SCOUTING REPORT: GEORGIA SOUTHERN AT GOPHERS
Saturday: 2:30 p.m. TCF Bank Stadium (Big Ten Network, 100.3-FM)
A look at the Eagles
Georgia Southern has the second-most Football Championship Subdivision national titles in history with six (North Dakota State has seven). The most recent FCS crowns were under former Navy and Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson in 1999 and 2000. The Eagles remained one of the top FCS programs more than a decade later and were ranked No. 1 in the FCS in 2011. A year later, the Eagles defeated a Power Five program for the first time, topping Florida 26-20 in 2013. One year later, they moved up to the FBS level and won the Sun Belt title in their first year. … After opening with a 55-3 loss at No. 6 LSU this season, Georgia Southern bounced back by rushing for 395 yards in a 26-18 victory vs. Maine (No. 6 in the FCS) last week. Georgia Southern's triple-option offense is formidable, but it's not the same as the Gophers faced when they defeated Georgia Tech 34-10 in the Quick Lane Bowl last year. "They run it very different from Georgia Tech, but it's very similar," Gophers coach P.J. Fleck said. "We're not going to play it exactly how we played Georgia Tech."
Who to watch: Justin Tomlin, Matt LaRoche and Logan Wright in the triple option
In last week's victory over Maine, the Eagles had three players rush for more than 100 yards for the first time since 2012. Leading the way was redshirt sophomore tailback Matt LaRoche, who rushed for 154 yards on nine carries, including a 75-yard run. Fellow redshirt sophomore tailback Logan Wright had 114 yards on 15 carries, including a 70-yard run. Freshman quarterback Justin Tomlin accounted for 132 yards on the ground, including a 45-yard touchdown run.
From the coach: Chad Lunsford
Chad Lunsford, a former Georgia Southern assistant, took over as the Eagles head coach after Tyson Summers was fired following an 0-6 start in 2017. In Lunsford's first full season at the helm last year, Georgia Southern went 10-3. Part of the turnaround came from hiring Bob DeBesse as offensive coordinator. DeBesse's offense set an NCAA record with only five turnovers in 2018. DeBesse runs the triple option now, but his wide-open spread offense led the Big Ten in passing in 1992, 1993 and 1996 when he was the Gophers' OC under Jim Wacker from 1992-96. "We've had a lot of guys play in Power Five games," Lunsford said. "The majority of our team played against [then-No. 12 Auburn in 2017, obviously playing [No. 2] Clemson in '18 and playing LSU at the start of the season. I don't really get worried about our guys [in] the environment."