MORRIS, MINN. - The University of Minnesota, Morris won the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference opener versus the Martin Luther College Knights in a 10-0 defensive battle. The Cougars scored on the opening kickoff, which would end up being their only touchdown on the day. The gusty winds forced both teams to run the ball a total of 96 times as the game lasted just over two and half hours.
This marked the first Cougar shut out since shutting out Trinity Bible 49-0 to start the 2009 season. It is the eighth shutout for UMM since joining the UMAC conference and the fifth shutout under head coach Todd Hickman.
The Cougars came out with a bang when freshman Dalton DeGraffenreid took the opening kick 88 yards to the endzone for a Cougar score thirteen seconds into the game. The rest of the first quarter remained a defensive battle as the Cougars and the Knights were unable to put points on the board.
The Cougars wasted no time scoring in the second when Cam Adel nailed a field goal from 25 yards out, putting the Cougars up 10-0. Sophomore corner Luke Evans picked off a pass late in the second quarter which ended up being the fourth turnover caused by a very strong defense in the first half. In the first half the defense would not be denied. The Cougars caused four fumbles, recovered three of them, and grabbed an interception.
The second half proved to be a defensive affair as both teams did not score a single point. Morris continued to take advantage of MLC mistakes, the most costly being a fumble at the UMM five-yard line as they were poised to put points on the board late in the third quarter after a drive that went 14 plays, 80 yards and ate up 6:16 on the clock. Martin Luther had the ball for over 17 minutes in the second half alone.
The offense was led by Leandro Dower who had 21 carries for a total of 76 yards. After setting a school record with 390 yards passing last week, UMM was just 7-of-15 for 71 yards proving that the wind was a big 12th man for both defenses.
In the second half Zach Kroells forced and recovered another fumble. The Cougar defense ended the day causing five turnovers. Martin Luther fumbled a total of eight times in the game as miss handling snaps, bad pitches and big hits haunted their offense.
The two teams were a combined 6-of-30 on third-down conversions as both defenses continued to step up when called upon.
Senior linebacker Zeke Miller led the way for UMM with 16 tackles and two sacks, one forcing a fumble. Evans also added seven tackles, 1.5 sacks, and an interception.
The Cougars hit the road this weekend Sept. 15 to play MacMurray in Jacksonville, Ill. Game time is set for 1 p.m. Last year's match up ended in a win for the Cougars, 28-3.