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Randy Johnson

College football reporter | Puck Drop
Phone: 612-673-7664

Randy Johnson covers University of Minnesota football and college football for the Star Tribune, along with serving as a producer for Puck Drop, the Star Tribune’s enhanced online hockey coverage.

Johnson also spent 17 years as sports copy editor/layout editor at the Star Tribune after five years in a similar role with the St. Paul Pioneer Press. From 1991 through 1995, he was assistant sports editor and Penn State football beat writer for the Centre Daily Times in State College, Pa.
Recent content from Randy Johnson
Deion Sanders has Colorado off to a 3-0 start with wins against TCU, Nebraska and Colorado State. Next comes Saturday’s showdown at No. 10 Oregon.

Saturday's college football feast has enough to last the whole day

College football insider: Florida State vs. Clemson; Colorado vs. Oregon, Ohio State vs. Notre Dame and Penn State vs. Iowa to name a few.
Joe Alt, right, a Notre Dame tackle from Totino Grace, blocked Ohio State’s Tyler Friday when the teams met Sept. 3, 2022 in Columbus, Ohio, a 21-10

Ohio State-Notre Dame winner? Find out in Randy Johnson's Big Ten picks

The Big Ten schedule heats up with two Top 25 matchups and an interesting test for Michigan against a team that usually isn't undefeated.
Gophers quarterback Athan Kaliakmanis got pulled down by North Carolina defensive lineman Jacolbe Cowan in Saturday’s 31-13 loss in Chapel Hill, N.C

Gophers' to-do list: Settle in Kaliakmanis, more explosive plays

The Gophers have yet to produce a gain of 30 or more yards, and the path toward fixing that starts with sophomore quarterback Athan Kaliakmanis.
The Gophers wore all-back uniforms against Eastern Michigan in their second game of the season.

Gophers uniform dust-up: Fans tell Fleck they don't like all-black look

The Gophers wore black helmets, black jerseys and black pants for their Sept. 9 game against Eastern Michigan. That look didn't sit well with those who prefer maroon and gold.
Gophers linebacker Maverick Baranowski (6) and teammates celebrated a sack against Eastern Michigan on Sept. 9. The Gophers wore a uniform combo that

Morgan, Sori-Marin back with Gophers football as volunteer analysts

Gophers coach P.J. Fleck welcomed two of his former leaders back into the fold after each got a taste of the NFL as undrafted free agents.
Gophers quarterback Athan Kaliakmanis bobbled the ball under pressure from North Carolina on Saturday.

After 'failure' in loss, Gophers hope to grow their game vs. Northwestern

Among the failures in the loss to North Carolina: Giving up too many big plays, not converting offensive chances and other things coach P.J. Fleck said could have been done 'way better.'
North Carolina defensive back Alijah Huzzie (28) breaks up a pass intended for Minnesota wide receiver Daniel Jackson (9) on Saturday.

Big Ten power rankings: Here's the impact of that Gophers loss

There are six undefeated teams remaining in the Big Ten, a group that no longer includes Minnesota after its loss at North Carolina. But not all of them are ahead of the Gophers.
Gophers quarterback Athan Kaliakmanis (8) was pulled down by North Carolina defensive lineman Jacolbe Cowan during the second half Saturday in Chapel

Gophers weren't blown out by North Carolina, but plenty went wrong

Gophers Football Insider: Coach P.J. Fleck offered a solid summary on the 31-13 loss. "People open downfield, dropped balls, tipped balls, balls that were inaccurate. We also missed explosive plays, and we were still in the game."
North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye tried to elude Gophers defensive end Danny Striggow on Saturday.

Five Gophers takeaways include too many field goals, defense exposed

Minnesota's offense couldn't get the ball in the end zone enough to keep up with a ranked North Carolina team and the defense learned what it was like to face on the nation's top quarterbacks.
Gophers coach P.J. Fleck, right, talked with North Carolina coach Mack Brown at mid field before Saturday’s game

Spann-Ford returns for Gophers but Lindenberg remains out

Wide receiver Chris Autman-Bell, who was questionable, played but did not have a catch.
North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye threw for 414 yards Saturday vs. the Gophers in Chapel Hill, N.C.

Tamed on Tobacco Road: Maye, No. 20 UNC dominate Gophers 31-13

Blown coverages by the Gophers and the big arm of North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye combined for a flurry of big plays by the 20th-ranked Tar Heels. Maye threw for 414 yards.
North Carolina’s Kenan Stadium two hours before the Gophers and No. 20 Tar Heels met.

Gophers TE Brevyn Spann-Ford in line to play against No. 20 North Carolina

Linebacker Cody Lindenberg and wide receiver Chris Autman-Bell are questionable for Minnesota.
Gophers freshman running back Darius Taylor (1) produced 149 yards rushing just in the second half last Saturday against Eastern Michigan.

Top running back Taylor committed to Gophers — then the hard work began

Darius Taylor gave a verbal commitment to the U in April of his junior year in high school. Then it became a precarious ride for P.J. Fleck when other top teams, including Michigan, still keep coming after him.
North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye has guided the Tar Heels to a 2-0 record, with the second one being more of a challenge than expected.

Can Gophers upset North Carolina? Here's Randy Johnson's prediction

The No. 20 Tar Heels started with a convincing 31-17 victory over South Carolina before needing double-OT to escape a loss to Appalachian State. Which team will lose its first game of the season?
Gophers fans flocked to Boulder, Colorado in 2021 and were rewarded when Minnesota defeated the Buffaloes 30-0.

Gophers football schedule continues to deliver marquee trips for fans

College Football Insider: This weekend's trip to North Carolina is another example of how the Gophers are trying to create a more attractive non-conference schedule.
Nathan Carter (5) and his Michigan State teammates face No. 8 Washington on Saturday.

Which Big Ten teams reach 3-0? Find out in Randy Johnson's picks

Penn State faces Illinois and Michigan State plays host to Washington in two of the Big Ten's most intriguing matchups.
North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye threw a pass during a double-overtime victory over Appalachian State on Saturday in Chapel Hill.

Gophers know North Carolina's Maye 'can do it all' at quarterback

Drake Maye was a five-star recruit and highly coveted by teams wishing he would transfer after a breakout season last fall. North Carolina is glad he stayed.
North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye celebrated a rushing touchdown in double overtime against Appalachian State on Saturday in Chapel Hill, N.C.

Facing ACC's top offensive player is U's challenge vs. North Carolina

Drake Maye of 20th-ranked North Carolina was the ACC Offensive Player of the Year in 2022 after passing for 4,321 yards and 38 touchdowns while rushing for 698 yards and seven TDs.
The Gophers football team visited the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York on Dec. 27 last year, two days before the Pinstripe Bowl aga

Fleck gathers Gophers football team for Sept. 11 remembrance

P.J. Fleck also said there is "definitely a chance" Gophers linebacker Cody Lindenberg returns from injury for Saturday's game at North Carolina.
Washington State running back Nakia Watson (25) rushed for a second-half touchdown against Wisconsin on Saturday in Pullman, Wash.

Big Ten power rankings: Badgers tumble, impact of a Gophers win

Wisconsin suffered a loss at Washington State that knocked them down in Randy Johnson's rankings. Meanwhile, Maryland is a team on the rise after a slow start and fast finish.
Gophers running back Darius Taylor stiff-armed Eastern Michigan defensive lineman Melvin Swindle II on his way to rushing for 193 yards.

Five Gophers takeaways include proof there's more than one way to win

From establishing the run game to getting solid special teams play, the Gophers improved to 2-0 with a 25-6 win.
Gophers defensive lineman Kyler Baugh (93) celebrated with defensive line coach Winston DeLattiboudere III after recording a sack to end Saturday nigh

Key to Gophers win? Defender with a 'Mighty Mouse-type mentality'

Defensive tackle Kyler Baugh, who transferred to Minnesota from a small school in Texas, was a key asset against Eastern Michigan. His dominance came via a big assist from the Gophers defense.
Eastern Michigan defensive back Kempton Shine tackled Gophers running back Sean Tyler in the second quarter Saturday.

Gophers stick to the ground, grind out 25-6 victory over Eastern Michigan

A clock-draining running attack and a stingy defense helped the Gophers pull away Saturday night at Huntington Bank Stadium. True freshman Darius Taylor rushed 33 times for 193 yards and a touchdown.
Linebacker Cody Lindenberg, the Gophers’ leading returning tackler from 2022, missed his second straight game Saturday because of injury.

Gophers LB Lindenberg, RB Williams out vs. EMU

Wide receiver Chris Autman-Bell also was listed as questionable in the Big Ten's availability report
Gophers players huddled before their season opener against Nebraska.

Gophers seek 2-0 start against upset-minded Eastern Michigan

Minnesota rallied late last week to edge Nebraska and now faces an opponent that's made a habit of beating Power Five foes.
Minnesota Gophers place kicker Dragan Kesich (99) kicks a ball held by punter Mark Crawford (96) for the 47-yard game winning field goal to beat Nebra

Big leg, big personality, Gophers kicker Kesich feeds on pressure

Dragan Kesich's game-winning field goal beat Nebraska, a moment the fourth-year player of Serbian heritage has been preparing for all his competitive life.
By his own admission, Gophers quarterback Athan Kaliakmanis wasn’t happy with his 24-for-44, 196-yard performance in the team’s season debut again

Randy Johnson's Gophers prediction: Who wins Saturday and why?

Memories of a loss to another Mid-American Conference opponent — 20-14 to Bowling Green in 2021 — should keep the team focused Satirday night's game against Eastern Michigan.
Colorado head coach Deion Sanders, right, talks to safety Shilo Sanders (21) during the first half of an NCAA college football game against TCU Saturd

Nebraska vs. Coach Prime. Battle of Iowa. Randy Johnson's Big Ten picks

Coach Deion Sanders' Colorado looks to build on a stunning opener at TCU, facing a Nebraska team that needs to bounce back after blowing a late lead vs. the Gophers.
UCLA coach Chip Kelly has seen how quickly a game can move with college football’s new clock rule.

College football's new clock rule shortens games, forcing adjustments

The Gophers saw what a difference the rule can make against Nebraska in their opener. Each team essentially had only three first-half possessions.
Coach Chris Creighton, middle left, led his Eastern Michigan team onto the field against Pittsburgh in the 2019 Quick Lane Bowl at Ford Field in Detro

Gophers, Fleck know they can look past a MAC opponent at own risk

Tenth-year Eastern Michigan coach Chris Creighton has built a Mid-American Conference program that seems to feast on Power Five opponents.
Gophers safety Tyler Nubin (27) celebrated after intercepting Nebraska quarterback Jeff Sims in the second quarter, one of his two pickoffs in Thursda

Gophers Nubin, Kesich earn Big Ten honors for play against Nebraska

Tyler Nubin's second interception set up Dragan Kesich's winning field goal in the 13-10 win over Nebraska.
Sean Tyler was the Gophers’ leading rusher against Nebraska with 41 yards on 10 carries, but Minnesota ran the ball only 25 times and threw 44 passe

44 passes? Fleck says that's what Gophers needed to beat Nebraska

The Gophers ran more than twice as many pass plays in their opener as they averaged during the 2022 season. P.J. Fleck explained why they turned away from the running game.
Quarterback Drew Allar threw for 325 yards and three touchdowns in Penn State’s 38-15 season-opening victory over West Virginia.

Big Ten power rankings: Are Gophers half-empty or half-full?

The first weekend of Big Ten football featured a couple of overpowering performances, a few teams with concerns and others that will need more of a challenge to best judge them.
Minnesota’s Tyler Nubin (27) celebrated his first-half interception against Nebraska at Huntington Bank Stadium on Thursday.

Nubin makes good on promise to pick off game-changing pass for U

Fleck said Monday safety Tyler Nubin called his shot before intercepting a pass that set up the Gophers' game-winning field goal vs. Nebraska. He also added some context.
Gophers linemen Nate Becker (89) and Jah Joyner (17) celebrated after Joyner sacked Nebraska quarterback Jeff Sims in the third quarter Thursday at Hu

How'd that happen? Five things from Gophers' shocking rally over Nebraska

The Huskers still looked like a team coached by Scott Frost, and the Gophers showed a ton of resiliency — though the running game and offensive line are works in progress.
Forever catches: Chris Autman-Bell in 2019, left, and Daniel Jackson on Thursday night.

Can Jackson's tiptoe TD propel Gophers like Autman-Bell in 2019?

The Gophers needed every inch for Daniel Jackson to complete his catch against Nebraska, just as they did when Chris Autman-Bell worked his magic vs. Fresno State.
Gophers punter Mark Crawford and kicker Dragan Kesich exit the Huntington Bank field after defeating Nebraska 13-10 on Thursday

A catch. A kick. A win. Gophers stun Nebraska with clutch plays late

Daniel Jackson made a spectacular 13-yard touchdown catch, dragging his back foot along the end zone sideline. Dragan Kesich's extra point tied the game, and he won it as time expired.
Gophers linebacker Cody Lindenberg is the team’s leading returning tackler.

Gophers linebacker Lindenberg misses Thursday's game with injury

The Gophers listed Chris Autman-Bell as questionable for Thursday night's game against Nebraska.
Thursday’s game will be a chance to see how much Gophers coach P.J. Fleck has opened up the offense.

In with the new: Story lines to watch during tonight's Gophers opener

The Gophers open against a team it knows well from the Big Ten West. But this matchup figures to look different for a number of reasons.
Gophers safety Tyler Nubin, right, and teammates kept Nebraska under wraps when the teams met Nov. 5, 2022 in Lincoln, a 20-13 Minnesota victory.

Gophers vs. Nebraska: Story lines, stats, Randy Johnson's prediction

Randy Johnson makes his pick as Nebraska will be breaking in a new coach (Matt Rhule) and new quarterback (Jeff Sims) in Thursday night's sold-out season opener against the Gophers at Huntington Bank Stadium.
Gophers quarterback Athan Kaliakmanis, a third-year sophomore, went 3-2 as a starter last season and is eager to take more of a leadership role for th

Big hopes, bigger role: Kaliakmanis ready to be face of the Gophers

Quarterback Athan Kaliakmanis has embraced the leadership role that comes with the position. His first major test comes tonight with the Gophers open their season against Nebraska.
Cooper DeJean (3) and the rest of Iowa’s defense look to get off to a strong start Saturday against Utah State.

Utah State or Iowa? Find out in Randy Johnson's weekly Big Ten picks

The Hawkeyes have an intriguing match-up to start the season, and both Purdue and Illinois should also get tested.
This will be a season of transition for the Gophers with several program stalwarts having graduated and one of the most difficult schedules in the cou

Can Gophers reach championship dreams under Fleck this season?

The schedule will be unrelenting for a football team in transition, but coach P.J. Fleck remains focused on his stated goal of winning the Big Ten West.
Sean Tyler rushed for 1,000 yards each of the past two seasons at Western Michigan before transferring to Minnesota.

Seven newcomers who could be difference-makers for U football

The Gophers bolstered their roster — especially at running back and wide receiver — with some key new faces from the transfer portal.
Teammates gathered around Gophers goalie Justen Close (1) when they advanced to the Frozen Four with a 4-1 victory against St. Cloud State in Fargo, N

Gophers men's hockey schedule features North Dakota, Minnesota-Duluth

The Gophers men's hockey team announced its full schedule Monday. It starts vs. St. Thomas on Oct. 13 at Xcel Energy Center.
Gophers safety Tyler Nubin (27) returned an interception against Rutgers on Oct. 29, 2022, at Huntington Bank Stadium.

Gophers safety Nubin looks to raise his NFL stock even higher

The Gophers have been on a roll producing NFL defensive backs. Tyler Nubin could be next, and he has a big fan in former U safety Antoine Winfield Jr.
Matt Rhule has taken over a Nebraska team coming off six consecutive losing seasons.

Gophers football preparing for 'ghosts' in opener against Nebraska

Gophers coach P.J. Fleck's staff has studied video from Matt Rhule's previous stops before Nebraska.
The spotlight this season will be on Gophers quarterback Athan Kaliakmanis, the third-year sophomore who’s entering his first full season as the sta

Eight key Gophers football players are ready for their close-up

Athan Kaliakmanis, Brevyn Spann-Ford, Tyler Nubin and five other Gophers will have a lot to say about the team's success this season.
Luke Fickell (left) and Matt Rhule will be trying to bring more success to the football programs at Wisconsin and Nebraska.

Gophers' Big Ten West rivals get an extreme coaching makeover

Matt Rhule at Nebraska and Luke Fickell at Wisconsin are two of the division's four new coaches. Both are looking to restore success to programs that have been struggling.
Iowa quarterback Cade McNamara, a transfer from Michigan, has potential to be a big upgrade over previous starter Spencer Petras. Will that be enough

Who wins the Big Ten? Where's the U? Randy Johnson's Big Ten forecast

New coaches and quarterbacks dot the landscape in the final year of the Big Ten being split into East and West divisions. College football writer Randy Johnson on who comes on top and which teams will go to bowl games.
College football analysts see the Gophers having the second-toughest 2023 schedule in the country. But coach P.J. Fleck told his players: “Hey, list

A game-by-game breakdown of the Gophers' treacherous football schedule

Coach P.J. Fleck is challenging his players to view the upcoming games as opportunities. College football analysts believe it's the second-toughest schedule in the country.
Running back Darius Taylor (1) catches the ball during an open Gophers football practice at the Universtiy of Minnesota Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2023 in Minn

U football reaches training camp midpoint with 'a long way to go'

Coach P.J. Fleck continues to say how much he likes this team but knows there are "a lot of challenges ahead."
Georgia coach Kirby Smart will try to lead the Bulldogs to their third consecutive national championship.

SEC, Big Ten flex muscles in AP Preseason college football poll

Georgia is a near-unanimous pick to win its third consecutive national championship. The Gophers received some votes, but not enough to make the Top 25.
Lucky seventh season? Gophers' Autman-Bell seeks fantastic finish

Lucky seventh season? Gophers' Autman-Bell seeks fantastic finish

A season-ending injury last season and a COVID waiver has put Chris Autman-Bell in that small group of players returning to a college team for a seventh season.
The Gophers gathered before an NCAA tournament game.

U gets commitment from 16-year-old, high-scoring New York defenseman

Matthew Grimes played for Mount St. Charles Academy in Rhode Island last season and will skate for Sioux Falls of the USHL in 2023-24.
Gophers defensive lineman Kyler Baugh hails from Talihina, Okla., a town of about 925 in the southeastern part of the state.

305-pound 'kid out of Nowhere' primed to be Gophers run-stopper

Kyler Baugh wasn't a four-star recruit out of high school, where he played in a small Oklahoma town with a population under 1,000. He's brought an attitude to Minnesota that's served the Gophers well on the defensive line.
Gophers coach P.J. Fleck speaks with wide receiver Corey Crooms Jr. during Tuesday’s practice at Athlete Village.

Gophers try keeping minds on football amid conference chaos

While curious and excited about the expanding Big Ten conference, Gophers football players say they're remaining focused on the upcoming season.
Quinn Carroll, shown posing for a portrait, went from Edina to Notre Dame and now is back in Minnesota, this season as a right guard for the Gophers.

On second thought, ex-Edina star Carroll finds home with the Gophers

Quinn Carroll chose Notre Dame after finishing at Edina as the state's top-ranked prospect in his graduating class, then took the transfer portal back to Minnesota. He's found a home — and a starting job.
Gophers running back Bryce Williams, shown during the Pinstripe Bowl, is among those fighting for a starting role after Mo Ibrahim went pro.

Position battles progress as U football holds open practice

Afterlosing key players over the offseason, a number of starting spots are up for grabs if players can impress coach P.J. Fleck.
Iowa State quarterback Hunter Dekkers has been charged with tampering with records stemming from a state investigation into sports gambling at Iowa St

As sports betting rattles college athletics, Minnesota schools brace

Minnesota is the only state in the Big Ten that doesn't allow sports gambling, but administrators know the time is coming and scandals at Iowa and Iowa State show how serious the consequences can be for athletes.
Tony Petitti, who took over as Big Ten commissioner this year, worked quickly to add Oregon and Washington.

B1G moves: Oregon, Washington join Big Ten as Pac-12 disintegrates

The two West Coast schools will join the conference for all sports in the 2024-2025 season, creating an 18-team league.
Gophers coach P.J. Fleck addressed the media after the start of training camp Monday at the Athletes Village.

Why Fleck is turning to a 1980s glam metal band to motivate U players

After losing some top players to graduation, Gophers coach P.J. Fleck has taken a musical approach to getting ready for what ESPN has called the second-most challenging football schedule in the nation.
Minnesota head coach P.J. Fleck spoke to reporters during Big Ten media days in Indianapolis.

Fleck calls report of player mistreatment, intimidation 'baseless'

Gophers coach P.J. Fleck said that allegations like the ones reported by Front Office Sports aren't uncommon, and the majority come from players "dismissed or removed from our football team."
Gophers coach P.J. Fleck spoke Thursday during Big Ten media days at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

Gophers' Fleck suddenly Big Ten West's second-longest tenured coach

Wisconsin, Nebraska, Purdue and Northwestern were all breaking in new coaches at Big Ten media days this week.
Tyler Nubin (left) and Brevyn Spann-Ford (right) figure to be crucial to the Gophers’ chances in 2023.

Gophers, Michigan lead Big Ten football preseason honors list

Gophers safety Tyler Nubin and tight end Brevyn Spann-Ford were among 10 players named to the Big Ten preseason honors list.
Northwestern interim football coach David Braun spoke to reporters at Big Ten media days on Wednesday at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Hazing is Big Ten's top topic as football coaches face tough questions

The heat was on in Indianapolis for Northwestern's new interim coach David Braun, along with new Big Ten Commissioner Tony Petitti.
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh spoke at Big Ten Media Days in Indianapolis in 2021. He’s facing a four-game suspension over statements he made to NCAA

From hazing to suspensions, Big Ten turmoil at center of media days

Northwestern's players announced they won't attend the event in the wake of a hazing scandal, and Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh is facing a possible four-game suspension.
Gophers coach P.J. Fleck is scheduled to talk to reporters at 10:30 a.m. Thursday at Big Ten Football Media Days.

Big Ten football Media Days schedule

Gophers coach P.J. Fleck is slated to talk to reporters on Thursday morning
Michigan running back Blake Corum, left, has helped the Wolverines beat the Buckeyes for two consecutive seasons.

Big Ten media poll is out: Where did the Gophers land?

The annual poll has become a staple the same week as Big Ten media days.
Gophers receiver Chris Autman-Bell met with reporters on Wednesday at the Athletes Village on the University of Minnesota campus.

5 U football updates feature Autman-Bell's injury, schedule challenge

With 50 days until the season-opener against Nebraska, the Gophers gathered for photos, videos and media interviews. Here are the highlights.
Gophers quarterback Athan Kaliakmanis held a walleye he caught June 17 during a fishing trip in Underwood, Minn.

Gophers' next big hope at QB loves his family, football and fishing

Athan Kaliakmanis is an Antioch, Ill., native who is soaking up the outdoors in Minnesota while getting ready for training camp.
The Gophers huddled before the NCAA championship game against Quinnipiac on April 8 in Tampa, Fla.

Gophers backup goalie leaving team to play in USHL next season

Owen Bartoszkiewicz will join the Youngstown Phantoms, the team for which he played in 2021-22. He retains two years of college eligibility.
Gophers players warmed up at Huntington Bank Stadium in November.

Gophers football lands two more recruits, raises profile of 2024 class

With 23 players committed to the 2024 recruiting class — the most among FBS teams — the Gophers currently are ranked 10th nationally by one scouting service.
Huntington Bank Stadium.

No. 1-ranked Wisconsin recruit in 2024 class commits to U football

Nathan Roy is the top overall player in Wisconsin and the highest-ranked player in the 2024 class to pick Minnesota.
Northwestern reached the Big Ten football championship game in 2018 and 2020 (pictured above), when Ohio State pulled away in a 22-10 victory.

How the end of Big Ten football divisions could impact the Gophers

College Football Insider: The Gophers get one more chance to win the Big Ten West. But then the climb to the conference title game gets steeper.