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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Posts about Gophers game day

Gophers smothered by Wisconsin's defense in loss

Posted by: Joe Christensen Updated: November 23, 2013 - 5:51 PM

Wisconsin used a suffocating defense and a heavy dose of running back James White to defeat the Gophers 20-7 on Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium.

It marked the 10th consecutive year the Badgers have claimed Paul Bunyan’s Axe, the longest winning streak for either team in a series that dates to 1890.

White carried 26 times for 125 yards, as Wisconsin outgained the Gophers 324 to 185.

Minnesota’s only points came on a 39-yard interception return by linebacker Aaron Hill in the second quarter.

The Badgers came in ranked fifth in the nation in scoring defense, at 14.0 points per game, and this was the third straight game they’ve held their opponent without an offensive touchdown.

Gophers quarterback Philip Nelson had a rough day, completing seven of 23 passes for 83 yards. The Gophers missed senior wide receiver Derrick Engel, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in practice last week.

Nelson missed several targets, but the Gophers had dropped passes by Maxx Williams, Drew Wolitarsky, Donovahn Jones.

Running back David Cobb had his streak of four consecutive 100-yard rushing games snapped, as he carried 17 times for 68 yards.

The Badgers led 13-7 at halftime and opened the second half with a 12-play, 83-yard touchdown drive that took seven minutes, five seconds. Joel Stave capped it with a 3-yard pass to Jared Abbrederis.

The game-time temperature was 18 degrees, with a wind chill of 5, making it the coldest game in the five-year history of TCF Bank Stadium. The announced crowd was 53,090, also a record at TCF Bank Stadium.

The Gophers (8-3, 4-3 in the Big Ten) were trying to win a fifth consecutive Big Ten game for the first time since 1962.

During their winning streak, the Gophers had committed just two turnovers, compared to eight for their opponents, but on Saturday, they had three turnovers to Wisconsin’s one.

The Badgers (9-2, 6-1) extended their winning streak to six games.

Halftime: Badgers lead Gophers 13-7

Posted by: Joe Christensen Updated: November 23, 2013 - 4:14 PM

Gophers linebacker Aaron Hill had a 39-yard interception return, but Wisconsin took a 13-7 lead to the locker room at halftime today at TCF Bank Stadium.

The Gophers lost two fumbles, and the second one by Philip Nelson, led to Wisconsin’s go-ahead touchdown. It was Nelson's first turnover since Sept. 28.

The game-time temperature was 18 degrees, with a wind chill of 5, making it the coldest game in the five-year history of TCF Bank Stadium. The announced crowd was 53,090, also a record at TCF Bank Stadium.

On Wisconsin’s first play from scrimmage, James White took a hand-off, broke a tackle at the line of scrimmage, shook one more tackler and raced 49 yards to the Minnesota 12.

The Gophers held the Badgers to a field goal, though. And Minnesota held Wisconsin to another field goal with three seconds remaining in the half.

The Badgers gained 193 yards, and the Gophers 94 in the first half. White had 107 yards on the ground for Wisconsin.

Halftime: Badgers lead Gophers 13-7

Posted by: Joe Christensen Updated: November 23, 2013 - 4:17 PM

Gophers linebacker Aaron Hill had a 39-yard interception return, but Wisconsin took a 13-7 lead to the locker room at halftime today at TCF Bank Stadium.

The Gophers lost two fumbles, and the second one by Philip Nelson led to Wisconsin’s go-ahead touchdown. It was Nelson's first turnover since Sept. 28.

The game-time temperature was 18 degrees, with a wind chill of 5, making it the coldest game in the five-year history of TCF Bank Stadium. The announced crowd was 53,090, also a record at TCF Bank Stadium.

On Wisconsin’s first play from scrimmage, James White took a hand-off, broke a tackle at the line of scrimmage, shook one more tackler and raced 49 yards to the Minnesota 12.

The Gophers held the Badgers to a field goal, though. And Minnesota held Wisconsin to another field goal with three seconds remaining in the half.

The Badgers gained 193 yards, and the Gophers 94 in the first half. White had 107 yards on the ground for Wisconsin.

Pregame: Cold day for Gophers and Badgers? You betcha

Posted by: Joe Christensen Updated: November 23, 2013 - 1:59 PM

It's 16 degrees at TCF Bank Stadium, and with that northwest wind, today's game against Wisconsin is shaping up to be one of the coldest home games in Gophers football history.

Update: The Wisconsin scribes told me that the Gophers and Badgers played on an 11-degree day in Madison on Nov. 21, 1964, so at least it won't be THAT cold.

The coldest kickoff in five years at TCF Bank Stadium was 23 degrees for the 2010 Iowa game. My colleague at the Star Tribune, Joel Rippel, compiled this research on other cold home games in Gophers history.

(A note from Rippel about the wind chills: For the games since 2009, they are approximate, using a NOAA wind-chill index chart. And for the earlier games, wind chill was figured slightly different than it is now (the formula was updated in 2001, and wind chills since then aren’t quite as cold. But the figures for those games were reported in the paper.)

2012

Nov. 24: vs. Michigan St., 25 with wind of 10 mph. Wind chill of 15

2010

Nov. 27: vs. Iowa, 23 with wind of 8 mph. Wind chill of 15.

MEMORIAL STADIUM ERA

Sept. 30, 1961: vs. Missouri, 42 at kickoff. Got colder as game went on. Snow showers.

Oct. 29, 1955: vs. USC. 33 at kickoff with 20 mph wind. Wind chill of 21.

Nov. 8, 1947: vs. Purdue, 28 at kickoff with 20-30 mph winds. Wind chill of 10.

Nov. 25, 1933: vs. Wisconsin, 40 at kickoff. Temps dropped during game to low 30s. Snowing/blizzard conditions by fourth quarter

No. 19, 1932: vs. Michigan, 12 at kickoff. Winds of 16 mph. Wind chill of -4.

A note about 1975: A two-day blizzard hit Minnesota and the Twin Cities – ending on the day before the game. Parts of Minnesota got 24 inches of snow with 15-30 mph winds. The Twin Cities got 7-9 inches. On Saturday, Nov. 22, the day of the game, it was clear, dry and little wind. At kickoff (1 p.m.), there was snow piled on the sidelines and the end zone of Memorial Stadium. But it was 27 degrees at kickoff with light, variable winds.

Update: Michigan State has a 24-point lead at Northwestern late in the fourth quarter, so it looks like the Spartans will wrap up the Legends Division race with that win.

Follow along on Twitter: @JoeCStrib

Gophers defeat Penn State 24-10 for fourth straight Big Ten win

Posted by: Joe Christensen Updated: November 9, 2013 - 2:11 PM

Four weeks, four Big Ten wins. It’s been a while since the Gophers could say that -- 40 years, in fact.

Minnesota continued its resurgent ride Saturday, defeating Penn State 24-10 at TCF Bank Stadium to claim the Governor’s Victory Bell traveling trophy for the first time since 2004.

Philip Nelson rushed for one touchdown and passed for another, and David Cobb rushed 27 times for 139 yards, as the Gophers rode a big performance from the defense to the win.

The Gophers built the 24-10 lead by halftime and held tough through a scoreless second half. The win was pretty much sealed when Penn State's true freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg fumbled at Minnesota's 1-yard line with 6:40 remaining.

The Gophers (8-2, 4-2 in the Big Ten) controlled play against Penn State (5-4, 2-3), much as they did against Northwestern, Nebraska and Indiana. It’s the first time Minnesota has had a four-game Big Ten winning streak in the same season since 1973.

And it’s the first time the Gophers have won eight games in a season since they went 10-3 under Glen Mason in 2003. The Gophers have a bye next week before facing Wisconsin at home on Nov. 23.

Gophers punter Peter Mortell pinned Penn State at the 1-yard line and the 2-yard line on back-to-back punts in the second half. The second one was a booming, 62-yarder.

While the second half was a defensive struggle, the Gophers had some big offensive moments in the first half.

First, they caught a break. Penn State fumbled on its first snap on a bad exchange from Hackenberg to running back Bill Belton. Cornerback Eric Murray pounded on the ball at Penn State’s 29-yard line, and the Gophers quickly turned that into a 45-yard field goal by Chris Hawthorne.

The Gophers made it 10-0 late in the first quarter with a 15-play, 96-yard touchdown drive that took 8:10 off the clock. The key play was a 24-yard pass from Philip Nelson to Maxx Williams on fourth-and-2 from Penn State’s 28-yard line.

Penn State seemed to be on its heels, but the Nittany Lions came right back with a quick, 75-yard touchdown drive. Zach Zwinak took over for Belton at running back and the Gophers didn’t have an answer. He had a 38-yard gain and scored on a six-yard run.

The Gophers came right back with another touchdown drive, stretching the lead to 17-7. Once again, Minnesota converted a key fourth down, when Nelson hit Donovahn Jones for an 11-yard gain on fourth-and 9 from Penn State’s 30-yard line. Nelson eventually scored on a six-yard run.

Penn State had another long drive toward the end of the half, but the Gophers forced the Nittany Lions to settle for a 27-yard field goal by Sam Ficken.

Nelson hit a wide open Williams in the corner for a 24-yard touchdown pass with 17 seconds remaining in the first half.

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