ST. PAUL, Minn. – The University of Minnesota Morris football team had 11 members of the team earn postseason honors from the UMAC. The Cougars had five players named First Team All-UMAC and another five earning Second Team All-UMAC recognition in addition to a Sportsmanship Award winner.
Representing Minnesota Morris on the first team were wide receiver Branden Carlson, offensive lineman Christian Diederich, defensive lineman Carter Wattenhofer, defensive back Hunter Infanger, and kick returner Garrett Elison.
The UMAC presents a Sportsmanship Award to one member of each conference program. The winner of the Sportsmanship Award for the Cougars was senior Connor Oldenburg, a defensive back from Mapleton, Minn.
Leading things off on the All-UMAC First Team was Branden Carlson, a product of Mayer, Minn. In his final season with the Cougars, Carlson played snaps on both offense and defense, but it was his work as a wide receiver that earned him an all-conference nod. In six UMAC contests, Carlson led the conference with 477 receiving yards and tied for the UMAC lead with seven receiving touchdowns. He also was third with 27 receptions. For the season, he was second in both receptions (46) and yards (775), while leading the UMAC with 10 receiving touchdowns.
The other offensive First Team member was Christian Diederich, a sophomore from Murdock, Minn. From his left tackle spot, Diederich protected the blind side for Marcus Reeb and was a huge part of an offense that totaled more than 28 points per game in UMAC play. The Cougars finished third in the conference in scoring offense and averaged 373.2 total yards per game, finishing second in the conference in passing offense.
On the defensive side of the ball, Carter Wattenhofer picked up First Team honors on the defensive line. A senior from Litchfield, Minn., Wattenhofer tied for the team lead in tackles for a loss (9.0) and was second in sacks (3.5) for the entire season. In UMAC play, he tallied 4.5 tackles for a loss and 2.5 sacks along with a forced fumble and a fumble recovery despite missing a game.
The other defensive First Team accolade went to defensive back Hunter Infanger, a sophomore from Osakis, Minn. The overall leading tackler for the Cougars on the season, Infanger had 79 tackles (33 solo) in 2021, including 3.0 for a loss and 1.0 sack. That total was good for third in the UMAC and he tacked on two fumble recoveries and an interception in UMAC play as well.
Making the All-UMAC First Team as a member of special teams was Garrett Elison, a sophomore from Jerome, Idaho, who served multiple purposes within the Cougar offense. As a return man, Elison was second in the UMAC in conference games with 13 returns for 303 yards (an average of 23.3 yards per return). Additionally, he finished second on the team in rushing yards with 452 on just 79 carries, an average of 5.5 yards per carry. He found the end zone five times on the ground and added a passing touchdown in a Cougar win at Finlandia University. As a receiving target, Elison hauled in 14 passes for 111 yards.
The backfield tandem of quarterback Marcus Reeb and running back Blake Johnson were the offensive honorees on the Second Team for the Cougars. Reeb, a sophomore from Toronto, Ont., was the most accurate passer in the UMAC during conference games, completing 93-of-148 passes (62.8%) for 1,218 yards. His 13 touchdown passes in UMAC games tied for the conference lead as he averaged 203.0 yards per contest through the air. He racked up 1,919 passing yards on the season, while totaling 18 touchdowns against only three interceptions. Reeb was also a threat on the ground, ranking 15th in the UMAC in rushing yards in conference play with 152 on 50 carries. He was third on the team overall for the season with 102 carries for 370 yards and six touchdowns.
Johnson, a junior from Cokato, Minn., was the leading rusher in 2021 for the Cougars. In six UMAC games, Johnson had 83 carries for 476 yards (5.7 ypc) and four touchdowns. On the season he racked up a total of 131 carries for 672 yards. He was a reliable receiving threat for Minnesota Morris as well, finishing behind only Carlson with 30 receptions for 209 yards.
A pair of freshmen were named Second Team All-UMAC in defensive lineman Carter Maurice and linebacker Alex Emmrich. Maurice, a Boissevain, Man., product, came on strong as the year progressed and finished tied with Wattenhofer for the team lead in tackles for a loss (9.0), while leading the Cougars in sacks (4.5) on the season. He ranked in the top-five in the UMAC in both categories during conference play.
Emmrich, coming to Minnesota Morris from Rogers, Minn., was third on the team in tackles with 63 (34 solo) on the season and had two interceptions and a forced fumble in UMAC games. His 48 tackles during the six UMAC games this season ranked 11th overall in the conference.
The final member of an All-UMAC squad was sophomore kicker Alex Happ from Brighton, Colo. Happ finished 11th in the UMAC overall with 39 points scored on the season, finishing with two made field goals and going 33-of-38 on extra points. His one made field goal in UMAC play provided the margin of victory on Homecoming in a 38-35 win over Westminster College. Happ averaged 49.3 yards per kickoff for the season and also had 10 punts with an average of 29.8 yards per kick.
Minnesota Morris wrapped up the 2021 campaign with a 5-5 overall record, including a 4-2 mark in the UMAC. Both the team’s overall and conference win totals were the highest since 2016, while the number of All-UMAC honorees for the Cougars was the highest since 2008.