It has been a tough start to the 2017 season for the University of Minnesota-Morris (UMM) Cougars, as the team began the year 0-4. However, that streak came to a crashing halt Saturday night, as quarterback Justin Masloski threw for 145-yards and ran for 144 more in the 17-7 victory over the Crown College Storm. The Cougars move to 1-4 with Crown dropping to 0-5.
The game got off to a great start for UMM thanks to Masloski. The Cougars received the opening kickoff and returned it to their own 30. On the first play from scrimmage, Masloski kept the ball and found daylight, racing 70-yards for the touchdown to make it 7-0.
Crown was forced to punt on their opening possession, but they put together an impressive 14-play, 73-yard drive in their second possession, which took 6:35 off of the clock before they tied the score. Derek Chilcoate was the star of the drive, carrying the ball six times. Damien Jeffries had three carries of his own, and the ground game was having some success finding lanes to help move the chains. While the ground game was getting on track, it was costly penalties that played a pivotal role in the drive. UMM took a pass interference call and a personal foul penalty that helped keep the drive alive, however, it looked like the Storm were going to come away empty-handed when they faced a fourth and goal at the four. Crown went for it, and quarterback Taylor Watkins kept the ball and scored to tie the game at seven.
The Cougars responded right away. After receiving the kickoff, Masloski found Nathan Sheridan for 22-yards just before the first quarter came to an end. The big play on the drive came on second and 13 at their own 46 when Masloski found a streaking Taylor Holleman for 49 years to the Crown five. On the next play, Cameron Geyer carried the ball into the end zone for the score and Minnesota-Morris was back on top, 14-7.
That would be the score heading into the half, as both teams saw their defenses take command of the game.
On the Storm’s second possession of the second half, it would be the defense that would make a huge play for the Cougars. With it first and 10 at the Crown 34, Derek Chilcoate was hit by Nathan Gehlen, who forced a fumble. Anthony Hill recovered the ball at the Crown 19 and the Cougars were in business. However, the Storm defense made a huge stand, actually moving UMM back a yard and forcing a 37-yard field goal attempt that John Hoff nailed to make it 17-7.
From there, this was a fearsome defensive battle. In the second half, there were a total five punts, a turnover on downs and two missed field goal attempts. The Storm saw their final attempt to get back in the game come to an end when Anthony Laureno was stopped by Trent Maloney on fourth and goal at the three, turning the ball over on downs with 2:47 left in the contest. Crown would get the ball back, but with only 13 seconds left, as the game would end 17-7 in favor of the University of Minnesota-Morris.
Justin Masloski had a big night for the Cougars, completing 11 of 21 passes for 145-yards. He also rushed for 144-yards on 18-attempts and had a touchdown. Taylor Holleman had 2-catches for 61-yards. On defense, Nikolas Pahno led UMM with 13-tackles. Taylor Snow had 10-tackles and a sack.
Taylor Watkins looked solid for Crown. He was 12-26 passing for 144-yards and ran for 68-yards and the team’s lone touchdown. David McIntosh had 5-receptions for 84-yards. The Storm defense was led by Jeremiah Jones, who had 10-tackles.
The Crown College Storm are at home next week against Greenville. Kickoff is scheduled for 12 noon.
By Robert Pannier