Football preview: Quick Hitters

Gophers remain undefeated through one week of Big Ten play.

John Miller

The Gophers dominated in their first game of Big Ten conference play. The Gophers went into West Lafayette well prepared and took the steam out of the Boilermakers with a score of 38-31.

It was a career day for redshirt sophomore quarterback Tanner Morgan. He completed 21 of 22 passes for 396 yards and four touchdowns, all career highs. His 95.5% completion percentage in the game broke the Big Ten record.

The Boilermakers almost made an amazing comeback against the Gophers. After being down 21 points in the second half, the Boilermakers rallied back and had chance to tie the game in the fourth quarter. However, the Gophers were able to convert on offense and get key first downs to keep the clock running and their lead intact. 

Tanner Morgan is coming into his own and ranks among the NCAA elite

Last Saturday, Morgan produced one of the best games a Gophers’ quarterback has ever played. On the year, Morgan has completed 69 of 94 passes for 1,095 yards and 10 touchdowns. Morgan’s performance last week earned him Co-Big Ten player of the week honors.

He is fourth in the NCAA in passing efficiency, trailing only Jalen Hurts (249.86), Joe Burrow (225.63) and Tua Tagovailoa (225.15), with a 202.10. 

Morgan has the tenth best completion percentage in the country. He has completed 73.4% of his passes so far this year.

Morgan’s play has led the Gophers to their first 4-0 start since 2013. 

“His response mechanisms are different,” said head coach P.J. Fleck. “Whether it’s a good play or a bad play, it’s over. He can throw an interception, and the next play you would think he just threw for 500 yards and 10 touchdowns, the amount of confidence he has in himself and that he gives to everybody else. He’s a giver.”

Rodney Smith shines

With the passing games success against the Purdue defense, Rodney Smith was able to get the run offense going. Despite Minnesota not gaining over three yards per carry, Smith shined last Saturday. He averaged 5.2 yards on 22 attempts for 115 yards and a touchdown. 

“I thought our pass game softened the run game a little bit today,” Fleck told the media after the game. “We need to be able to open it up a little bit. That was the whole plan over the bye week.” 

Smith made the most out of the opening running lanes. Minnesota relied on him to be the bell cow back. For the first game all season, Smith was the only running back with double digit carries. 

Minnesota’s defense still has trouble against the run

The run defense had trouble against Purdue last weekend. Boilermaker running back King Doerue averaged 4.7 yards on 20 carriers to finish with 94 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. 

The Gophers missed many tackles on Saturday, especially in big moments as Purdue was trying to complete their comeback from being down 38-17.

“We had way too many missed tackles in this particular game, which was addressed in today’s practice,” said Fleck in his Tuesday press conference.

It’s something to keep an eye on, as Reggie Corbin, the Illini starting running back, will make opposing defenses pay as he is averaging 7.1 yards per carry on the year.