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.
Florida State senior Nick O'Leary on Wednesday was named this year's winner of the Mackey Award, given to the nation's top tight end.
Gophers sophomore Maxx Williams was one of three finalists for the award, along with Miami senior Clive Walford.
Williams, a first-team All-Big Ten selection, leads the Gophers in receptions (29), receiving yards (471) and receiving touchdowns (seven). O'Leary has 47 receptions for 614 yards and six touchdowns.
Gophers coach Jerry Kill, Minnesota State Mankato coach Todd Hoffner and Macalester coach Tony Jennison all received regional coach of the year honors Monday from the American Football Coaches Association.
These awards are voted on by their peers -- in this case, other active members of the AFCA -- with five regional winners picked at each NCAA level.
Kill was named FBS Region 3 Coach of the Year for the second consecutive season. He was the only repeat winner in that division. The other honorees: Region 1: David Cutcliffe, Duke; Region 2: Dan Mullen, Mississippi State; Region 4: Gary Patterson, TCU; Region 5: Jim McElwain, Colorado State University.
Hoffner was named Division II Region 5 Coach of the Year, and Jennison was named Division III Region 5 Coach of the Year.
Jerry Kill was named Big Ten Coach of the Year on Tuesday after leading the Gophers to a 5-3 conference finish and pushing Wisconsin to a winner-take-all game for the West Division title.
In a preseason poll of Big Ten writers, by Cleveland.com, the Gophers were picked to finish fifth in the West. But they kept themselves in the conference title hunt with November wins over Iowa and Nebraska, before falling 34-24 last week at Wisconsin.
The media and coaches selected Kill as Big Ten Coach of the Year over Urban Meyer, who led the Buckeyes to an 8-0 Big Ten record and an East Division title despite losing quarterback Braxton Miller before the season, and then losing J.T. Barrett in last week’s win over Michigan.
The last time the Gophers had a Big Ten coach of the Year was in 1999, when Glen Mason led them to a 5-3 conference finish, including a win over No. 2 Penn State.
Kill is 25-25 in four seasons as the Gophers coach. In the Big Ten, his teams have gone 2-6, 2-6, 4-4 and 5-3.
The Gophers (8-4 overall) will learn their bowl destination on Sunday.
The Gophers gave David Cobb their Bronko Nagurski Award (team MVP) and honored his cousin, Damien Wilson, with the Carl Eller Award (top defensive player). Other awards from their annual banquet included:
Bruce Smith Award (top offensive player) – Cobb.
Bobby Bell Award (top special teams player) – Peter Mortell.
Tony Dungy Award (character and community service) – Luke McAvoy.
Butch Nash Award (competitive on field and in classroom) – Jon Christenson.
Paul Giel Award (unselfish and concern about the university) – Donnell Kirkwood.
Neil Fredenburg Award (courage and love of the game) – Mitch Leidner.
Gary Tinsley Underdog Award – Briean Boddy-Calhoun.
Defensive Freshman of the Year – Steven Richardson.
Offensive Freshman of the Year – Brandon Lingen.
Defensive Scout Team Player of the Year – Cody Poock.
Offensive Scout Team Player of the Year – Matt Leidner.
Defensive Back of the Year – Boddy-Calhoun
Linebacker of the Year – Wilson
Defensive Lineman of the Year – Cameron Botticelli
Tight End/Fullback of the Year -- Maxx Williams
Wide Receiver of the Year -- Isaac Fruechte
Bob McNamara Offensive Back of the Year -- Cobb
Offensive Linemen of the Year -- Zac Epping and Tommy Olson
The Gophers fell from the AP Top 25 on Sunday and found themselves sitting behind No. 25 Nebraska, a team they defeated just eight days ago.
The Gophers were No. 22 in last week's AP Poll but lost 34-24 to Wisconsin. That win helped the Badgers climb three spots to No. 11.
Minnesota fell three spots to No. 25 in the Coaches Poll. Nebraska, which fired coach Bo Pelini on Sunday, is at No. 23 in the Coaches Poll.
The Gophers finished the regular season at 8-4, 5-3 in the Big Ten. Three of their losses came to teams currently ranked in the top 11 -- TCU (No. 4), Ohio State (No. 6) and Wisconsin (No. 11). Their other loss was to an Illinois team that defeated Northwestern on Saturday to become bowl eligible.
Nebraska came back to defeat Iowa on Friday, leaving the Cornhuskers 9-3, 5-3 in the Big Ten. Nebraska's three losses were to Michigan State (No. 7), Wisconsin and the Gophers.
It'll be interesting to see what happens with bowl selections between the Gophers and Cornhuskers. Minnesota sits above Nebraska in the Big Ten West standings -- with the head-to-head win -- but the Cornhuskers have the better overall record.
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