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Cougars hold off Northwestern

The University of Minnesota, Morris football team opened up a 15-point fourth quarter lead Saturday and then held off a late rally from host Northwestern for a 35-33 win.

The deciding play came in the last minute when UMM stopped a two-point conversion pass attempt that would have tied the game at 35-35 with just 56 seconds left. Northwestern's ensuing onside kick was smothered by the Cougars' Josh Hiltner, allowing UMM to kneel out the final two plays for the win.

The Cougars scored three straight touchdowns in the third and fourth quarters to turn a 20-14 halftime deficit into a 35-20 lead early in the fourth. The game-winning score came with 14:15 left to play in the game on a 15-yard pass from older brother Derrick Foss to younger brother Brendan Foss. The touchdown pass capped off a six-play, 66-yard drive that began after the Cougar defense forced the Eagles into a three and out.

Northwestern scored twice in the fourth quarter to close the gap, including a one-play, 80-yard drive that came on a Cody Crum 80-yard run. Crum finished as the Eagles' leading rusher, with all of his yards that single play. The Eagles' final drive was a 15-play, 78-yard grind that drew them within two before the failed conversion attempt.

Outside of the final two scoring drives, the Cougar defense held the Eagles to a modest 259 yards of offense, while also forcing three turnovers.

Northwestern scored first, early in the first quarter, but the Cougars answered on their next drive with a 30-yard touchdown run from Todd Gramenz. It was the first of two scores on the ground for Gramenz, who finished with 190 yards on 37 carries.

After an Eagle field goal and one-yard touchdown from Derrick Foss, the Cougars held a 14-10 lead as the first quarter came to a close.

Northwestern added another field goal and a 31-yard touchdown pass in the second to take their 20-14 lead as the two teams headed into the locker rooms.

As the Cougar offense heated up in the third quarter, the defense matched them step for step. Northwestern's third period possessions ended like this: interception, punt, missed field goal, fumble, and punt.

Four different Cougars finished with eight tackles or better, led by Josh Ledin and Nate Lund with nine apiece. Ledin had a game-high five solo tackles, and was camped out in the Eagle backfield, finishing with three tackles for a loss of seven yards, his second consecutive game with three tackles for a loss or better.

The third quarter interception came from Shane Johnson which he returned 22-yards to set up Gramenz's second touchdown of the game. Lund also added an interception to start the fourth quarter, his third of the season.

In the Cougar passing game, Derrick Foss finished 7 of 14 for 102 yards as the Cougars rolled up 314 yards of offense, and controlled the ball for over 30 minutes. UMM was a perfect four for four in the red zone, and Matt Privatsky was a perfect five of five on point-after attempts.

At 4-1 in conference play, the Cougars remain in the hunt for the 2010 UMAC title, trailing only 3-0 Greenville who won at MacMurray Saturday. UMM returns to Big Cat Stadium this Saturday to host St. Scholastica who will enter at 3-3 overall and 1-2 in league action. Kickoff for the Cougars and Saints is set for 1 p.m.