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Column: How NKY Football's "Big Two" Performed in College's Opening Weekend

Dan Weber writes a sports column for The River City News. Contact him at

Northern Kentucky high school football's "big two" college athletes had a bit of a split opening weekend over the Labor Day holiday. Here's a look at how they fared.


Starting college football's big opening weekend off on national TV and in front of a sold-out crowd in Minneapolis, senior quarterback Tanner Morgan, out of Union and Ryle High, had his Golden Gophers out front early. The 14-10 deficit was the first time Ohio State coach Ryan Day had ever been trailing in a regular season game at OSU.

But just too much speed for the fourth-ranked Buckeyes with their All-American wide receivers proved the difference in a 45-31 finale that was probably closer than that final score with a missed targeting by Big Ten officials negating what could have been a final Minnesota score to close the gap to a single TD. It was the 28th OSU win in the last 29 games between these teams in the last 40 years.

For the game, Morgan, who took all 78 offensive snaps for Minnesota, hit on 14 of 25 passing for 205 yards and one TD. In his widely publicized debut, new OSU quarterback C.J. Stroud was 13 of 22 passing for 294 yards and four TDs with one interception. Despite having his top receiver out, Morgan did hit Texas A&M transfer

Dylan Wright five times for 57 yards and a TD.

Gophers Illustrated analyzed the Northern Kentuckian's play this way: "Morgan was much improved in the pocket tonight. He didn't just immediately run from pressure, but he stood in there and delivered quality throws as he took a few licks. We also saw Morgan take off and use his legs as well. There were some drops and a couple potential missed calls, but Morgan was an asset tonight for this offense."

He'll need to be an even bigger asset moving forward as Minnesota lost star running back Mohammed Ibrahim (30 carries for 163 yards and two TDs) for the season with a lower leg injury.

“I was really proud of how we responded,” Morgan said after the game. “We’ve just got to keep responding and change our best.”

Good job by FOX to focus on the Morgan family in the stands after the loss of Tanner's dad, Ted, his pee wee football coach and biggest fan, in July after a yearlong battle to a brain tumor.

"My Dad was a great man who loved serving other people," Tanner wrote on social media. "He served the Lord with passion and loved us deeply. If here were here today, his message would be to not wait for tragedy to strike to grow close to God. That was his message and that’s what I’m going to carry on. I’m thankful for how good the Lord has been through this trial. It may not have seemed like it, but the Lord's favor was all over him throughout the entire journey."


It looked like it was going to be awfully easy for the seventh-ranked Irish in Tallahassee Sunday night as sophomore tight end Michael Mayer, the Covington Catholic product, made it look like ESPN/ABC's Kirk Herbstreit wasn't hyping him when he called Michael "the best tight end in college football."

Catching three passes on Notre Dame's opening scoring drive including a 41-yarder for a touchdown, Mayer got the Irish going from the get-go. Good thing he did. After leading 38-20, Notre Dame had to hold on to get this one into overtime at 38-all before Florida State missed a makeable field goal in overtime and ND did not for the final 41-38 Irish victory.

Mayer, at an athletic 6-4 1/2 and 250 pounds, led Notre Dame with nine catches for 120 yards and that opening TD. But in its game report card, Irish Illustrated noted that while "Mayer’s numbers were impressive, but two drops – both critical with one in the first and fourth quarters – marred the performance." On the humid night in Florida, it just looked like even with gloves, Mayer couldn't avoid the ball slipping through -- especially on the fourth-quarter miss.

Such a big deal were those two drops for Notre Dame folks that when Irish Illustrated listed Notre Dame's "Superlatives," it listed them this way: "Receiving Yards: Michael Mayer 9 receptions on 13 targets, 120 yards, 1 TD (41 yards) and 2 dropped passes". . . Mayer simply must look the ball in his hands before he turns his shoulders to get upfield," was the Irish Illustrated final critique.

-Dan Weber

Photo: Michael Mayer (via Notre Dame Athletics)