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.
MADISON, Wis. -- The Gophers aren't bringing Paul Bunyan's Axe home with them, not with that gaping hole in their run defense. But after Saturday's game, they have to feel better about their chances of capturing it over the next three years.
That's because Philip Nelson mostly lived up to his billing as the Gophers' quarterback of the future, showing poise and skill in his first college action, despite Minnesota's 38-13 loss to Wisconsin in Camp Randall Stadium. The 19-year-old freshman threw a pair of touchdown passes, but also a pair of interceptions in a debut that was at once intriguing and frustrating.
The frustrating part was due to the defense, which for the third straight week, was bludgeoned by a Big Ten running attack. Badger tailback James White scored three touchdowns and Montee Ball two, and both eclipsed 150 yards as Wisconsin pulled away in the second half. It's the ninth straight year that the Badgers have won the Battle of the Axe, equaling the longest winning streak ever in the 122-game series. Minnesota won nine straight games in college football's most-played rivalry from 1933-41.
MarQueis Gray was healthy enough to play the entire game at wide receiver, and he caught two passes for 13 yards. But his ankle injury, and a lingering injury to backup Max Shortell, opened the opportunity for Nelson, the state's Mr. Football last fall at Mankato West High.
Despite playing behind an offensive line that was missing tackle Ed Olson and guard Tommy Olson, Nelson grew more comfortable as the game wore on, and had Minnesota within 14-6 at halftime and 24-13 in the fourth quarter.
White had touchdown runs of 14, 34 and 48 yards, while Ball had scoring romps of 14 and 44 yards.
BY PHIL MILLER
Turns out, Jimmy Gjere's concussion symptoms apparently haven't subsided. The sophomore offensive tackle has decided to end his football career, according to an announcement just released by the Gophers.
That's a real shame, because Gjere sounded upbeat and excited about returning to action when he talked to me last week, for a story that ran in this morning's Star Tribune. He had been symptom-free over the summer, after suffering through several months of being, in his words, "absolutely miserable" following a concussion suffered in Minnesota's loss at Michigan last October.
Gjere, a 6-foot-7, 325-pound graduate of Irondale High, started five games as a redshirt freshman last year, and his future looked bright. Just shows the scary staying power of concussions.
Wide receiver E.J. Sardinha, a freshman from Palm Beach Central (Fla.) High, will take Gjere's place on the roster.
Brian Bobek, one of the top centers in the nation out of high school when he arrived at Ohio State in 2011 but played little as a freshman. Because he is transferring within the Big Ten, he loses a year of eligibility and will have two years left starting in 2013. Bobek e-mailed out an official statement after the transfer:
I am excited to announce that I have given my commitment to Coaches Jerry Kill and Matt Limegrover to join the University of Minnesota football program. Minnesota was one of the first schools my family and I had contacted when I made the decision to transfer, and the coaches responded as soon as they got permission from Ohio State to contact me.
Coaches Kill and Limegrover are exceptional coaches, and I am confident they and the rest of the staff are on the way to restoring the winning tradition of the Minnesota football program. I look forward to making a contribution to Minnesota football and, once eligible, having an opportunity to achieve my personal goals as a football player.
The University of Minnesota offers a quality education, and I hope to take advantage of the many opportunities of going to school in a great city like Minneapolis. Also, my family and I are happy for me to have the chance to continue to compete in the Big Ten, one of the best football conferences in the country.
I once again want to thank the athletic department and football program at The Ohio State University for their consideration and assistance in easing my transition to the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota Golden Gopher football program.
Troy Stoudermire already holds the Big Ten record for kick return yardage. Now he'll get a chance to extend that mark.
The conference has granted the senior cornerback another year of eligibility, the Gophers announced Friday, after his 2011 season was ruined by a broken bone in his right arm.
"I've been waiting on this thing for a long time," the 21-year-old Dallas native was quoted in a statement released by the university. "Now I'm just looking forward to getting back there for my first workout and getting back with the team."
Stoudermire's 3,102 yards of kick returns are the most in Big Ten history, but it's his experience in the secondary that coach Jerry Kill most covets. The cornerback led the Gophers in interceptions with two last season, despite playing in only the first four games of the season before suffering a fractured forearm. Stoudermire made 24 tackles in those games, and has 62 for his career.
When J.D. Pride decided to leave Minnesota, his father mentioned Indiana State as the quarterback/wide receiver's preferred destination. So it's good to see that Pride got his wish.
According to this story from TV station WTHI in Terre Haute, Ind., Pride has been accepted by the Sycamores and is already enrolled in classes there.
Pride came to his hometown university after quarterbacking Totino-Grace to the 4A state championship three years ago, but could never climb the Gophers' depth chart, not with Adam Weber and MarQueis Gray on the roster.
The Gophers' new coaching staff convinced Pride to switch to receiver last fall, but he still couldn't get on the field, and he ultimately decided he would prefer to play quarterback. Coach Jerry Kill gave Pride his release last month.
Indiana State has gone 6-5, and 4-4 in the FCS-level Missouri Valley Conference, each of the last two seasons.
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