Tyler Johnson reeled in a 2-yard scoring pass from Tanner Morgan with 13 seconds remaining to cap his third career three-touchdown performance, as host Minnesota rallied for a 35-32 victory over Georgia Southern on Saturday in Minneapolis.
Johnson, who had 10 receptions for 140 yards, completed the hat trick by outleaping cornerback Monquavion Brinson in the right corner of the end zone.
The Golden Gophers (3-0) saw their fourth-quarter lead evaporate after Brinson scampered 77 yards for a touchdown following a blocked field goal, and linebacker Rashad Byrd strip-sacked Morgan and returned the fumble 44 yards for a score, just over two minutes apart.
Seth Green and Bryce Williams each had a short-yardage touchdown run for Minnesota, which improved to 11-0 all-time against Sun Belt Conference opponents and extended the longest active non-conference winning streak by an FBS team to 18 games.
The Gophers’ bid to pad their lead in the fourth quarter failed miserably, as Traver Vliem extended his arm to block Michael Lantz’s 36-yard field-goal attempt, and Brinson went the distance for a touchdown to trim Minnesota’s lead to 28-26 with 6:05 remaining.
The Eagles (1-2) kept the pressure on, as Byrd hit the ball just as Morgan’s arm was going forward, resulting in a fumble. Byrd picked up the ball and raced for the end zone to give Georgia Southern a 32-28 advantage with 3:47 remaining.
Morgan’s day did not get off to a flying start, as he was intercepted by Kenderick Duncan Jr. on the Gophers’ opening drive. Logan Wright added salt in the wound on the next play by squeezing through the line before scampering 21 yards for a touchdown.
Morgan, who finished 19 of 31 for 289 yards, connected with Johnson on a slant for a 73-yard touchdown to forge a tie at 7. The pair then answered Tyler Bass’ 25-yard field goal by teaming up for another score, of 7 yards, to give the Gophers a 14-10 lead. The latter grab gave Johnson five multi-touchdown performances since the start of 2018.
Green rumbled up the middle for a 4-yard score midway into the second quarter before Georgia Southern answered swiftly. Bass booted a 45-yard field goal before Justin Tomlin dove to the pylon to cap a 12-yard run with 27 seconds left in the second quarter, trimming Minnesota’s lead to 21-20.
The Gophers extended the advantage by capping an eight-play, 49-yard drive with Williams bulling his way into the end zone early in the fourth quarter.
—Field Level Media