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Cougar Fest kicks off football season at UMM

The University of Minnesota, Morris Cougars will kick off their football season under the lights of Big Cat Stadium as they host Trinity Bible College at 7 p.m. today.

The young Cougars are led by second-year head coach Todd Hickman, whose 2007 team finished 4-5 overall and 4-3 in the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference.

"We will have some depth on the offensive line and there will be improvement on the defensive side of the ball this year," said Hickman.

"We have several players coming back for the 2008 campaign who now have one or two years experience under their belts," he said. "We have also added a very talented group of incoming freshmen and transfers."

Several players return who earned UMAC All-Conference accolades in 2007.

Earning first-team all-conference honors last year were seniors Matt Fragodt and Andrew Shay.

Fragodt led the Cougar receiving core with 38 receptions, eight for touchdowns. He had 667 yards in nine games, averaging 74.1 yards per game, to finish third in the UMAC last season. He was fifth in receptions per game and all-purpose yards in the conference.

Heading into his senior season, Fragodt has 1,881 receiving yards, 118 total receptions, and 21 touchdowns. His 21 touchdowns is one shy of tying former Cougar Craig Alto's career record.

Shay was the team's leading tackler last season with a total of 79, which was seventh in the UMAC. He had 11 tackles for loss, tied for third in the league, three sacks, two fumble recoveries, and one interception.

In 2007 second-team all-conference honors went to junior Brady Rose. He was second on the team with 32 receptions for a total of 541 yards and three touchdowns.

Senior offensive lineman Brandon Lorenz and sophomore offensive lineman Billy Newman return to anchor the offensive line after both earned honorable mention in the UMAC last season.

Also making their presence known on the defensive line will be Blair Elliot and Nate Lund. Last season Elliot had a total of 67 tackles, while Lund recorded 46.

Matt Throngard, is another leading scorer from 2007 back on this season's roster. He rushed for an average of 50.6 yards per game and scored seven touchdowns for the Cougars.

The Cougars will play all of their home games in the first half of the season. They host Dakota State University on Sept. 13 at 7 p.m. After a bye on Sept. 20, the Cougars start UMAC play hosting St. Scholastica on Sept. 27.