PREVIEW: Eagles head to Minnesota for third contest of the season

Kaitlin Sells

Coming off their first win of the season, the Eagles will be traveling to Minneapolis to take on Minnesota. 

The Eagles redeemed themselves after an ugly season opener against LSU, claiming their first win of the season over Maine 26-18. 

While it was a win for the Eagles, there was a lot of sloppy football that needs to be cleaned up. GS has nine fumbles on the season so far, losing three. There were also many times the offense made it to the redzone, but were unable to finish and score a touchdown, which ultimately led to redshirt-senior kicker Tyler Bass’ career-high of four field goals in one game. 

“We have whole segments of practice dedicated to ball security,” Lunsford said. “We’ve got to clean that up…the other thing is getting into the redzone. We’ve got to make sure to get touchdowns on the board.” 

On offense against Maine, redshirt-freshman Justin Tomlin took over for two year starting quarterback Shai Werts who was sidelined with a shoulder injury. In his first career start, Tomlin became comfortable pretty quickly and rushed for 132 yards and a touchdown and also picked up 63 yards through the air.

“When you start talking about next man up, that was the true definition of it last week,” Lunsford said in regards to Tomlin’s performance. “We told him to relax and trust his instincts and you know just go run the offense, but the kid went in and did even better than that.”

Where the Minnesota defense struggles is in the passing game, allowing nearly 241 yards per game. Enter Darion Anderson. The redshirt-junior had just one catch for 45 yards against Maine and had he not sumbled, it would’ve been a touchdown.

That type of big play offense has worked wonders for Anderson, not just this season but last season as well. All four of his catches went for more than 35 yards and three of them went for scores.

With Werts’ health still in question, the Eagles are preparing behind Tomlin and Werts. At running back, Logan Wright and Matt LaRoche had breakout games, each of them rushing for more than 100 yards. 

The GS defensive line also showed out Saturday, holding Maine to just three points until the fourth quarter. Redshirt-sophomore safety Kenderick Duncan Jr. had an impressive game as he logged five total tackles as well as an interception he returned for 35 yards. 

Senior cornerback Monquavion Brinson also stepped up against Maine, notching seven tackles on the night and two pass breakups. The defense held Maine to 27 minutes of possession time, most of that being in the fourth quarter.

“I’m very proud of [the defense] when you start looking at what they did throughout the game,” Lunsford said. “Unfortunate part, we had talked all year about finishing whole games and for us to give up two touchdowns in the fourth quarter that was disappointing.”

GS is no stranger to big-school environments, playing Auburn in 2017, Clemson in 2018 and LSU earlier in this season. The only stress here is that the Eagles need to show up and play how they know how to play. 

“I don’t really get worried about our guys about the environment,” Lunsford said. “We’ve just gotta go play Georgia Southern football and we’ve yet to do that this season. And if we can go do that, anything can happen.”

Minnesota is sitting on a 2-0 record after collecting wins against FCS South Dakota State and fellow Group of 5 team Fresno State. They claimed their 38-35 victory over Fresno in a dramatic fashion, going into double overtime and intercepting a pass in the endzone to seal a win.

Redshirt-sophomore quarterback Tanner Morgan impressed many with his 234 passing yards against Fresno, adding to his 410-yard total in the two games he’s played. The redshirt-sophomore also put up a rushing touchdown against Fresno.

Defensively, the Eagles need to watch for sophomore defensive back Jordan Howden. Howden has logged 17 total tackles on the season as well as four pass breakups. Redshirt-senior Chris Williamson also poses as a threat on the defense as the 6-foot defensive back has already notched one interception and two pass break ups and well as logging eight total tackles and a sack. 

“They really play sound defense,” Lunsford said. “They really run to the ball. There’s a couple linebackers that have really jumped out on tape. One of their defensive ends is definitely people we got to make sure we’re aware of.”

The Eagles will travel to Minneapolis to take on the Golden Gophers, with kickoff at 3:30 p.m. Eastern. 

McClain Baxley contributed to this article.

Kaitlin Sells, The George-Anne Managing Sports Editor,