Konrath comes back from injuryWhen University of North Dakota wide receiver Ryan Konrath suffered an injury in the season opener against Texas Tech, Sioux coaches weren’t sure about the future of the fifth-year player’s career. “We didn’t know if he would play again,” receivers coach Tim Belmore said.
GRAND FORKS (AP) — When University of North Dakota wide receiver Ryan Konrath suffered an injury in the season opener against Texas Tech, Sioux coaches weren’t sure about the future of the fifth-year player’s career.
“We didn’t know if he would play again,” receivers coach Tim Belmore said.
But Konrath returned to the Sioux quicker than anyone thought. His emergence as UND’s No. 2 receiver has ignited an offense coming off its strongest passing performance of the season going into Saturday’s Potato Bowl game against Stony Brook.
Konrath, who missed only one game because of the injury, turned in career highs in catches (six) and yards (77) in UND’s 27-12 homecoming win over South Dakota on Saturday.
Among the six catches were three for first downs out of third-and-long situations. Facing third-and-10 in the first quarter, UND quarterback Jake Landry hit Konrath for a 31-yard pass. In the third quarter, Konrath caught a 10-yard pass on third-and-10 and a 12-yard pass on third-and-8 to extend key drives.
“Over the first four games, Ryan’s been the guy making the big catches,” Belmore said. “Whether it was at the goal line or on third down, he’s been working his butt off on every play.”
Sioux sophomore Ismael Bamba has established himself as UND’s deep threat. He has 21 catches for 386 yards and two touchdowns, averaging 18.4 yards per catch. Konrath has been a valuable complement.
“Ismael is a big threat,” Konrath said. “Everyone knows that.
“I’ll do whatever. I’ll get us a first down or move the chains. I’ll go across the middle, or I’ll go deep.”
For the season, Konrath has 15 catches for 154 yards and a touchdown.
“I think Konrath is the glue to the receiving corps,” Landry said. “He’s a hard-worker and scrappy, a good guy to have on offense.”
The injury against Texas Tech is just the latest obstacle Konrath has had to overcome in his Sioux career. He also had to adjust to a position change. Konrath, a native of White Bear Lake, Minn., came to UND as a quarterback.
Konrath, at 6 foot 2 and 193 pounds, spent his first three years at UND playing quarterback, and threw a touchdown pass in UND’s 2007 season-opener against Humboldt State.
“I knew there wasn’t a lot of opportunity to play quarterback,” Konrath said. “To be honest, I wasn’t a great QB. I could run around a little bit.”
At White Bear Lake High School, Konrath was known for his running. As a senior, he passed for 450 yards and ran for 900.
Konrath said he thinks being a one-time quarterback has helped his chemistry with Landry.
“I knew the routes and the concepts,” Konrath said. “Me and Jake are on the same page reading coverages when I’m going out for a pass.”
Konrath’s transition to wide receiver came about slowly. In five games in 2007, he caught one ball for 2 yards. In 2008, he played in nine games and caught 11 passes for 79 yards.
Konrath’s role has expanded this season and his work ethic and leadership skills have been valued by Sioux coaches.
“He works as hard as anyone on our team,” Belmore said. “He has really earned the opportunity for himself on offense. He’s given our offense confidence, and he adds some leadership to the team. Coming back from that injury, he showed that he’s mentally and physically pretty tough.”
And he’s become a valuable piece to a work-in-progress offense.
“As an offense, we’re getting where we need to be,” Konrath said. “Against South Dakota, we had 200 yards rushing and Jake threw for almost 300. Everyone’s on the same page, and we’re feeling good about how we’re jelling.”