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Cougars fall to Crown in 45-32 offensive show

Quarterback Derrick Foss looks for an open receiver Saturday at Big Cat Stadium in Morris.

The University of Minnesota, Morris and Crown College put on an offensive show, combining for nearly 1,000 yards in total offense, Saturday at Big Cat Stadium. Thanks to some timely turnovers and a resourceful offense that converted big third-down plays, Crown emerged the victors, 45-32, spoiling the Cougars' homecoming day.

Between Derrick Foss of UMM and Adam Hayes from Crown, the quarterbacks completed 32 passes for nine touchdowns and more than 550 yards.

The offensive output did not surprise junior tight end Brady Rose, who had three touchdown catches on the day.

"We practice at 5:45 in the morning, so we're pretty used to the cold. We're in Minnesota, so we're expecting the snow."

The big question for the Cougars this season has been defense, coming off a defeat at Martin Luther when they allowed 500 yards of offense to the Knights.

Early on, the Cougars turned away the Purple Storm on offense, sending them to the sidelines with a four and out, a turnover on downs, and a fumble, caused by linebacker Adam Gertken.

Meanwhile, on offense, Foss led early drives for touchdowns, the first to tight end Brady Rose (25 yards) and the second to wideout Josh Hiltner (34 yards). At the end of the first quarter, the Cougars led 14-0.

And then the Purple Storm clouds opened.

In the second quarter, Crown scored five times, three of those through the air as Hayes connected with receiver Eric Chavoustie for two scores (6 and 54 yards) and Robert Yang for another (22 yards). Running back Tyler Hallblade added a 2-yard touchdown run.

With two minutes remaining in the half, a 48-yard punt return by running back Robert Koranda put the Cougars deep in Crown territory. Four plays later, Foss threw into the end zone, where Hiltner adjusted his route and cut in front of a Crown player to haul in a 15-yard score. Still, with just 1:16 remaining in the half, Crown managed go the length of the field in 53 seconds. Hayes picked up a rushing touchdown (11 yards) to close the half. The Purple Storm led 33-20.

After halftime, the teams traded possessions until late in the third quarter when Hayes connected with Yang for another score, this time for a 36-yard touchdown. With 4:01 remaining in the third, the Purple Storm led 39-20 and the Cougars staged a comeback.

Foss connected with John Russow for 36 yards and two Ernest Tucker rushes brought the Cougars to the Crown 6-yard line. Foss then connected with Rose for a second time, cutting the Crown lead to 39-26.

Crown took possession into the early fourth quarter. UMM forced them to punt and started a drive on their own 33-yard line. Behind a steady dose of Koranda and Tucker on 10 straight rushing plays, the Cougars marched downfield to the Crown 11-yard line. Foss connected with Rose for their third scoring connection of the day, having cut the Crown lead to 39-32.

But the Purple Storm put together a steady drive, mixing up the play calls, converting a key 3rd and 1 with a reverse to wideout Steve Boger that netted 30 yards to the UMM 4-yard line. Hayes put the game away the next play with a bootleg touchdown.

The Cougars charged back on the next possession, but a fumble at midfield halted the drive.

With the loss, the Cougars fall to 2-4 on the year, 0-3 in the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference.

"We're struggling right now and we've got to find an answer - most of the time the answer is sitting right in front of them," said head coach Todd Hickman after the game. "We've got to figure out a way to eliminate their mistakes and play a little bit better than we've been playing. There is no magic answer."

The Cougars have a bye next week and return to the gridiron at Big Cat on October 24, when they host conference-leading Northwestern College.