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.
The Gophers listed their leading wide receiver, Derrick Engel, as questionable on this week's injury report. He is listed as a possible punt returner but isn't among the receivers on the two-deep roster for Saturday's game against Wisconsin.
Engel suffered a knee injury in Sunday's practice and has been limited to punt return duty in practice, Coach Jerry Kill said, declining again Thursday to give more specifics about the injury.
Gophers coach Jerry Kill gave a few injury updates after Wednesday's practice:
* WR Derrick Engel (knee injury) was able to catch some punts in practice. Kill hasn't ruled him out for Saturday but also said he couldn't go into much detail about the injury.
* G Caleb Bak remains out because of a concussion. Foster Bush will make his second consecutive start at right guard.
* RB Rodrick Williams (turf toe) is back to full health.
* S Cedric Thompson, who injured an ankle against Penn State, has been back practicing full-speed.
* LB Damien Wilson also was banged up in the Penn State game but he's been practicing, too.
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.
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