Is the Athan Kaliakmanis Era Upon Us?

AP Photo

Sometimes, two halves of a football game can look more like two completely different contests. That’s what happened Saturday in Lincoln, where for 30 minutes the Minnesota Gophers found it nearly impossible to move the ball vs the Nebraska Cornhuskers defense.

After two quarters, the Huskers led 10-0 and the Gophers offense had totaled just 31 yards. But then, Tanner Morgan exited the game with an upper-body injury. So, highly-touted redshirt freshman QB, Athan Kaliakmanis, buckled his chin strap and took over the white and maroon huddle.

And that’s when everything changed.

The Athan Kaliakmanis Comeback

Suddenly, the Minnesota Gophers offense looked like a hot knife slicing and dicing through a buttery Nebraska defense. Kaliakmanis displayed a confidence and aggressiveness that we’ve never seen a QB play with under PJ Fleck. I mean, Tanner Morgan would cut off his right arm if he risked a cross-body throw like this one…

Athan threw deep and fired rockets into tight intermediate windows that his predecessor would never dream of attempting. His presence overflowed into the run game, too. Holes that didn’t exist for Mo Ibrahim in the first half were parting like the Red Sea in the second.

Not only did the Husker defense have to retreat out of the box, after Athan’s repeated attempts to blow up their single-high coverages with shots down the field, but they had to account for his running ability in the RPO game.

After stumbling for 31 total yards, 4 first downs and 0 points in the first half, with Tanner Morgan at the helm, the Minnesota offense cruised for 217 yards, 11 first downs and 13 points in the 3rd quarter, alone.

Time to pass the torch

The 6-3 Gophers still have a lot of questions but Saturday’s second half comeback made one thing clear. Athan Kaliakmanis is the best quarterback on his football team.

Most of Minnesota’s offensive struggles this season fall on inconsistent offensive line play and bad wide receivers. That’s why PFF still has Tanner Morgan as one of their highest graded QB’s in the country. But this team needs more than a mistake-free game manager.

When Kaliakmanis entered the game yesterday his combination of talent and confidence immediately lifted those around him. Everyone felt it, including his teammates. PJ Fleck needs to put his affinity for Tanner Morgan aside and do the right thing. It’s time to pass the starting QB torch.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan