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Landry takes the reins

Jake Landry's first half as a college quarterback is a bit of UND football lore. In practice leading up to a 2007 NCAA Division II playoff game against Grand Valley State, the freshman backup Landry attempted to plant his foot to make a throw and...

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UND quarterback Jake Landry practices Saturday at UND's Memorial Stadium. Herald photo by Eric Hylden.

Jake Landry's first half as a college quarterback is a bit of UND football lore.

In practice leading up to a 2007 NCAA Division II playoff game against Grand Valley State, the freshman backup Landry attempted to plant his foot to make a throw and partially tore his meniscus.

"He was a game-time decision against Grand Valley," said UND football coach Chris Mussman, who was offensive coordinator at the time. "Dale (Lennon) and I knew we better have another quarterback ready."

Sure enough, starting quarterback Danny Freund suffered a collarbone injury late in the first half with the Sioux trailing 14-0.

Landry, who could hardly walk the day before the game, played the second half. He completed 8 of 12 passes for 110 yards and a touchdown.

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The Sioux lost 21-14, but the young Landry gained the respect of his teammates.

"Jake was stuck in a position to fail, but he gave us a chance to win at the end," Mussman said. "What he showed was the ability to play through the pain and battle until the end. We bring up that situation sometimes because we think that was a big turning point for him."

It's that toughness -- and unmatched arm strength -- that the Sioux will rely on this season from Landry, who enters the year as the starting quarterback.

Downfield options

"His No. 1 attribute is obviously his arm strength," Mussman said. "He's able to fit the ball in windows most other people couldn't."

UND's coaches hope the Sioux have the wide receivers to complement the arm strength of Landry, who was a three-sport star at Grand Forks Central.

Landry's lone touchdown pass last season was a 61-yard bomb to the speedy Ismael Bamba in the Potato Bowl against Wisconsin-La Crosse. Bamba, now a sophomore, is among a handful of downfield options for Landry.

"Chris Anderson can also stretch the field," Mussman said. "He's been unfortunate with some injuries so far in his career. Ryan Dressler and Ryan Konrath have also shown some good things through the first few days of practice."

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Landry also pointed out receiver Matt Cole, a California junior college transfer last season.

"He worked hard in the offseason and it's showed," Landry said.

Apart from a strong arm, teammates have also noticed Landry's leadership qualities.

"Jake's a great player; he's got a cannon for an arm," said Sioux running back Catlin Solum, who played against Landry in high school at Fargo South. "I've known him for a few years now, and he's a great guy and a great leader.

"He'll be the one in the huddle to gather the guys and tell everybody what we need to do. He'll be a leader out there. So far he's done great."

Reeling in the arm

Mussman added, though, that arm strength can be two-faced.

"On the flip side, that can lead to the Brett Favre mentality where you think you can fit the ball into any window and you put your team in jeopardy," Mussman said.

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Playing behind Freund last season, Landry got in four games, completing 3 of 4 passes for 77 yards.

Landry admits he doesn't have a lot of game experience. "I got in a couple of times, but nothing to write home to mom about," he said.

However, he has gained experience in the classroom.

"Learning under Danny, I learned a lot watching film," Landry said. "Danny wasn't a stuck up guy. He helped me, and I learned a lot from him."

Miller reports on sports. Reach him at (701) 780-1121; (800) 477-6572, ext. 121; or send e-mail to tmiller@gfherald.com .

Related Topics: UND FOOTBALLUND SPORTS
Miller has covered sports at the Grand Forks Herald since 2004 and was the state sportswriter of the year in 2019.

His primary beat is UND football but also reports on a variety of UND sports and local preps.

He can be reached at (701) 780-1121, tmiller@gfherald.com or on Twitter at @tommillergf.
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