Gophers: Does PJ Fleck start Tanner Morgan or Athan Kaliakmanis against Northwestern?

Quarterback Tanner Morgan #2 of the Minnesota Golden Gophers passes against the Nebraska Cornhuskers during the first quarter at Memorial Stadium on November 5, 2022 in Lincoln, Nebraska.  ((Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images))

The University of Minnesota football team hosts Northwestern on Saturday at Huntington Bank Stadium, and one of the many questions PJ Fleck has leading up to kickoff is who will play quarterback when the offense takes the field.

Will it be sixth-year senior Tanner Morgan, if he’s cleared by doctors? Or redshirt freshman Athan Kaliakmanis? In relief Saturday, Kaliakmanis led the Gophers to four scoring drives in a 20-13 come-from-behind win at Nebraska.

Morgan was 6-of-8 passing for 38 yards in the first half, and was sacked three times. He did not play in the second half, held out by trainers in what Fleck labeled an upper body injury. He had no update on Morgan at his weekly news conference on Monday, other than that he was at practice on Sunday.

Morgan is Minnesota’s all-time winningest quarterback, with 32 victories as a starter. Kaliakmanis was 6-of-12 for 137 yards in the second half against the Cornhuskers, and gave another glimpse of what the future holds for the Gophers’ offense.

"I think Athan is really talented, they both bring a lot to the table as you go forward. I’m glad we have them both," Fleck said.

Kaliakmanis got his first career start two weeks ago at Penn State, and held his own in front of 109,000 fans. Saturday, he hit Daniel Jackson, Dylan Wright and Michael Brown-Stephens all for big plays that were key in the comeback. He was ready for his time, with Morgan out.

He said Saturday he leans on his teammates, specifically Morgan, Mo Ibrahim and John Michael Schmitz, to learn and get better.

"I feel like when I have a guy like Tanner Morgan that’s able to teach me every day and learn from him, when I have an All-American running back, a center like John Michael. Guys like that, what’s there to freeze over?" Kaliakmanis said. "They’re really good guys, really good teammates. They help me as much as I help them, which is really a blessing."

We’ll find out Saturday afternoon who gets the start, if the decision hasn’t already been made behind closed doors.

"It’s just the start of him being a great leader. The more he’s in there and the more he plays and the more he’s around his teammates and the more he’s in those environments, the better he’s going to be," Fleck said.


Gophers’ kicker Matthew Trickett on Monday was named the Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week. His leg was pivotal in Minnesota’s win at Nebraska.

Trickett made field goals of 47 and 49 yards, 1-yard shy of his career-long, the second half of the Gophers’ victory. His longest make of the season gave the Gophers a 13-10 lead with 14:02 to play, after trailing 10-0 at half.

"Those were huge kicks. The first one was huge, 47 yards into the wind. Got a ton of confidence in him and what he’s done in his career here," Fleck said. "Without those two, we don’t win that game. He’s kicking at a very confident level right now."

For the season, Trickett is a perfect 35-for-35 on point after attempts, and 10-of-11 on field goals. He has eight multi-field goal games with the Gophers, and three this season.