We have a lot to cover here. The Golden Gophers did start the season with their 3rd win after beating Georgia Southern 35-32. This is the most important sentence of the recap. Minnesota beat Georgia Southern and the Gophers are 3-0 to start the season.
Tyler Johnson had a huge 1st quarter with a 73-yard touchdown catch and run followed by a 7-yard TD reception on the following drive. Midway through the second quarter the Gophers extended their lead over the Eagles to 21-10 after a Seth Green 4-yard touchdown run out of the Green Package. At this point the lead had been pushed to 11, the Gophers appeared to be in control with 7:07 left before halftime and things felt rather comfortable.
Georgia Southern responded with a 7-play drive which stalled, leading to a FG.
Minnesota took the ball back. The Gopher offense ran up the middle on 3rd and 1 at their own 34 and did not get the first down. With under 3 minutes left in the half, PJ Fleck decides to go for it on 4th and 1 rather than punt the ball. The Eagles stuffed the run and took over with 2:16 and the ball on Minnesota’s. Five plays later they scored a touchdown, pulled the score to 20-21 just before half.
Some poor offensive execution, questionable play calling and in hindsight a terrible decision to go for it on 4th and 1 gives Georgia Southern 10 consecutive points and all the momentum into the half (which I don’t really believe is a thing).
Gopher ball to start the second half results in 12 plays, 46 yards and a punt.
Here is the good news in this game. The defense absolutely shut down the Georgia Southern offense in the second half. The Eagles really had 4 possessions in the second half and they did absolutely nothing with them.
- 5 plays, 7 yards
- 3 plays, -4 yards
- 1 plays, fumble (recovered by defense)
- 3 plays, 11 yards (passing in final seconds of the game)
Overall Georgia Southern scored 32 points but 14 of those are directly on the shoulders of the special teams and offense.
Now for the bad news. The offense and special teams were atrocious. Remember how GSU ran only 12 offensive plays in the second half? Minnesota ran 47. The Gopher offense struggled mightily.
Their second possession was an 8-play, 49 yard touchdown drive to extend their lead to 28-20. But it was a near Hindenburg-esq disaster after that.
Following the defense forcing a fumble and giving the ball to offense on the GSU 26. They cannot get a first down and settle for a FG attempt. The FG was blocked and returned for a GSU touchdown! The Eagles failed on the 2-point conversion and the Gophers still clung to a 28-26 lead. Fine right?
On their next possession Tanner Morgan is sacked on the Gopher 44 and the loose ball is picked up and returned for an Eagle’s touchdown. Just under 4 minutes remaining and GSU takes the lead.
Things now are looking bleak. Under 4 minutes remaining and trailing Georgia Southern by 4. It gets worse.
The first play was incomplete. Second down was a holding call, pushing the offense back 10 yards. Second down again and Morgan is sacked.
Let me set the proper stage here. Third down and 29 from our own 15 yard line, down 4 points, the clock ticking and your offensive line had just been called for holding and then gave up a big sack. Things were looking awfully bleak at this point.
But Morgan finds Demetrius Douglas for a short pass that he takes 22 yards, setting up 4th and 8. The 4th down completion for 10 yards and a first down was to Douglas again. Fantastic job of staying alive and getting the 30 yards necessary for a first down, but still 63 yards away from the end zone.
But Morgan continued to execute when it mattered most. Johnson for 7 yards, Bateman for 15, Bateman for 25, Johnson for 10 and just like the Gophers are at the 1 yard line. The inside zone gets stuffed but the Gophers quickly get to the line to run a fade to Johnson. Johnson makes a tough catch for the winning touchdown with 13 seconds left.
The journey to this win was very ugly. PJ Fleck highlighted this a few different ways in his post-game press conference.
“The winning is one thing. It’s about how we play and today we didn’t play very well.”
“Sometimes we did everything we could to lose that game.”
“We are an inside zone team. We just have to do it better. We’re just not executing very well.”
“I take responsibility for not coaching my best football game today.”
He’s not wrong. This was his worst coached game in this program. Poor play calls at key times, really poor management of timeouts and overall leaving a lot to be desired.
His team really did whatever they could to lose this game at times. And the process, the journey was ugly. But it was a win.
Hats off to the defense for really shutting down the GSU offense in the second half and of course kudos to Tyler Johnson for his 10 catches, 140 yards and 3 touchdowns this afternoon.
The Gophers move to 3-0 and get a well-timed bye week before the Big Ten season begins with a trip to Purdue in 2 weeks. Coach Fleck stated they will spend time self-scouting and cleaning things up before preparing for Purdue.