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Cougars open football season with big road win

The University of Minnesota, Morris football team opened the season Saturday in Jacksonville, Ill. with an impressive 49-14 win over MacMurray College.

The Cougar offense rolled up 438 yards of total offense on 70 plays, while the defense held the Highlanders to just 211 yards on 56 plays. On the ground alone, UMM churned out 291 yards on 51 attempts.

Tailback Todd Gramenz carried the ball 26 times for 149 yards and scored three touchdowns. On the Cougars' second offensive series, Gramenz set the tone for the day. On the first play he ripped off a 26-yard run into MacMurray territory before finally being taken down, and on the second play he closed out the two-play drive with a 34-yard touchdown run to put the Cougars up 6-0.

Gramenz went on to score on a six-yard run in the third, and on a seven-yard run early in the fourth.

The Cougar ground game was not a one-man show however, as Leandro Dower had an impressive performance as well in his debut as a Cougar. The freshman carried the ball 15 times for 93 yards and scored his first collegiate touchdown.

Also getting in on the mix was Jerrod Nohner with nine carries for 57 yards, a score and a game high 6.3 yards-per-carry average.

After the two-play drive to open the scoring, the Cougar offense flexed its muscle, stringing together an 11-play, 54-yard drive and a 10-play, 75-yard drive to extend their lead to 21-0 late in the second quarter. Using rotating quarterbacks, Derrick Foss hooked up with little brother Brenden and Ted Hoffman connected with John Rossow for the scores.

After falling behind by three touchdowns, the Highlanders finally got on the board three minutes before halftime, to head into the locker rooms down by 14. Working with a short field after a 50-yard kickoff return, the Highlanders went 32 yards on three plays for the score.

The hosts also scored on the opening drive of the second half and drew within eight at 21-13 after the missed extra point. From there, though, Gramenz and Dower teamed up for 21 straight points to give the Cougars a 42-13 lead early in the fourth quarter and put the game away.

The Cougars racked up 24 first downs on the day to just 16 for the Highlanders, and averaged better than six yards per play. UMM went nine of 13 on third downs, but most impressively finished a perfect six of six in the redzone, getting touchdowns on each trip.

Adam Gertken was the pacesetter on defense with six total tackles, including four solo stops. Matt Anderson logged 2.5 tackles for a loss, including the season's first sack for a loss of six yards. The Cougar defense spent plenty of time in the Highlander backfield, registering five total tackles for a loss of 18 yards. Nate Lund notched the day's only interception.

The Cougars will bring their 1-0 record back to Morris this weekend for the home opener against Westminster at Big Cat Stadium. Kickoff is set for 12 p.m. during the sixth annual CougarFest, including games for all ages begining at 11 a.m. right outside the stadium. Admission is free to all.