Forever UND

When the words "fourth-and-four" is spoken, University of North Dakota fans know exactly what it's about. It's a play which is burned in the memories of every UND football fan and will last forever on the Grand Forks campus. It was a play which h...

When the words "fourth-and-four" is spoken, University of North Dakota fans know exactly what it's about.

It's a play which is burned in the memories of every UND football fan and will last forever on the Grand Forks campus.

It was a play which helped win the Fighting Sioux their first-ever Division II National Championship and also earned that 2001 team to be inducted into the UND Hall of Fame.

Two of those players who contributed during the 2001 season live in Detroit Lakes as medical/dental professionals.

DL native and 2000 DLHS graduate Ryan Manke was a redshirt freshman cornerback on the team, while Jed Perkerewicz was the starting senior tailback for the Sioux that season.


Manke now works at Lakeridge Dental as a dentist since July 2010, while Perkerewicz is an OBGYN at Sanford Health in DL.

Both were on the opposite spectrums in grades, as Manke was a first-year player, while Perkerewicz was a valuable four-year tailback on a UND squad keyed by 18 seniors.

"We didn't select two or three captains for the season, instead we seniors took turns each game," said Perkerewicz, who hails from Washburn, N.D. "There were no superstars on the team, we didn't just have one person to carry us. From the start to finish, it truly was a complete team."

Manke was redshirted the previous season, one which was needed, since he was switched from quarterback -- the position he played at DL -- to cornerback.

"It was good to take that year and learn a new position," Manke said. "I was second string on the 2001 team, behind two All-Conference players (including All-American Craig Riendeau), so I had to play special teams, which I liked."

Manke still saw the field quite a bit as a cornerback, as he saw firsthand in front of him how good this Sioux defense really was.

"It was just an amazing defense," Manke said. "It was a team defense and you had to be smart to play the schemes."

The season saw the Sioux go 14-1, with the climax coming in the Division II National Championship, which was held in Florence, Ala., and a harrowing and intense 17-14 win over Grand Valley State (Mich.).


It was that fourth and four play which set up Perkerewicz' chance at immortality and one which will have that 2001 UND team held in the highest regard in Grand Forks, N.D.

A season leading up to fourth and four

With 18 seniors returning for the UND Sioux, the goals set by the 2001 team was at its highest ever.

The goal was to win the National Championship, something no other Sioux football team had ever done before them.

"Before the season, we all thought we had a chance to win the National Championship and that it was a realistic goal," Perkerewicz said. "I have been on teams with more talent, but they were missing that total team concept."

The Sioux were also breaking in their new toy, with 2001 being the first year of the Alerus Center.

With the cold, blustery Saturday games at Memorial Stadium behind them, the Alerus Center actually provided another big advantage for the Sioux during their playoff push.

The faster track, along with growing crowds started giving UND a strong home-field advantage.


"It was important for us to gain a high seed, because the Alerus Center did give us good home field advantage," said Manke. "Being inside didn't (soften us), because these guys were the most hard-nosed guys I've ever seen."

That hard-nose approach certainly showed through on defense, where the Sioux were monsters against opposing offenses.

They had 14 sacks in one game against New Haven, while shutting down in-state rival North Dakota State University in the Nickel Game in a 19-7 victory.

"NDSU was pretty highly-ranked before we played them and we shut them down that game," Manke said. "We didn't know quite what we had until after NDSU."

Depth was another huge strength for the Sioux, as Perkerewicz suffered a high-ankle sprain in the game against the Bison. He ended up missing three weeks, but by the time the playoffs rolled around, he was more than ready to go.

"I was back by the last game of the regular season and saw some time there," Perkerewicz said. "It lingered for three weeks after I hurt it, but by the time playoffs came, I was feeling pretty good."

UND earned the No. 1 seed in their region with just one loss on the season -- which came against Nebraska-Omaha in a 27-24 overtime loss.

The playoffs started by UND running roughshod over Winona State 42-28, in which quarterback Kelby Klosterman had 341 yards passing and six touchdowns.


That's what the 2001 Sioux team had, as well, almost perfect balance between defense and offense.

"When one of the units were not playing well that day, the other one would pick them up," Perkerewicz said.

The Sioux tossed a monkey off their back -- literally -- by smashing the Pittsburgh State Gorillas 38-0 inside the Alerus Center. The Gorillas had eliminated UND a couple times in previous seasons, so beating them that bad was just another confidence booster for an already flying-high team.

"After we beat Pittsburgh State, there was no doubt we felt we were a legitimate team to win the championship," Perkerewicz stated. "We just gained confidence with every game we won."

The defense came up big again in the semifinals at the Alerus Center, where the crowd was absolutely loud as could be. University of California -- Davis was shut down 14-2, with their only points coming when the Sioux took a voluntary safety late in the game.

Next up was Grand Valley State, who was coached by current Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly, with the winner claiming the D-II National title.

"Everything was different, but our preparation was the same," Perkerewicz said. "We had such a mature core group of players and seniors and (head coach) Dale Lennon kept it business as usual."

The start of the championship game was a little auspicious, as UND missed two field goals.


But as the game progressed, it became a slugfest, as each team went toe-to-toe.

When the fourth quarter came around and time was winding down, the Sioux found themselves down 14-10 and faced with a fourth and four deep in their own territory.

That's when Klosterman hit Luke Schleusner for a 58-yard gain, as the Sioux receiver broke a tackle and ran down the sideline to set up Perkerewicz' eventual game-winning touchdown run.

"When the play was called (Y-Stick route), we knew it was going to work, everyone did their job and it worked," said Perkerewicz of the fourth and four play and who's job was to pick up the blitz. "We blocked well and Schleusner made people miss.

"I ended up picking up a 250-pound linebacker on the blitz and I looked up and I thought Luke had scored, but they were just placing the ball where he went down."

The ball was at the two-yard line of Grand Valley State and Lennon sent the play in, calling Perkerewicz' number.

"I knew emotionally (Grand Valley State's) defense was emotionally drained after giving up that big play," Perkerewicz said. "I knew I had an excellent offensive line in front me, we checked on the play and I just got the corner and the defense over-committed."

As Perkerewicz crossed the goal line, he didn't really realize the ramifications of what he just did -- he secured UND's first-ever championship in football.


"I realized we just reached the ultimate goal we as seniors have been working for the last five years," Perkerewicz added. "It hit me when I turned around and all the guys were there.

"But I was just a small part of it of it all. I got the touchdown, but everyone there was a part of it. I don't like taking any of the accolades, because it was a team effort."

Now, 10 years later, even though the Alerus Center loud cheers for that 2001 team has died out, the memories are crisp and clear as can be.

The 2001 team was inducted into the UND Hall of Fame earlier this fall and now they will be a part of the college's history forever.

"I never dreamed being a part of that and being a part of it is amazing," Perkerewicz said. "It was amazing to be back there and show my kids what I was a part of and see guys I haven't seen since I graduated from UND."

For Manke, his ride wasn't done, as the Sioux returned to the National Championship in 2003, but coming up short against Grand Valley State.

But Manke had the time to enjoy playing football for the Sioux, along with his two younger brothers Reed and Rory.

And the 2001 National Championship still resonates with Kelly, who was on the losing end in that game.

"My brother, Reed, was at a convention where Kelly was speaking and (Reed) asked 'It's the National Championship and it's fourth and four, what do you look to do?'" Ryan said. "Kelly answered, look for the stick route. So he even still remembers it."

Manke even can claim a big play in the National Championship game that year.

"After Jed's touchdown, Grand Valley State had a big return, but it was called back because a guy was holding me on the play," Manke grinned. "So I got a few plays in there."

The 2001 Fighting Sioux football team has chiseled their name in stone and right into the lore of UND history.

What To Read Next
Get Local