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Tanner Morgan's shocking downfall continues against Illinois

The senior struggled as the Gophers were stunned by the Illini at home.

It wasn't long ago that Tanner Morgan was one of the top quarterbacks in college football. But that feels like an eternity ago as Morgan struggled during the Gophers' 14-6 loss to Illinois.

Morgan looked skittish, unsure and hesitant in the pocket on Saturday as the Illini defense teed off on the Gophers quarterback. With Minnesota's rushing attack held to 89 yards, it was up to the senior to keep the offense moving.

The Gophers looked good on their opening drive as they moved toward midfield but just as looked like Minnesota would drive into Illinois territory, Morgan threw an interception to Tarique Barnes. The interception led to an Isaiah Williams touchdown that put Illinois on the board.

After the Gophers went three-and-out on their second drive, Illinois took advantage again with a 15-yard touchdown from Brandon Peters to Tip Reiman to go ahead 14-0.

From there, the Gophers offense just couldn't get going. Illinois dominated the line of scrimmage and was the beneficiary of Morgan's indecisiveness. 

An injury to Chris Autman-Bell didn't help but the Gophers couldn't get anything from their senior, who threw for 180 yards with two interceptions on the afternoon. Minnesota didn't even get on the board until Morgan's one-yard touchdown run with 4:49 remaining in the fourth quarter. 

With a chance to lead a game-winning drive, Morgan threw a game-sealing interception that handed Illinois the upset victory.

It just doesn't look like the same quarterback Morgan was in 2019 when he threw a school-record 30 touchdowns. Only Joe Burrow, Jalen Hurts, Justin Fields and Trey Lance had a better passer efficiency rating than Morgan and he had the look of an NFL prospect.

Part of that success could have stemmed from the presence of NFL receivers Rashod Bateman and Tyler Johnson but it's still startling to see how far Morgan has fallen.

Some of the blame also falls on the shoulders of Mike Sanford Jr. With limited concepts and a read-option that never ends up in the hands of the quarterback, the offense has become predictable and requires the offense to run for an absurd number just to have a chance in games.

When that doesn't happen, you have games like the loss on Saturday, which looked eerily similar to the embarrassing performance the Gophers had against Bowling Green.

With an unreliable offense, the Gophers, who entered Saturday atop the Big Ten West division, must now run the table for a chance to play in the conference championship. That task begins next Saturday when Minnesota travels to No. 22 Iowa.

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