The Cougar football team struggled to stop a powerful and balanced Westminster College offense Saturday at Big Cat Stadium. The Blue Jays scored on their first five possessions en route to a 51-14 win over the University of Minnesota, Morris.
Westminster rushed 270 yards while picking up 264 through the air against a Cougar defense that had allowed only 96 yards on the ground and limited opposing quarterbacks to a 39 percent completion percentage in the two previous games.
Penalties hobbled the Cougars all game long, including a false start on the opening drive that turned a third and two into a third and seven. After an incomplete pass from freshman quarterback Daniel Garrigan, the Cougars were forced to punt.
Morris would yield 132 yards on 12 penalties for the afternoon.
On the ensuing drive, the Blue Jays went 69 yards in eight plays.
The Cougars sought to answer the score and picked up a first down on their next possession, before stalling at their own 44-yard line.
Westminster marched downfield again, finishing their drive in 2:55, capped off by a 36-yard touchdown run.
Down 13-0 with four minutes remaining in the first quarter, the Cougars regained some momentum from running back Robert Koranda who picked up 19 yards on the first two plays of the ensuing drive. However, a sack on Garrigan and a rush for no gain, left Morris faced with a fourth and 16 on the Blue Jays' 42-yard line.
Rather than punt, coach Todd Hickman decided to go for it. Garrigan dropped back to pass as his line stepped forward to set up a screen pass. Garrigan's pass was tipped by a rushing lineman, but Koranda managed to snag it inches off the ground and dashed up the Westminster sideline virtually untouched until the goal line where he dove in for the score. The PAT from Matt Privratsky made it 13-7.
Any chance for Morris to shift momentum was lost at the end of the first quarter and the Blue Jays scored on the first play of the second quarter and never looked back. Westminster created the next five scores, building a 51-7 lead in the fourth quarter, before a late Garrigan to Brady Rose touchdown pass closed out the scoring.
The Cougars finished the day with 165 offensive yards (73 rushing, 92 passing) and earned 11 first downs. On defense, safety Nate Lund led with seven tackles. Shane Fickes added six.
The return game was a bright spot in the afternoon as junior kick returners John Russow and Jerrod Nohner had a 20-yard average on nine returns, including a 54-yard run back from Russow that nearly broke for six.
The Cougars play at the College of St. Scholastica today in Duluth. They follow that with another road game at Martin Luther College before returning home to host Crown College for homecoming.