New Tanner Morgan Better Than 2019
I’ve been shouting it from the Minnesota Sports Fan rooftops for months. Ever since the Kirk Ciarrocca band got back together last winter, the fate of the 2022 Minnesota Gophers football season has come down to the re-emergence of Tanner Morgan.
Under Ciarrocca in 2019, Tanner set all of the major single season passing records at the University of Minnesota. Without him in 2020 and 2021, Morgan dissolved into one of the worst quarterbacks in the Big Ten. In a conference with Spencer Petras, Graham Mertz and Noah Vedral that’s saying something.
Tanner Morgan 6.0
The 2022 Gophers weren’t even asking for 2019 Tanner Morgan to reappear. They just needed him to revert back toward that direction. Most of the fanbase would’ve happily settled for QB competence this season. Instead, we’ve gotten the best version of Tanner that we’ve ever seen. Which, in turn, means some of the best quarterback play Dinkytown has ever seen.
He’s confident, poised and playing fast. Reads are decisive and on time. Accuracy through the roof. Really, the 6th-year senior is an entirely different player, right now.
Morgan has the Minnesota Gophers offense humming, as the most efficient in all of college football and his early numbers are even better than what he set records with three years ago. Per Fangraphs, Morgan is 4th in the country in QB Rating, 2nd in completion % and 3rd in yards per pass thrown. Sure, it’s early and the competition hasn’t been fierce. But to this point in 2019, the schedule had the same story.
Only difference, Tanner wasn’t nearly as good back then and the Gophers barely squeaked out wins vs SDSU, Fresno State, Georgia Southern and Purdue; instead of bulldozing through NMSU, Western Illinois, Colorado and Michigan State, like they have through four games this season.
Sparty Learns the Hard Way
On Saturday, Michigan State found that out the hard way. The Spartans entered last weekend’s contest thinking they were up facing Mike Sanford’s Minnesota Gophers’ offense. An offense that couldn’t pass the ball effectively, no matter the circumstances.
MSU’s defense was intent on making Morgan beat them. So, he did, going 23/26 for 268 yards, 3 touchdowns and 0 interceptions, earning himself Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week. Final score: 34-7, Gophers.
Tanner showed out on Saturday and people took notice. pic.twitter.com/KT5ddyYQuk— Minnesota Football (@GopherFootball) September 26, 2022
Purdue Up Next
Now, the undefeated (4-0) Gophers will welcome the Purdue Boilermakers to Huntington Bank Stadium on Saturday (11 AM). And there isn’t a team in the Big Ten (outside of maybe Nebraska) who has struggled more against the Minnesota coaching threesome of PJ Fleck, Joe Rossi and Kirk Ciarrocca, than the Boilermakers.
Will Jeff Brohm & Co key in on stopping Mohamed Ibrahim, too? Or, has Tanner Morgan scared them enough to pull safeties out of the box and/or hesitate against the run, because of possible play-action? Unlike the previous two seasons, there’s a thin margin for error defending both the run and pass vs the Minnesota offense.
And that’s thanks to Tanner Morgan + Kirk Ciarrocca, not just resurrecting the Minnesota Gophers passing attack, but elevating it to heights we’ve never seen in this program’s history.
Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan