When Mitch Leidner isn’t hunting deer in the fall, the former Gophers quarterback is watching his old team closely, and after the U’s 14-10 loss to Bowling Green in September, Leidner was given a post-traumatic Felt stressed.
In Leidner’s junior season in 2015, Yu barely beat Kent State 10–7. Home fans criticized the poor offensive performance against Mid-American Conference rival and then-head coach Jerry Kille, who was the U.S. Conference leader. In this will be his fifth and final season.
“We won, but it was one of the worst feelings because you know you didn’t play well and you should have kicked that team out,” Leidner told Pioneer Press this week.
After winning as Bowling Green’s 31-point underdog, Leidner sympathized with quarterback Tanner Morgan.
“What I should have done is text him,” Leidner said. “Again, I know the feeling.”
Morgan and the Gophers returned in October to win four straight games, yet after a loss to Illinois and a few missed throws in a loss in Iowa, Morgan again found himself on the blunt end of criticism. Again, Leidner knew the feeling.
Leidner started 41 games for the Gophers from 2013–16 and doubts grew after a successful season and a trip to the Citrus Bowl in 2014. Leidner said he didn’t have many connections to social media back then, but he had heard of another hand.
“I’ll be like ‘Oh yeah, whatever,'” he said. “I didn’t really pay a whole lot of attention.”
Morgan said he mostly checks his Twitter and Instagram accounts during the season, but like Leidner, criticism reaches him.
“External factors, he listens,” Fleck said. “I was told a long time ago, people who say, ‘I ignore all that, don’t listen to it,’ that’s fake. That’s a lie. We all hear it and we all see it. Do the same thing together.”
Morgan won his 25th game as a starter in Indiana last week, becoming Minnesota’s winningest quarterback since that state was tracked in 1959. Morgan (25-12) overtook Leidner (24-17), which was news for Leidner. Morgan’s feat also drew ridicule because the point was not set high.
So, even when he has won, he takes down a peg or two.
“I have felt for him; It’s too bad,” Leidner said, “he’s done a lot of good work for the program and the university and he’s carried himself very well. You just know he worked his butt. ,
Morgan will lead the Minnesota (7-4, 5-3 Big Ten) against No. 14 Wisconsin (8-3, 6-2) in Paul Bunyan’s ax fight at Huntington Banks Stadium on Saturday at 3 p.m. Against the lights-out Badgers defence, Morgan would need to make some big throws to trouble. But without home victories against rivals since 2003, any victory would be memorable.
Morgan, who is completing his fifth season, has not said whether he will take advantage of his sixth year of eligibility next season. Saturday is “senior day,” yet even if Morgan and other older players attend pregame festivities, it doesn’t mean it’s their last season, Fleck said.
The criticism Morgan faces has increased since an 11-2 season in 2019, including a win over a ranked Auburn team in the Outback Bowl. Morgan, who has the highest completion percentage (61.2) and winning percentage (.676), has since seen his numbers decline. There is no doubt about it. But it was clear what Morgan meant by the program when Fleck offered him a game ball inside the guest locker room at Memorial Stadium last weekend.
“I have the most respect for that guy,” receiver Chris Autman-Bell said. “He takes the most crap every day from all the fans, all the people in the world. He has the toughest position in the world, the toughest position on the football team. I’m so proud of that guy, I love him to death.” ”
The Gophers’ offensive coordinator Mike Sanford Jr. was not aware of the winning record until Fleck announced it to the team.
“When I saw it and saw Tanner, I’ll be honest, I was amazed at what he was up to, who he is as a human being,” Sanford said. “…It’s really one of the nicest people I’ve ever been around. Not just to coach but to spend time with them and hear their story and have a deep conversation with them. I love that Can’t say enough and that’s why I do what I do. People like Tanner Morgan are why I love to coach.”
Morgan plays his father, Ted – after losing his confidante, coach, mentor and friend – to cancer in July.
“That was her boy,” said Fleck.
Morgan, who is generically listed at 6-foot-2, was about to move to western Michigan before Fleck left and recruited him to Minnesota. He believed in himself to commit immediately and arrive at Yu’s unseen.
“Whatever he does is continue to rise to the top despite some physical challenges,” Fleck said. “He’s a phenomenal competitor. …He’s very courageous.”
Leidner wondered what minor injuries Morgan had to overcome to be Minnesota’s only starting quarterback since the middle of the 2018 season. Leidner played through a broken wrist in his non-throwing arm from 2014 and had torn ligaments in his leg during a 9-4 season in 2016. There were other issues as well, “shoulders, knees, elbows, ankles, everything,” he said.
Morgan was close to publicly missing a game in 2019, when he suffered an injury against Iowa. He cleared the protocol and played against Northwestern the following week and started 37 straight games.
After Bowling Green, Morgan was swinging on stage for a press conference three days later. “Tanner takes ownership to a completely different level,” Fleck said. “He almost takes it to a head-coach level where you own the whole thing.”
Morgan has stuck to his faith at the time.
“Frankly, it’s always a really good reminder of where my identity lies,” he said after the Illinois loss. “When things are going well it can be all too easy to get caught up as a University of Minnesota Golden Gopher football player. When it’s not, it’s a great reminder of where my true identity lies and that is in Christ.”
Linebacker Jack Gibbons has seen Morgan “on-point all the time”, but as one of his roommates, he has also seen Morgan goofy, playing golf in the summer and relaxing at home.
Leidner, now a traveling salesman of steel products and a part-time seven-to-seven coach in Sauk Rapids, Minn., has held talks with Morgan a few times, but that’s Connor Roda, who works for a software company in St. works for. , who actually keeps in touch. They don’t talk much about football, but Rhoda, who was 4-3 as a start in 2016-17, wrote to Morgan about football after Indiana’s win last week.
The gist of the message: “You should be really proud of what you’ve done. You’ve done what no one else here has done.”
“I just said this place was starving to play quarterback constantly and Mitch brought a little bit of that,” Rhoda said. “… whether he has or not, it’s hard for people to put that into perspective.”
Winner Gopher Quarterback
1. Tanner Morgan, 25-12
2. Mitch Leidner, 24-17
3. Asad Abdul-Khaliq, 22-15
4. Brian Kapito, 20-16
5. Ricky Foggy, 20-19
6. Adam Weber, 17-33
7. Sandy Stephens, 16-9
8. Tony Dungy, 16-16
9. Billy Cockerman, 12-8
10t. John Hankinson, 10-8-1
10t. Corey Souter, 10-24
Source: Gopher Athletics
Note: Records kept since 1959