MINNEAPOLIS – Minnesota looks for its second consecutive 3-0 start under P.J. Fleck when it hosts Georgia Southern in the final game of its non-conference slate on Saturday. The Gophers edged FCS opponent South Dakota State 28-21 in their season opener before pulling out a 38-35 double-overtime road win against Fresno State in Week 2, and they hope to keep rolling by extending the longest active non-conference winning streak to 18 games.
TV: 3:30 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network. LINE: Minnesota -15.5
"It's been two games and we've been tested but that's what the beginning of the season is all about," Fleck told reporters. "You have to find a way to win and that's what we are teaching our players." Minnesota is 10-0 all-time against Sun Belt Conference opponents and hopes to stay perfect by notching its 12th consecutive home win in non-conference play. The Gophers have won six of their last eight games overall since Tanner Morgan took the helm at quarterback and the sophomore signal caller aims for his first 300-yard game of the new campaign against a Georgia Southern team which surrendered 350 in the air in their season-opening 55-3 loss to fifth-ranked LSU. The Eagles bounced back from their thumping by the Tigers with a 26-18 win over Maine and hope to ride the momentum to their first upset against a Big Ten team in school history.
ABOUT GEORGIA SOUTHERN (1-1)
Freshman quarterback Justin Tomlin rushed for 132 yards and a touchdown against the Black Bears to go along with another 63 through the air in his first career start after Shai Werts, who is considered day-to-day, was ruled out before the game with a shoulder injury. Matt LaRoche racked up 154 yards and his first career touchdown while Logan Wright added 114 on the ground as three Eagles topped 100 yards rushing in the win over Maine."I made some mistakes but it was a good experience overall," Tomlin told reporters. "It was kind of nerve-wracking at first but as I got into the game things started to slow down for me."
ABOUT MINNESOTA (2-0)
Morgan completed 16-of-23 passes for 234 yards and a pair of touchdowns against Fresno State, including a 20-yard scoring strike to Chris Autman-Bell on a 4th-and-13 with 46 seconds left in regulation to force overtime. Rashod Bateman caught seven passes for 105 yards and a touchdown to move within 59 yards of becoming the 26th player in program history to reach 1,000 for his career. Cornerback Antoine Winfield Jr. was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week after he made four tackles and intercepted a pass in the end zone in the second overtime to seal the comeback win for Minnesota.
1. Minnesota has won 20 of its last 21 non-conference home games.
2. Gophers RB Rodney Smith needs 124 yards to move past Chris Darkins (3,235) for fifth place on the program's all-time rushing list.
3. Minnesota's last non-conference loss came on Sept. 2, 2015 against TCU.
PREDICTION: Minnesota 41, Georgia Southern 17