EVANSTON, Ill. — Tanner Morgan led No. 11 Minnesota to scores on its first three possessions and finished with four touchdown passes, and the Gophers bounced back from their first loss of the season with a 38-22 win over Northwestern on Saturday.
The Gophers (10-1, 7-1 Big Ten, No. 10 CFP), who lost at Iowa last week, strengthened their grip on first place in the West Division and clinched their sixth season with 10 or more wins.
Morgan, the Big Ten’s leading passer, came out firing following a week in the concussion protocol after absorbing back-to-back sacks by the Hawkeyes. The redshirt sophomore, listed as questionable until Saturday morning, has thrown 26 touchdowns this season to set a school record.
Morgan threw three TD passes to Rashod Bateman and one to Tyler Johnson against Northwestern (2-9, 0-8).
Morgan zipped a 19-yard TD pass to Bateman in the corner of the end zone to end a 10-play, 56-yard drive on Minnesota’s first possession.
After Shannon Brooks ran in from 9 yards, Morgan hit Bateman for a 10-yard TD and 21-0 lead. Bateman’s other TD catch was a 7-yarder in the third quarter.
With quarterback Aidan Smith sidelined (hand), Northwestern turned to Hunter Johnson, who hadn’t started since the season opener. Andrew Marty entered early in the second quarter after Johnson went 0 for 2 and was sacked three times.
Marty threw a TD pass to Jace James and ran for two scores.
Joe Gaziano sacked Morgan for a safety early in the second quarter to get Northwestern on the board. Gaziano added another sack to give him 29 for his career, a school record.
Minnesota: Morgan seems primed to lead Minnesota into the postseason. His third touchdown pass in the game eclipsed Adam Weber’s season mark of 24 set in 2007. The Gophers have their first 10-plus win season since 2003. Minnesota’s previous four seasons with 10 wins or more were in 1900, 1903, 1904 and 1905. This is Minnesota’s first 10-win year in regular-season play since 1905.
Northwestern: Since the Big Ten started playing a championship game in 2011, no team until 2019 Northwestern finished last in its division after playing in the title game the previous year. The Wildcats are in danger of going winless in conference play for the first time since the 1998 team went 0-8 in Gary Barnett’s final season.
Minnesota: Hosts Wisconsin to end the regular season.
Northwestern: Visits Illinois.