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Gophers football: Tanner Morgan playing well, but will Purdue’s top quarterback play at all?

Morgan was named Big Ten co-offensive player of the week on Monday.

NCAA Football: Minnesota at Michigan State
Michigan State Spartans linebacker Jacoby Windmon (4) hurries Minnesota Golden Gophers quarterback Tanner Morgan in the third quarter Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022, in East Lansing, Michigan. On Monday, Sept. 26, 2022, Morgan was named Big 10 co-offensive player of the week for his performance in Minnesota's 34-7 win over the Spartans.
Dale Young / USA Today Sports
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MINNEAPOLIS -- The two all-Big Ten-caliber quarterbacks in the Minnesota-Purdue game on Saturday spent last week at opposite ends of the spectrum.

After his near-perfect performance in the 34-7 win at Michigan State, Gophers quarterback Tanner Morgan was named Big Ten co-offensive player of the week on Monday.

Meanwhile, Boilermakers QB Aidan O’Connell missed the 28-26 win over Florida Atlantic with a reported rib injury and is questionable to play in Minnesota’s homecoming game at 11 a.m. Saturday at Huntington Bank Stadium.

Gophers coach P.J. Fleck said they will prepare as if O’Connell is going to play, but Fleck said focusing on coach Jeff Brohm is more important.

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Tanner Morgan, Minnesota Gopher's quarterback
University of Minnesota

“A Jeff Brohm-coached offense is going to be really good no matter who’s the quarterback,” Fleck said Monday. “It doesn’t matter. He’s one of the best Xs and Os, scheme coaches around — always has been. He’s very, very talented in getting the most out of his personnel, scheming different teams up. It’s hard to get a read from one game to another because he does such a good job of creating a whole new game plan for that particular opponent.”

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On Saturday, Purdue’s backup QB Austin Burton, a transfer from UCLA, completed 72 percent of his passes for 166 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.

“They’re going to be really good no matter who plays at quarterback,” Fleck said. “Last week, you look at the numbers and you would have thought Aidan was in there because they were so consistent.”

Morgan’s play has been consistent all season, and he reached another level in East Lansing, Mich., on Saturday.

“He constantly wants to make everyone else around him better,” Fleck said. “… I think sometimes we take that for granted. I’m not saying we, internally, but when people look at Tanner they don’t see all that every single day. They see him out there on Saturdays. They see him throw a pass here and there. They see complete or incomplete. Did he scramble? Did he get the first down or not? But we see him as the person he is, and I just keep seeing that (he’s) getting better and better. And he’s just super competitive, which is what you want in a leader.”

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PJ Fleck

Morgan completed 88% of his passes Saturday — the third-best mark of his five-year playing career. In 2019, he completed 95% on the road against Purdue and then 90% in the upset of Penn State.

Morgan was tied for the second-highest graded quarterback in the nation last week, per Pro Football Focus College. Alabama’s Bryce Young was No. 1 at 93.8, followed by Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker and Morgan at 92.9.

Morgan was great in throws of more than 10 yards downfield. He completed 11 for 12 for 150 yards and one touchdown in passes between 10 and 20 yards downfield. He was 2 for 3 for 49 yards in passes traveling more than 20 yards.

Morgan finished with 268 passing yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions and also scrambled three times for 27 yards, earning key first downs with his legs.

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Morgan is the first Minnesota player to win Big Ten offensive player of the week since running back Mo Ibrahim on Nov. 9, 2020.

Rule of 3

After four games, Minnesota has punted only three times and allowed opponents just three opponent trips into the red zone. On third down, the Minnesota offense has converted on 79% of attempts and its defense has allowed conversions on 14%.

Both stats rank No. 1 in the nation.

It’s nice, but . . .

The Gophers are ranked 21st in the country, according to the latest Associated Press Top 25 poll released Sunday. It’s the first time Minnesota has been ranked in 23 weeks of play since the 2020 season opener.

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“I think any time that happens, that’s good for the brand of the University of the Minnesota, period,” Fleck said.

“… Now that doesn’t mean anything necessarily inside our program,” Fleck continued. “We have a lot of guys who have had that happen before. They’ve been there. They understand how the external message will get louder, but the internal message has to be the loudest, period. And again, they are going to hear it, it’s just about the difference between hearing and listening. We have a job to do.”

That next task is the Gophers’ first game against an opponent from the Big Ten West this season.

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