A Daniel Garrigan to Nate Holleman 35-yard touchdown pass with 2:02 remaining sealed a 24-21 road win for the University of Minnesota, Morris at MacMurray College Saturday. It was Holleman's second touchdown grab on the afternoon.
Holding the Highlanders to 21 points must have inspired a sense of accomplishment for defensive coordinator Raven Battle and his unit. A week ago at the Metrodome, while waiting to take on Macalester, the Cougars watched MacMurray score 68 points against Crown College.
After a MacMurray touchdown to start the game, the Cougars drove to the Highlander two-yard line before a false start penalty would push them back. They settled for a 25-yard Matt Privratsky field goal.
The Cougars went up 10-7 in the second quarter when quarterback Derrick Foss found sophomore wideout Devon Johnson for a 20-yard score, capping off a 90-yard drive.
The Highlanders picked up another touchdown for a 14-10 halftime lead.
In the third quarter, running back John Russow set up another Cougar score when he returned a MacMurray punt to their 35-yard line. A few plays later, Garrigan hit Holleman on a slant pass. Holleman broke it into a 25-yard score for a 17-14 lead.
Later in the third, with the ball on the UMM 10-yard line, MacMurray called an end zone fade route to their 6-8 wide receiver, Marc Randall. Cougar defensive back Shannon Cleare-Glover was in perfect position to defend the pass when Randall pulled him down by the shoulder pads with his free arm. The officials didn't see the infraction, Randall caught the ball, and the Highlanders were back in the lead, 21-17.
After the teams exchanged punts into the fourth quarter, Garrigan took the helm again and led another drive into MacMurray territory with time winding down. Facing a 1st and 10 on the MacMurray 20-yard line, the Cougars failed to pick up any yards with successive running plays. Then on third down, Garrigan was sacked for a 13-yard loss, giving UMM a four and 23 with 2:10 on the clock.
Out of field goal range, the Cougars ran another pass play. Holleman streaked into the left side of the end zone as Garrigan hurled a high ball in his direction. Holleman and the MacMurray defender had simultaneous possession in the air, but by the time they landed, Holleman had wrested the ball away for the score.
But the game was hardly over. In less than a minute and a half, the Highlanders drove to the UMM 25-yard line with seconds remaining. With no timeouts, and having failed to pick up a first down on 3rd and five, the MacMurray quarterback mistakenly spiked the ball on the next snap in an attempt to stop the clock. But it was fourth down. The Cougars' offense would take a knee for the 24-21 win.
Perhaps as difficult as the game was the 10-hour bus ride to Jacksonville, Illinois.
"When you go that far, winning justifies that big bus ride. Everyone battled and coming home was a lot easier," said offensive coordinator Matt Johnson after the game.
The victory improves the Cougars' record to 4-5 on the season. With a win next weekend in the home season finale against Lawrence University, they could get back to .500, something head coach Todd Hickman challenged his team to do a couple weeks back.