Hawkeye defense limits Minnesota passing attack

The Gophers usual bread and butter was unseen for most of the 35-7 blowout loss versus Iowa.

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Nur B. Adam

Gophers head coach PJ Fleck walks the sidelines at TCF Bank stadium on Saturday, Oct. 24.

Matthew Kennedy

The Minnesota Gophers have had their struggles defensively, but one constant has been their high-octane passing attack with a 62% completion rate, averaging 8.2 yards per passing attempt.

Tanner Morgan and his receiving corps had an opportunity to torch an Iowa Hawkeyes secondary with three starters from last season having graduated. That was not the case Friday night.

The Gophers defense without their best linebacker, Mariano Sori-Marin, held the Hawkeyes to 14 points through three quarters, yet unlike any of their past games this season, not much was working on offense. Aside from Mohamed Ibrahim, who averaged four yards per carry, the rest of the offense – particularly the passing attack – was non-existent.

The Hawkeyes also underperformed, with only 111 passing yards on Friday, but that isn’t their bread and butter. With Morgan, who was on on the Davey O’Brien award watchlist in the preseason, and a projected first round NFL draft pick in Rashod Bateman at wide receiver, the Gophers were expected to move the ball and put points on the board.

Yet, they didn’t score until with 14 seconds left in regulation to Bateman.

The second half was a slightly better representation of what occurred in the first half. Bateman accumulated most of the receiving yards with Morgan nearly every play glancing towards his way as his primary read. Besides Bateman, nobody else in the receiving core stepped up with Iowa defensive backs in Jack Koerner and Riley Moss flying around the gridiron and making two key interceptions. Chris Autman-Bell, a regular staple in the Gophers passing attack, was ghosted most of the contest showing a meager three receptions for 24 yards.

Overall, Morgan had his most dismal performance donning the maroon and gold. He posted a 88.9 quarterback rating with a 48.5% completion percentage throwing for 167 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions. Before Friday, his lowest quarterback rating as a starter was against No. 22 Northwestern in 2018 with a 108.9.

Head coach P.J. Fleck spoke to the offense’s struggles on Friday.

“[Iowa] did a really good job mixing their coverages up and getting pressure on Tanner. We also dropped way too many balls, with a lot of our drives ending with dropping catchable passes,” Fleck said.

Morgan similarly acknowledged Iowa’s defensive pressure and took much of the blame for Friday’s loss.

“Iowa does a great job defensively with their scheme,” Morgan said. “They played an incredible game and we need to execute as players and that starts with me.”

The Gophers will look to get back on track on Nov. 20 when they host Purdue.