Tanner Morgan’s magic leads Minnesota Gophers

Published 8:03 pm Thursday, September 19, 2019

Tyler Johnson. Rashod Bateman. Chris Autman-Bell. Demetrius Douglas.

Those four are all elite receivers for the University of Minnesota who have made critical catches to help propel the Gophers to a 3-0 record this year.

Johnson caught three touchdowns – including the gamewinner – with 13 seconds left against Georgia Southern.

Bateman totaled more than 100 yards and a touchdown against South Dakota State and Fresno State.

Autman-Bell’s first career touchdown came on 4th-and-13 at Fresno State and featured him somehow getting his foot down in the corner of the end zone.

Douglas snagged critical fourth-quarter catches against Georgia Southern to keep Minnesota’s game-winning drive alive.

The quartet has made SportsCenter-worthy plays, but one person who has gone under the radar has been the one throwing the ball: Tanner Morgan.

Morgan, who is now 7-2 in his career as a starter, has been at his best in the fourth quarter. This year, he has completed 15-of-21 passes (71.5%) for 200 yards in fourth quarters, as he has helped lead Minnesota to come-from-behind victories.

Perhaps the most impressive was this past Saturday against Georgia Southern. Minnesota had uncharacteristically allowed consecutive touchdowns on a blocked field goal return and on a fumble return to trail 32-28 with 3:47 left in the game.

The Gophers were out of timeouts and had to score a touchdown to win. They started with the ball on their own 25-yard line, but soon faced a 3rd-and-29 from their own 6-yard line.

Still there was no panic with Morgan at the helm.

“He brought the whole offense up right before we went out there on our last drive,” said Johnson. “First thing he said was that we need everybody right now. He put his trust into everybody out there on the team. I felt like that leadership was needed at that moment, and we all came together and went out there and executed.”

On the game-winning drive, Morgan completed three passes to Johnson for 19 yards and the game’s final touchdown. He also connected with Douglas twice for 31 yards and Bateman twice for 40 yards. 

“The kid is a winner on the field and off the field,” said Minnesota head coach P.J. Fleck. “He’s a 4.0 student. He connects people in his social life, he is a great friend and he’s a winner on the football field with his leadership.”

For his career, Morgan has completed 27-of-43 passes (62.7%) for 518 yards in the fourth-quarter of the nine games he has started. He has also thrown eight touchdowns in those fourth quarters and only one interception, which was in his first career start against Indiana in October 2018.

Morgan has thrown for 2,100 yards in 12 career games, as he has completed 137-of-224 passes for 15 touchdowns. He is 647 yards and one touchdown shy of ranking in the top-15 in school history in each statistical passing category.

Morgan’s career completion percentage of 61.2% would place him first in school history, but he is still 76 attempts away from the minimum 300 to be ranked. His career pass efficiency rating of 154.9 does currently rank first in school history, well ahead of Bryan Cupito who had a pass efficiency rating of 138.34 from 2003-06.