Heading into the 2019 season, there were questions as to who would start at quarterback for Minnesota. As I wrote in the Gophers preview, Tanner Morgan and Zack Annexstad were set to compete for the job, but Annexstad suffered a foot injury in early August which left it to Morgan to guide the offense. Sitting atop the Big Ten West undefeated, Morgan has exceeded expectations and now faces his biggest test of the season against the Penn State defense.
As a redshirt freshman last season, Morgan started as the backup, but after Annexstad was injured in October, he took over the job. As a starter for the Gophers, Morgan led the team to a 4-2 record down the stretch. In 2018, he threw for 1,401 yards with nine touchdowns and six interceptions. So far this season, Morgan has been excellent throwing for 1,761 yards with 18 touchdowns and just 4 interceptions. Against Purdue, Morgan was a ridiculous 21 of 22 passing for 396 yards and four scores.
It goes without saying that Saturday will be the biggest game of Morgan’s career as he looks to improve on his 12-2 record as a starter. He has plenty of weapons at his disposal including wide receivers Rashod Bateman and Tyler Johnson, who have combined for 74 catches, 1,270 yards and 13 touchdowns. The Penn State pass rush will be the best that Morgan has faced, and limiting his time to find his weapons will be essential. John Reid is expected back for the Nittany Lions and they will need all the help they can get.
In the 2019 preview, I wrote: “For Minnesota to factor in the division, Tanner Morgan must take a big step forward in guiding the offense.” He certainly has and though I predicted Minnesota was a year away from competing, Morgan has answered the call so far. Now he and the Golden Gophers face their biggest test in 15 years.