The Gophers have talked repeatedly about “finding a way to win” throughout close nonconference games.
A look at their late-game conversions proves there’s something tangible behind that vague phrase.
The Gophers rank 13th of 130 FBS teams on third downs, converting 52.4% of them. On fourth downs, they’re tied for 27th at 75%. Sophomore quarterback Tanner Morgan has been at the helm, running his record to 7-2 as a starter, with the Gophers winning the time-of-possession battle in all nine of those games. With Morgan in charge, the Gophers average nearly 33 points per game.
“Knowing that, hey, we’re going to punch this in, and we’re going to score. There’s no other option for us,” Morgan said of the team’s mentality in crunch-time situations.
Morgan has engineered crucial plays when the Gophers needed them most. At Fresno State, a fourth-and-13 20-yard toss to receiver Chris Autman-Bell forced overtime. Against Georgia Southern, a 21-yard completion to receiver Demetrius Douglas on third-and-29 followed with a 10-yard pass to Douglas kept the Gophers alive.
Offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca said he’s been pleased with Morgan’s ability to escape the pocket better than last season. There are still areas to improve — such as some cringeworthy interceptions — but Ciarrocca said Morgan is always learning from those miscues
“With a young quarterback … I’m going to put X amount on his plate,” Ciarrocca said. “And then when the game’s over, I’m kind of like, ‘Did he clean his plate or not?’ Yeah, he did. OK, let’s put a little bit more on there.”