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 went to the locker room trailing 14-3. Some quick takeaways:
* The Gophers trailed 31-20 at halftime last week against Purdue and came back to win 39-38. Before that Minnesota was 0-22 in games trailing at halftime under Jerry Kill. The Gophers will get the ball first in the second half.
* Illinois, which ranks last in the Big Ten in scoring defense, came out determined to stop David Cobb, who managed just 13 yards on his first nine carries. Gophers quarterback Mitch Leidner completed just one of his first six passes for two yards. Halftime stats:
Cobb: 12 carries, 24 yards. Leidner: 3-of-10 passing for 30 yards.
* The Gophers were concerned coming in about Illinois offensive coordinator Bill Cubit having a bye week to prepare for this game. Reilly O’Toole is more of a pure passer, and the read option stuff Illinois ran with O’Toole at QB seemed to catch Minnesota off-guard. That coupled with poor tackling gave Illinois a quick 14-0 lead.
O’Toole led two long touchdown drives, but with the score 14-3, Illinois switched to sophomore quarterback Aaron Bailey. Seemed like a gift for Minnesota at the time.
* Late in the first quarter Illinois was out-gaining the Gophers 157-0. The Gophers went three-and-out on their first two drives. They finally moved the ball on their third drive, and Ryan Santoso kicked a 44-yard field goal just past the cross bar. He is 7-for-7 on his field goal attempts in Big Ten play.
Purdue came in as a 13 1/2-point underdog, but the Boilermakers have stunned the TCF Bank Stadium crowd, taking a 31-20 halftime lead. A few thoughts:
* Under Jerry Kill, the Gophers are 0-22 when trailing at halftime, 19-0 when leading at halftime, and 0-3 when tied.
* Minnesota’s defense over-pursued on some costly plays last week against Northwestern but still held the Wildcats to 17 points. Purdue studied that tape and has taken advantage – big time. The Gophers look shell-shocked on defense. Austin Appleby threw an interception on Purdue’s first offensive play, but the Boilermakers have scored on every possession since then.
* Minnesota’s early momentum changed on a big two-play sequence. Appleby threw another interception that would have been a pick six for Damien Wilson, but Theiren Cockran was flagged for offsides. On the next play, Appleby hit Danny Anthrop on a swing pass, and Anthrop raced 55 yards for the tying touchdown.
* The Gophers had a big officiating call go against them in the second quarter with Purdue leading 21-20. Anthrop appeared to catch a slant pass deep in Minnesota territory, and Antonio Johnson made a big hit, knocking the ball loose. Cedric Thompson picked up the ball and ran out to mid-field, but the officials blew the play dead as an incomplete pass. On the replay, Anthrop appeared to catch the ball and take two steps, but the play was upheld as an incomplete pass. Purdue turned that into a 26-yard field goal.
* David Cobb has 17 carries for 95 yards and a touchdown.
* The Gophers must have seen on tape that Purdue will bite for fakes on the zone read. Mitch Leidner has had several big runs after faking a hand-off. He has five carries for 55 yards.
Terrific game here at TCF Bank Stadium. The Gophers lead Northwestern 14-10 at the half. Both teams playing well. No turnovers so far. A few things to know:
* The Gophers are 18-0 under Jerry Kill when leading at halftime and 0-22 when trailing at halftime.
* Northwestern is 6-for-10 on third down, but the Gophers made a big stop on third-and-goal from the 2-yard line, forcing a field goal right before the half.
* Northwestern QB Trevor Siemian is 14-of-18 for 103 yards. He had a badly bruised heel in last year's loss to Minnesota. Looks much better today.
* Mitch Leidner has his legs back, and that’s making a difference. Leidner had runs of 9 and 22 yards on the Gophers first touchdown drive. Northwestern needs to respect that, and it’s opening things for the rest of the offense.
* David Cobb remains a workhorse. He has 13 carries for 51 yards.
* Northwestern’s up-tempo offense put together a 16-play 71-yard touchdown drive, tying the score 7-7. During the drive, Michael Amaefula knocked the ball loose from QB Trevor Siemian and Cameron Botticelli appeared to recover, but the ball squirted away and Northwestern got it back.
* True freshman Connor Mayes replaced Joe Bjorklund at right guard, burning his redshirt.
* Derrick Wells, who was questionable with a hamstring injury, came in at nickel in the second quarter.
The Gophers will unveil their new gold helmets today, at 11 a.m., when they face Northwestern at TCF Bank Stadium. They’ll have their maroon jerseys and gold pants.
This is a big game for both teams. Northwestern will try to move to 3-0 in the Big Ten, after beating Penn State and Wisconsin. And the Gophers will try to carry their momentum from before the bye week, when they played a complete game and dominated Michigan.
Here’s my prediction.
Chip Scoggins writes that winning the Little Brown Jug was one thing, but beginning today, the Gophers need to show they can build on it.
I had a chance to visit David Cobb and Damien Wilson’s apartment to report on this feature about their journey from flag football teammates in Gloster, Miss., to here. The two cousins are having standout seasons.
Update: Right guard Foster Bush is out with a concussion. Joe Bjorklund will start in his place. Left guard Zac Epping will make his 40th consecutive start. The second-string guards are Isaac Hayes and true freshman Connor Mayes. ... Cornerback Derrick Wells (hamstring) is in uniform but isn't expected to play.
ANN ARBOR, MICH. -- The Gophers lead Michigan 10-7 at halftime. Some quick notes:
* Under Jerry Kill, the Gophers are 17-0 when leading at halftime, 0-22 when trailing at halftime and 3-0 when tied at halftime. That’s why that 99-yard drive, at the end of the half, capped by Ryan Santoso’s 24-yard field goal was so big.
* Mitch Leidner started at quarterback, and Maxx Williams entered during the first series at tight end. Leidner is 10-for-16 for 115 yards. Williams has one reception for 10 yards.
Leidner started slow, as the Gophers had to punt on their first four drives. But after Michigan scored, Leidner led the Gophers on a 72-yard TD drive. He was 4-for-5 on the drive for 61 yards. He finished it with a 10-yard TD run on a naked bootleg.
* David Cobb is running like a man possessed against one of the best run defenses in the Big Ten. He 19 carries for 111 yards.
* Senior cornerback Derrick Wells suffered a left hamstring injury and is likely done for the game. But the Gophers like their depth at cornerback, with Jalen Myrick and Briean Boddy-Calhoun playing well.
* Michigan started Shane Morris at quarterback over Devin Gardner. Morris is 6-for-10 for 41 yards.
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