is 4-42 since 2010.
Here are 5 keys to an MTSU win, from Adam Sparks of the Daily News Journal.
I'll post other pregame notes here, as they come.
All in all, it was a pretty good night for the Gophers. Not a bad way to start the season.
The defense was terrific, as Amelia Rayno writes here, but coach Jerry Kill is admittedly concerned about injuries along the defensive line.
The talent is there for Mitch Leidner; he just needs to find it, Jim Souhan writes.
Sid Hartman thinks the Gophers have plenty of room to improve.
The Gophers took a 14-0 lead into the locker room at halftime against Eastern Illinois at TCF Bank Stadium.
Mitch Leidner got off to a shaky start for the Gophers as they punted twice and fumbled once on their first three drives.
But Eastern Illinois botched two snaps, with the first one derailing its first drive and the second one giving Minnesota the ball at the Panthers’ 5-yard line.
On third-and-goal, Leidner scrambled for a 2-yard touchdown run.
Minnesota’s defense kept holding strong, and then Leidner led the Gophers on a 90-yard touchdown drive late in the half. He found Maxx Williams for a 25-yard gain and then hit Donovahn Jones, who shook a defender and raced 35 yards for a touchdown.
Leidner completed his final five passes of the half. He was 7-for-12 overall for 100 yards.
David Cobb had eight carries for 47 yards.
The Gophers had two defensive tackles get hurt in the first half -- Scott Ekpe and Yoshoub Timms. Throw in Michael Amaefula, who hasn't played, and that's three defensive linemen injured.
It looks like the rain could hold off tonight. A couple quick pregame items:
Wide receiver Drew Wolitarsky is wearing his road jersey, so it doesn't appear he'll play. Sounds like an upper body injury, near his shoulder, but it's not considered serious.
Left tackle Ben Lauer is moving around OK, considering he's coming back from a high ankle sprain. I don't think he'll play, unless there's an emergency.
And defensive end Michael Amaefula also is not expected to play, due to injury. Alex Keith will take his place with the first unit.
The Gophers are wearing their maroon helmets, gold jerseys and maroon pants. So they'll wait to debut their new gold helmets at another time.
For quicker updates, follow along on Twitter: @JoeCStrib
As the Gophers get ready to open their season tonight against Eastern Illinois (6 p.m., Big Ten Network), here's a blog post to get you up to speed. I'll be hosting a live chat at noon, so stop by there with your questions.
Meantime, here are some links to get you up to speed:
And if those stories aren't enough to whet your appetite, here's an inside look at last year's Nebraska win.
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