UND FOOTBALL: 2001 national title team to be inducted into UND Hall of Fame
Since joining the UND football staff this summer, Luke Schleusner has been reminded about "The Catch" perhaps once a week. This week, he's heard a lot more about the catch he made in 2001 -- a play that is one of the biggest in Sioux history. "I ...
Since joining the UND football staff this summer, Luke Schleusner has been reminded about "The Catch" perhaps once a week.
This week, he's heard a lot more about the catch he made in 2001 -- a play that is one of the biggest in Sioux history.
"I probably heard about that play about once a month when I was coaching in Mankato," Schleusner said of his six seasons with the Mavericks. "Now that I'm here, it's more like once a week."
On Saturday, Schleusner will be reminded about it a number of times as the former Sioux receiver and his teammates from the 2001 national Division II championship team will be inducted into the UND Athletics Hall of Fame.
Approximately 50 players from the 2001 team are expected to return for the induction ceremony. The team also will be honored during Saturday's 46th annual Potato Bowl at the Alerus Center, where No. 21 UND will take on Black Hills State.
Schleusner's catch was one of the more memorable moments from the 2001 season, one in which the Sioux played 10 home games and finished with a 14-1 record.
Against Grand Valley State in the national title game, UND's title hopes rested on converting a fourth-and-4 with a minute to play. The Lakers had scored with less than three minutes to play to take a 14-10 lead.
UND coach Chris Mussman, then the team's offensive coordinator, called for the stick route -- a play designed to pick up five yards. Quarterback Kelby Klosterman avoided a Grand Valley blitz and hit Schleusner over the middle. Schleusner caught the ball, broke a tackle and ran to the Grand Valley 1-yard line.
His 58-yard reception set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Jed Perkerewicz on the next play, giving UND a 17-14 win and a national title.
"The stick route was our best third-down play from that season," said Schleusner, who is the UND tight ends coach. "It was a medium-type yardage play, good for about six or seven yards. They brought an all-out blitz. Once I broke the tackle, there was no one there.
"I think we all were in shock after that play. Then we realized we were going to win the national championship. Luckily, Jed pounded it into the end zone on the next play."
A handful of connections remain from the 2001 title team.
Schleusner and Josh Kotelnicki played on that team and now are assistant coaches. Mike Mannausau, now the team's associate head coach and co-defensive coordinator, was a graduate assistant in 2001. And receivers coach Tim Belmore was an assistant with the Sioux in 2001.
"It's still a tight-knit group," Mussman said. "We all stay in touch."
Mussman said it took a couple of days for him to realize the magnitude of that special season.
"It was such a surreal moment," Mussman said. "It was the first time for us coaches and the players to be in that environment.
"But it really didn't sink in until we came home. The following Monday we had a reception at the Alerus and it was really impressive to see how many people showed up. Then Dale (Lennon) got his mustache shaved off. That's when it sunk in."
Lennon, with his trademark mustache, was the UND coach at the time. He's now the coach at Southern Illinois, where two of his assistants -- Bubba Schweigert and Eric Schmidt -- also played key roles during the 2001 season.
Schweigert was the Sioux defensive coordinator in 2001, while Schmidt -- a linebacker -- made the last tackle in the title game, setting off a wild celebration for the Sioux.
That celebration will resume Saturday.
"It will be fun to see all of the guys again," Mussman said.
Who: Black Hills State at UND.
When: 6 p.m. Saturday, Alerus Center.
Radio: The Fox (96.1 FM).
Records: UND 1-2; Black Hills 1-3.
Of note: UND has won eight straight Potato Bowl games.
Nelson reports on sports. Reach him at (701) 780-1268; (800) 477-6572, ext. 268; or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org .