Gophers follow near-perfect script in 38-31 win at Purdue on Saturday
By Michael Marot
AP Sports Writer
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) — Minnesota quarterback Tanner Morgan played as close to perfect as he could Saturday.
His receivers were spot on, too.
Morgan completed his first 14 throws, finished with 396 yards and four touchdowns, both career highs, and made enough plays over the final four minutes to preserve a 38-31 victory at Purdue
“Our quarterback had a 95.4 percent completion percentage. I’d say that’s pretty good,” Gophers coach P.J. Fleck said. “He’s a winner. He’s tough, he’s a leader. He’s not 6-foot-6 with a huge arm at 230 pounds, not flashy. But he’s smart and he’s mastered our offense.”
That much was evident as Morgan wound up 21 of 22 and finished the first half just four yards short of his previous single-game high.
He became the fourth player in school history to complete 14 consecutive passes, tying a record last done by Mitch Leidner in December 2015. Morgan is now 8-2 as a starter and has Minnesota (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten) off to its best start since 2013
But Morgan had plenty of help.
Of the 56 plays run by the Golden Gophers, 12 went for 16 or more yards. Morgan connected with Rashod Bateman on scoring passes of 45 and 47 yards, Chris Autman-Bell on a 70-yarder and Tyler Johnson’s 3-yard TD reception.
“I’m very disappointed in our pass defense and have been for a while,” Purdue coach Jeff Brohm said. “We knew what they were going to do and that’s the disappointing part. Just a very poor performance.”
Even worse were the hits the Boilermakers’ offense suffered.
Starting quarterback Elijah Sindelar and All-American receiver Rondale Moore left on the same first-quarter play when SIndelar was sacked hard on his left shoulder and Moore appeared to pull up with a left leg injury. After spending more than 10 minutes in the injury tent, Moore was carted to the Boilermakers’ locker room.
Brohm said Sindelar would miss some time but did not update the status of Moore or provide details about either injury.
Purdue already was playing without its top two defensive players, linebacker Markus Bailey and defensive tackle Lorenzo Neal.
“It’s been one of those years,” Brohm said. “They (the backups) have got to step up and that’s what they came here for — a chance to compete and play early.”
Minnesota seemed like it had everything working in sync.
Rodney Smith opened the game with a 2-yard touchdown run and when the Gophers got the ball back, Autman-Bell’s score made it 14-3.
Jack Plummer threw a 7-yard TD pass to Zander Horvath to get Purdue within 14-10 after Sindelar’s departure, but Morgan hooked up with Bateman and Johnson for touchdowns to make it 28-10 at the half. He sealed the Gophers’ sixth straight win with the second TD pass to Bateman for a 38-17 lead.
Purdue rallied with two fourth-quarter scores from King Doerue before Morgan ran out the clock.