Looking Back: Laker-Sioux Bowl I

It was just six years ago that North Dakota and Grand Valley met for the first time. At the time, no one knew a rivalry would begin that day that would define D2 football over the next few years. GVSU was without starting QB Curt Anes, but gave a valiant effort. GVReport looks back at that first meeting.

Little did anybody know that the first meeting between the North Dakota Fighting Sioux and the Grand Valley State University Lakers in the 2001 Division II National Championship game would turn into an epic playoff rivalry. Not many other schools have had the privilege of having such a heated rivalry in college football with post-season implications on the line...at least not with a team from a different conference (Sorry, Michigan/Ohio State).

It just makes the rivalry that much better. Playing all season, only to know that at the end of the year, fighting for a spot in the National Championship game, you're probably meeting up with the same team from halfway across the country as you've met up with every other year.

Laker-Sioux Bowl I took place on December 8, 2001, in Florence, Alabama where GVSU and UND met up to decide the Division II National Championship (GVSU was still in the Northeast Region, while UND was in the Northwest Region).

The Lakers dominated the competition all season, racking up nearly 700 points going into the National Championship game, beating opponents by an average score of 53-16.

However, in the National Championship game, they would be without future D2 All-American and Harlon Hill winning quarterback, Curt Anes, who was injured earlier in the playoffs.

The game was a defensive battle, as the Laker-Sioux Bowls would turn out to usually be. North Dakota struck first, driving down the field after the opening kickoff and hitting a 36-yard field goal from the leg of Cameron Peterka to take a 3-0 lead.

Grand Valley punched it into the endzone first, however, when backup quarterback Ryan Brady took it in from 2 yards out to put the Lakers up 7-3 with almost 6 minutes left in the 1st quarter. Brady wound up being a primary running attack for the Lakers, rushing for 89 yards on the day, while another backup QB, Todd Wojciehowski, led the passing attack for Grand Valley. Wojciehowski completed passes of 19 and 20 yards to All-American receiver David Kircus before Brady took the helm and tallied an 18-yard run down to the 5 to set-up the eventual touchdown.

The rest of the first half of this game featured 2 turnovers by the Lakers and 3 missed field goals by the Sioux in a sloppy start to the National Championship. Grand Valley had made a drive in the 2nd quarter, but Wojciehowski was intercepted on the goal-line by North Dakota's Mike O'Neil, who picked off 2 passes in the half.

North Dakota took back the lead early in the 4th quarter, when quarterback Kelby Klosterman ran 9 yards for go-ahead touchdown. Klosterman did most of his damage on the ground, as did the entire Sioux offense, running for 61 yards while only completing 8 of 27 passes for 139 yards in the damp weather. Grand Valley's Todd Wojciehowski didn't fare much better, completing 11 of 22 passes for 128 yards.

The Lakers, however, looked like they were going to come back and win their first national title when Ryan Brady got into the endzone for the 2nd time, scoring on a 12-yard run with 2:46 to play.

UND responded in a big way though, taking the next drive 80 yards in 9 plays. Facing a 4th down that would decide the game, Kelby Klosterman got 58 yards passing on one play when he found Luke Schleusner on a pass that got the Sioux down to the 1-yard line.

UND running back Jed Perkerwiez, who led the Sioux offense with 96 yards rushing on the play, drove a dagger into the heart of Grand Valley with only a 1 of those yards, when on the next play he punched it in to give North Dakota the 17-14 lead with 29 seconds to play.

North Dakota held on to win their first, and still only, Division II National Championship.

And so began the most heated playoff rivalry in Division II football history.

Check back all week as GVReport looks back other previous UND-GVSU contests.

GV Report Top Stories