The Georgia Southern football team will be traveling to Minneapolis for their third contest of the season on Saturday as they take on Minnesota. Ahead of the game, Nicholas Jungheim, a sports reporter for The Minnesota Daily, gave his thoughts on the upcoming showdown.
For this season so far, Minnesota has had success collecting two wins. What do you think has contributed to that early on success?
Mostly finding big plays at the right time. Finding those ways to win the game. Minnesota hasn’t really looked that great for large portions of both games, especially in the third quarter. But right at the end of the game they've come up with some plays. They’ve had some key turnovers in the fourth quarter. Defensive stops against South Dakota State. And then against Fresno State last week there was a big touchdown on a fourth and 13 with less than a minute left to send it to overtime and then an interception in double over time. So basically getting the big plays at the perfect time.
So coming into the new season, which players left or graduated that will be missed? Which new players should people be keeping their eye on?
Our biggest departure was linebacker Blake Cashman. He’s on the Jets now. He was really the sorta lifeblood of the defense. He was a big leader in that linebacking core and I think his presence has been missed, so far just in a leadership type position. I think as for newcomers, not a lot of freshmen have been playing, but guys like Rashod Bateman who’s a sophomore has been getting a lot more action this season than he was last year as a freshman. He showed a lot of potential last year and now he’s really coming into his own as a nice compliment to Tyler Johnson on the other side of the field.
I saw last game against Fresno State, y’all went into double overtime and it seemed to be ending in quite a dramatic fashion with an interception in the endzone. Would you say the Gophers are more of a second half team or more of a first half team?
I would say specifically they’d be a fourth quarter team. So far, they’ve really let things get close in the second half. I think both games they’ve come out nicely in the first quarter. Second quarter they’ve had chances to extend leads, maybe put the teams away and they didn’t capitalize. Third quarters they let them back in it a little bit. The fourth quarter they do just enough to come out with the victory and that’s been the formula in these first two games.
What are your overall expectations for the Gophers this season?
It’s really tough to know. We’re in the Big 10 West which seems super wide open. It seems like 6 teams potentially have a chance to win. It’s been kind of tough so far because having seen a lot from the other schools that I didn’t really expect to see aside from maybe Nebraska losing to Colorado. I can see the team going anywhere from probably 7-5 to 9-3 and finishing anywhere from fifth to second in the division.
Where do you think a weakness on the field for the team?
So far pass blocking has been a big issue. They gave up six sacks, I believe, in these first two games. A lot of the times when teams have ran stunts on the defensive line have brought an extra blitz or off the edge, the offensive line hasn’t been able to communicate those things. They’ve let some defensive ends and linebackers get clean shots on Tanner Morgan at quarterback. That’s something they need to clean up.
What is your final game prediction?
Minnesota- 34, Georgia Southern- 20.
Kaitlin Sells, The George-Anne Managing Sports Editor, firstname.lastname@example.org