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Minnesota Football: Tanner Morgan’s status uncertain for Northwestern

The redshirt sophomore quarterback is recovering from a concussion

NCAA Football: Minnesota at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota Golden Gophers head coach P.J. Fleck said on his radio show this morning that quarterback Tanner Morgan is “doing well,” but is in concussion protocol after experiencing concussion-like symptoms near the end of the Iowa game. Fleck is purposefully vague when it comes to providing injury updates during the week, so we more than likely may not know who will be under center for the Gophers against Northwestern until Saturday morning.

Morgan was sacked twice on the Gophers’ final offensive possession of the game. After the second sack, Morgan appeared “woozy” and “wobbly” as he got up, and running back Rodney Smith alerted the sideline. Fleck, who earlier in the game had been penalized for running on to the field to attend to an injured player, directed Morgan to take a seat on the turf so the medical trainers could come out and take a look, rather than have him try to stumble to the sideline. Morgan was helped to the sideline and did not return to the game, but was evidently lucid enough to plead his case to Fleck, who declined to put him back in on fourth down.

Instead, true freshman Cole Kramer threw an incomplete pass on third down and was intercepted on fourth down. Those were the first two pass attempts of Kramer’s college career, although he had previously appeared in mop-up duty against Rutgers and Maryland. The Gophers’ other true freshman quarterback, Jacob Clark, made his debut against Maryland, completing a 39-yard pass to Harry Van Dyne. Fleck hopes to preserve both of their redshirts, which means Kramer can only appear in one more game and Clark is limited to three more appearances.

Fleck has refrained from naming a clear back-up quarterback all season, so it is uncertain who would get the starting nod on Saturday if Morgan is not cleared to play. It’s possible both could see action against the Wildcats. Former quarterback Seth Green would seem to be the emergency option, but he has not practiced at quarterback since shifting to a hybrid role in the spring of 2018.

Tanner Morgan has been superb through the first 10 games of the season, completing 68.1% of his passes (156-of-229) for 2,468 yards and 22 touchdowns, with only four interceptions. The redshirt sophomore quarterback has had to carry the Minnesota offense the last two weeks — 43-of-56 for 707 passing yards and four touchdowns — as the Gophers’ rushing attack has been slowed, averaging 92 yards per game against Penn State and Iowa.