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WEST LAFAYETTE, IND. – When a team loses to a 31-point underdog and its quarterback passes for only 59 yards, the week ahead is going to be tough.
Tanner Morgan experienced that feeling leading up to Saturday's game at Purdue, and the Gophers senior quarterback emerged philosophical after his team's 20-13 victory over the Boilermakers.
"Winning's fun. Football's fun too, but it's not always just going to be the highs,'' Morgan said after a rain-soaked afternoon at Ross-Ade Stadium. "You're going to have to go through the lows, you're going to have to respond. … That's why I was so proud of our team this week.''
Morgan had a bounce-back game, completing nine of 18 passes for 169 yards and a touchdown. Most importantly, he did not throw an interception after having two, plus a lost fumble, in the 14-10 loss to Bowling Green.
"Tanner was very accurate today; we had some drops,'' Gophers coach P.J. Fleck said. "I thought he threw the ball really well. He just responded like Tanner does.''
Morgan threw his 50th career touchdown pass and did so on his 727th career attempt, the fewest attempts in school history to reach that milestone.
Said Morgan: "I think it was solid, but there's about three or four throws I'd want back. There's always stuff to get better at, but at the end of the day, you've got to celebrate the things you do well. It's something that I don't always do the best at.''
The bulk of Morgan's yardage came on two connections with one player — wide receiver Mike Brown-Stephens. Their 51-yard hookup in the second quarter led to a field goal that tied the score 10-10 in the second quarter, and their 54-yard connection on the first play of the second half set up the TD that gave Minnesota a 17-13 lead.
"It was a phenomenal adjustment by our offensive staff,'' Morgan said of the third-quarter throw. "… Michael Brown is pretty fast. He just went up there and made it happen. That's just everybody working together. Shout out to Coach [Mike] Sanford and the offensive staff.''
The Gophers were playing without receiver Dylan Wright, who leads the team with 169 receiving yards and two touchdown catches. KFXN-FM reported Wright was his hometown of Dallas to mourn the shooting death of Utah cornerback Aaron Lowe, a teammate at West Mesquite High School.
Chris Autman-Bell, who played only two plays last week, was back in the lineup and finished with two catches for 40 yards, including a 32-yard TD grab in the first quarter that gave the Gophers a 7-0 lead.
"It's not just a one- or two-headed monster,'' Morgan said of the Gophers receiving corps. "We have guys on the outside who can make plays.''
Gophers linebacker Mariano Sori-Marin left the game in first quarter because of a lower leg injury and did not return. Safety Tyler Nubin briefly left the game but returned and had an interception to seal the win. Cornerback Coney Durr (upper body) took a hard hit in the second half and did not return. Defensive end MJ Anderson (lower body) did not play.
"The bye week comes at a perfect time — and I've never met one that's come at a bad time,'' Fleck said. "We've got to get some guys healthy.''
Purdue tight end Payne Durham (concussion) did not play.Saturday's game was Fleck's 50th at Minnesota. He has a 29-21 record with the Gophers.Kevin Starks, who played tight end for the Gophers from 1983 to '85, gave the speech at Saturday morning's captains' breakfast.