The University of Minnesota Morris football team ended non-conference play on a high note on Saturday, traveling to Crown College and coming home with a 24-18 victory over the Storm. The Cougars will head into UMAC play with a record of 1-3.
After driving deep into Crown territory on its opening possession of the game only to be denied an early lead on a blocked field goal, Minnesota Morris opened the scoring late in the first quarter on a 14-yard touchdown run from Marcus Reeb. The score was set up by a blocked punt from Jayden McIntyre that set the Cougars up in great starting field position at the Crown 37. The extra point from Alex Happ put the Cougars on top, 7-0.
That lead doubled early on in the second quarter as a flea flicker from Reeb to Branden Carlson for 59 yards extended the margin to 14-0. Crown was able to score before the break to make it 14-6, but a foray by the Storm into Cougar territory late in the half ended in an interception by Devin Carr.
Crown pulled even closer midway through the third quarter, going for a home run ball and connecting for a 48-yard touchdown pass. The two-point conversion failed, leaving Minnesota Morris out in front, 14-12.
The Cougar answer was swift. Minnesota Morris went on an eight-play, 65-yard drive without a pass attempt that culminated in a six-yard scamper from Reeb to increase the UMN Morris edge to 21-12. Carr then helped the Cougars maintain that lead into the fourth quarter with his second interception of the afternoon.
In the fourth quarter, Crown once again hit paydirt but failed to convert on the conversion attempt, leaving Minnesota Morris out in front, 21-18. The Storm had the ball back with a chance to tie or take the lead midway through the fourth quarter, but the UMN Morris defense held and forced a turnover on downs.
Taking over at their own 26, the Cougars flipped the field with a big 36-yard run from Garrett Elison and were able to drive it inside the Crown 10-yard line before settling for a field goal from Happ to increase the margin to 24-18.
In the final minutes of the contest, the Minnesota Morris defense came up with a crucial stop, with Carter Maurice earning the sack off the edge on third down. The offense took over near midfield and needed to move the chains once to milk the rest of the clock, which they did with a big conversion on third down to essentially wrap up the victory.
Reeb was 12-of-26 through the air for 154 yards and a touchdown. Johnson had 18 carries for 76 yards. Carlson was the top receiver for the Cougars with six catches for 120 yards and a score. The defense was led by Maurice with nine tackles, while Carr had his first two career interceptions in his first collegiate game.
Minnesota Morris returns home on Oct. 2 for a Homecoming matchup with Westminster College (MO). Kick-off from Big Cat Stadium is set for 12 p.m.