Bowl eligible and poised for bigger things, Minnesota enters Saturday’s meeting at Minneapolis against struggling Northwestern with a question mark at quarterback.
Golden Gophers starter Tanner Morgan sustained an upper-body injury on the last play of the first half last weekend, leaving backup Athan Kaliakmanis to pilot a come-from-behind, 20-13 victory at Nebraska.
Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck didn’t offer an update on Morgan’s health Monday, but stressed the Golden Gophers (6-3, 3-3 Big Ten) must harness the resiliency they showed at Nebraska either way.
Fleck suggested Minnesota might take a lesson from Kaliakmanis on that front.
“I think that, at times when you’re a backup, it can be in your own mind that you’ll wait on becoming the starter to prepare. And then you become the starter and you play and you get thrown in there in the second half,” Fleck said. “And you better be able to go win the game and execute and prepare and perform at a very high level and you don’t do that unless you prepare throughout the week like you are the starter.”
Mohamed Ibrahim rushed for two touchdowns after halftime and finished with 128 yards on 32 carries.
Regardless of who plays quarterback against Northwestern (1-8, 1-5), the Golden Gophers figure to feature Ibrahim plenty. He has rushed for at least 100 yards in 17 successive games and has at least 30 carries in three straight contests.
The Wildcats produced a 100-yard rusher of their own against visiting No. 2 Ohio State last Saturday, but Evan Hull’s 122 yards and first-quarter touchdown weren’t enough as the Buckeyes outscored Northwestern 14-0 after halftime to earn a 21-7 victory.
Northwestern has lost eight consecutive games, tying the 1998 team’s slide, but the program felt good about its fight against Ohio State after losing by 20 at Iowa in its previous game.
“We just stepped up to the plate,” Wildcats defensive back Cameron Mitchell said. “Coming off a tough loss, we knew what we had coming ahead and we knew we can’t avoid it, so we just decided we were going to take it and we were going to attack, so we did.”
Minnesota has won the past two meetings against Northwestern, including a 41-14 road victory last season.
–Field Level Media