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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Gophers next three football games will start at 11 a.m., starting Oct. 11 against Northwestern

Posted by: Joe Christensen under Gophers on TV Updated: September 29, 2014 - 10:11 AM

Five games into the season, the Gophers have yet to face an 11 a.m., kickoff, but that is about to change. Their next three games -- against Northwestern, Purdue and Illinois -- will all start at 11 a.m.

The Purdue and Illinois game times had been set, and the Northwestern game time was announced Monday. So Minnesota's next game is against Northwestern at TCF Bank Stadium on Oct. 11, at 11 a.m., televised by Big Ten Network.

Game times for the season's final four games have not been set.

Kill praises Leidner's performance from Michigan game

Posted by: Joe Christensen under Gopher quarterbacks Updated: September 28, 2014 - 4:05 PM

After watching video of Saturday’s win at Michigan, Gophers coach Jerry Kill was particularly impressed with quarterback Mitch Leidner.

“Probably the key to the game was, we did good things throwing the football,” Kill said Sunday. “Actually, Mitch was on target on every throw he made. Mitch got some pressure but he stood in there and threw it, didn’t turn the ball over.”

Leidner completed 14 of 22 passes for 167 yards and a touchdown. The redshirt sophomore had missed the previous game with a knee and toe injury after throwing three interceptions and losing a fumble in the loss at TCU.

The coaches thought Leidner relaxed and had fun at Michigan after pressing too hard in the season’s first three games.

“I know Mitch has his critics, but they still don’t understand the kid is young,” Kill said. “And he also played well in the Big House last year. So I think it was a really good game for him. He gained confidence.”

Halftime blog: Gophers lead 10-7 and are undefeated when leading at halftime under Jerry Kill

Posted by: Joe Christensen under Gophers game day Updated: September 27, 2014 - 4:01 PM

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.

Leidner and Williams to start against Wolverines

Posted by: Joe Christensen under Gophers game day Updated: September 27, 2014 - 2:23 PM

ANN ARBOR, MICH. – Mitch Leidner and Maxx Williams are both ready to play against Michigan today, which could be a big boost for the Gophers.

Leidner missed last week's game with a knee and toe injury, and Williams was out with a calf injury.

The weather here is perfect, with kickoff set for 2:30 p.m, on ABC.

I’m here with Chip Scoggins and our deputy sports editor, Chris Carr. We started this day with an outstanding breakfast at Zingerman’s and then spent some time walking through one of the tailgate lots across the street from Michigan Stadium.

That tailgate lot is also the university golf course. People were having a blast. Met some diehard Gophers fans, too.

Here’s my preview story, here's a story on Berkley Edwards' return to Michigan, here’s Chip’s column on schedule conspiracy theories, and here’s my prediction.

Pace Carr is running our Live Blog today, so be sure to check that out. It’s a great way to follow along with the game.

Follow us on Twitter: @JoeCStrib @ChipScoggins and @PaceCarr

Uni watch: The Gophers are wearing their maroon helmets, white jerseys and maroon pants.

Update: The Michigan Stadium PA announced Shane Morris as the starting QB, and that drew a loud ovation from the fans.

Q&A with Michigan beat writer Mark Snyder, who has a hunch Morris will start at QB

Posted by: Joe Christensen under NCAA: football Updated: September 26, 2014 - 1:01 PM

Mark Snyder has spent years covering the Michigan beat for the Detroit Free Press, and he’s been a go-to source for me with any question I’ve had about the Wolverines. Here’s a sample of his outstanding work.

Follow him on Twitter: @Mark__Snyder (double underscore)

We traded e-mails this week, preparing for Saturday’s game at the Big House. You can check out the Q & A I did for the Free Press here, and Mark was kind enough to answer my questions, too:

1. Do you think Brady Hoke is ready to start Shane Morris, or will he stick with Devin Gardner?

A: I'm past the point of trying to figure out his decisions, because we don't know enough about the criteria. But I assume he would try to go with Morris because, if not, what was all this for? If he stays with Gardner after a week of making him re-earn his job, that seems like a very public demerit. If he goes with Morris, Gardner knows it's an ongoing competition.

2. Devin Funchess dominated the Gophers last year. Will they see a different player Saturday, and why?

A: He is battling a leg injury that he suffered against Notre Dame and has noticeably been affected since. He said it will be painful all year but he's willing to play through it. (Obviously a potential firs round draft pick, it's worth the effort.) Funchess' greatest limitation last week was Devin Gardner's wayward passes and he still caught four passes in the first half for more than 80 yards. If Gardner or Shane Morris is more accurate, Funchess is a problem for anyone.

3. I see a true freshman starts at left tackle. What’s your general assessment of the offensive line?

A: They've been better than last year but that's not saying much for one of the worst offensive lines in Michigan history. Against equal talent -- Notre Dame and Utah -- they've gotten little push for the running game. The problem is they're all juniors or younger so physically they're still maturing. There may be a change there this week.

4. The Gophers can run, but they have struggled mightily with passing. How do you think that plays to Michigan’s defensive strengths?

A: It should be good on good that way because U-M's run defense has been outstanding the past three weeks. The secondary has been better since the Notre Dame first half debacle, but there was leakage last week as Utah hit a few plays. Michigan's corners -- except Jabrill Peppers -- are still small which makes them vulnerable to size. Playing without their starting safety and corner the past two weeks, both injured, doesn't allow for a good read.

5. How big of a crowd would you expect for Saturday and what will be their mood at kickoff?

A: It may be still over 100,000 but possibly not by much. At least this is an opponent that people have heard of and I assume Berkley Edwards' fan base will fill in the empty seats. Seriously, though, there will be a short fuse with the fans that are there, wanting to see improvement. But whatever the crowd, it'll still be more than 98% of the teams in the country, which is still pretty darn impressive.

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