Gophers fall to 6-4, lose to Iowa 27-22 and Floyd stays in Iowa City again :'-(
The recent Minnesota Gophers 4 game winning streak felt like the season was finally back on track. The Gophers were ranked #20 and had sole possession of 1st Place in the Big Ten West. Since then, the Gophers have dropped back-to-back games to Illinois and Iowa and in both cases they could have easily resulted in wins. It is disappointing, but us as fans do need to remind ourselves of how far this program has come since PJ Fleck has come to town, both ON and OFF the field. Obviously we want to see our hometown team win, but steady improvement and creating a positive culture has led to more wins that have a touch beyond purely the gridiron. I have gone into detail with the off the field success that Fleck has brought, so I won't go into that in this post. I am just proud that this is the program that is representing the great state of Minnesota and I know there will be more success on the field in the future!
Looking into the Minnesota vs Iowa game just by the box score would make anyone come to the conclusion that the Gophers dominated the game. Here are a few key stats from the game:
Time of Possession: MN 40:19, IA 19:41
First Downs: MN 23, IA 12
Total Yards: MN 409, IA 277
Forced Turnovers: MN 1, IA 0
It doesn't really make sense how the Gophers lost this one. They just flat out couldn't convert drives into touchdowns (which they have had issues with most of the season) and Iowa was able to come up with huge plays in key moments. My other concern is the ability of the Gopher's Offensive Coordinator, Mike Sanford Jr., and his dismal track record. I know PJ Fleck sees the issue because he has made mid-season coordinator changes in the past during his time at Minnesota and it completely turned the season around when he did. I can't tell you why he hasn't made a change in this case...
Let's go back to 2016. Western Kentucky had just gone 11-3 and had put together some very good seasons, leading their conference. Sanford was hired as the Head Coach at Western Kentucky in 2017 where he was there for 2 seasons. The first season (2017) they regressed, going 6-7 and the 7th loss was their loss in one of the lowest bowl games. His second season (2018) went even worse as Sanford led them to a 3-9 record before getting the STANKY BOOT. Sanford then was hired at Utah State as the OC/QB Coach to help coach up the future Green Bay Packers 1st Round pick, QB Jordan Love. In 2018, before Sanford showed up, Jordan Love threw for 32 TD, 6 INT, Avg yds/Attempt at 9.4, and compiled a 158.3 passer rating. In 2019, after Sanford became his OC/QB Coach, Jordan Love regressed tremendously throwing for only 20 TD, 17 INT, Avg yds/Attempt at 6.4, and only a 129.1 passer rating. JUST WAIT, THIS IS ABOUT TO MAKE A LOT OF SENSE ABOUT TANNER MORGAN... Mike Sanford then moved on to Minnesota to take over the OC/QB Coaching duties. In 2019, before Sanford showed up, Tanner Morgan threw for 30 TD, 7 INT, Avg Yds/Attempt at 11.0, and compiled an insane 178.7 passer rating (2nd BEST in the entire NATION!). In 2020 and 2021 (combining since Covid makes the 2 years about 1 full season), after Sanford showed up, Tanner Morgan, like Love, regressed tremendously throwing for only 13 TD, 12 INT, Avg yds/Attempt at 6.9, and only a... you guessed it... 129.0 passer rating. These 2 QBs have seen literally identical regressions after having very similar success before and after the arrival of Mike Sanford Jr. into the same coaching position at the 2 schools.
Something obviously needs to change with the Offensive Coordinator, but with 2 games left in the regular season, the Gophers may decide to ride it out and make a change in the offseason. This is Morgan's last season in a Gopher uniform and he will go down as one of the best QBs in Gopher history. There will be new faces and new opportunities ahead in 2022 and beyond as Fleck and his staff have been putting together some much improved recruiting classes these last few years!
The next game should be winnable as the Gophers travel to face the Indiana Hoosiers. Indiana is 2-8 and 0-7 in Big Ten play. I can't imagine the Gophers having any issues in this game as they are currently 7.5 point favorites and should easily win this one by at least 2 scores. Let's get back in the win column and get ready to host our biggest rival, the Wisconsin Badgers, for Paul Bunyan's Axe to finish the regular season!