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Final preparation; Perry back to form after struggling with knee injury

FARGO — It was getting to the point where the brace on Leevon Perry’s knee was starting to feel like a concrete block rather than a protective measure. Well past a year from when he was injured, the North Dakota State senior took matters into his own hands.

He got rid of it.

Whether it’s coincidental or not, the Bison defensive tackle has turned in his best three consecutive games in the Division I FCS playoffs after shelving the brace.

“It got to the point where it was uncomfortable to play with,” Perry said, “and as soon as I took it off, I could do the things the old me used to do.”

The old Perry came to an abrupt halt last year in the regular season game against South Dakota State. He tore his ACL and had microfracture surgery, a procedure that caused him to miss spring football and most of summer workouts.

The four-year starter — he started all 14 games as a freshman — returned this season. He’s tied for fourth on the team in quarterback sacks with four, has 6.5 tackles for lost yardage and perhaps most importantly, leads the team in quarterback hurries with nine.

It’s obvious he’s made life uncomfortable for quarterbacks — especially in postseason play. He had a quarterback sack and scooped up a fumble and returned it seven yards for a touchdown in the semifinal win over New Hampshire.

“It’s my last go-around, and I want to leave everything out there,” Perry said.

“It’s been some good football but I think the best is yet to come.”

That would be today in the FCS title game against Towson University (Md.) at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas. Perry is part of a defensive line that is expected to have its hands full against the Tigers’ offensive line and standout running back Terrance West.

“He’s a great player, naturally gifted,” West said. “He’s not going to give up when you hit him. He’s going to keep his feet moving. He plays with great passion for the game so we’re going to have to match it or he’s going to run all over us.”

Williams selected for East-West Shrine Game

Senior cornerback Marcus Williams became the second Bison player to accept an invitation to a post-season all-star game when he was selected to play in the East-West Shrine Game. The 89th annual contest will be played Jan. 18 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Earlier, left tackle Billy Turner accepted an invite for the Senior Bowl Jan. 25 in Mobile, Ala. Like that game, all 32 NFL teams will be represented at the East-West game.

“Our players have the terrific opportunity to showcase their talents and get their first glimpse of life in the NFL,” Shrine Game executive director Harold Richardson said in a statement.

Morton’s coaching tree ends with Klieman hire

When Chris Klieman takes over as the Bison head coach after today’s title game, it will mark an end of era of sorts for former Bison head coach Don Morton. The last four NDSU head coaches were all assistants under Morton at one time.

When Morton left for the University of Tulsa after the 1984 season, Bison assistant Earle Solomonson was named the head coach.

Solomonson left for Montana State after back-to-back Division II championships in 1985 and 1986. NDSU kept to its formula by hiring assistant coach Rocky Hager.

Hager lasted 10 years. And when NDSU went outside the staff for the next head coach, Bob Babich was brought to Fargo. Babich was an assistant under Morton at Tulsa and Wisconsin.

Babich left after the 2002 season. Craig Bohl, who was an assistant under Morton at NDSU in 1984, Tulsa and Wisconsin, was hired.

“They were all assistant coaches who you knew were destined to be head coaches,” Morton said.

That said, he said Klieman was the right pick by athletic director Gene Taylor.

“I’m excited about the choice Gene made,” Morton said.

Etc. etc. etc.

— The ESPN2 broadcast team today will consist of Anish Shroff at the play-by-play, analyst Kelly Stouffer and Cara Capuano with sideline reports. It’s the same crew that did NDSU’s semifinal game with New Hampshire at Gate City Bank at the Fargodome.

— The Bison will be wearing their yellows jerseys and gold pants, a familiar playoff look for the team. They are 14-0 in the uniform including 5-0 this season.

— Bison running back Sam Ojuri needs 79 yards to pass Jake Morris and move into third place on the school’s all-time rushing list. Morris had 3,688 yards from 1994-97. Lamar Gordon (1998-01) remains the leader and Kyle Steffes (2003-06) is No. 2.

— New Hampshire’s touchdown in the closing seconds of the semifinal game was just the second TD NDSU has given up in the fourth quarter. The other came against Missouri State. Some of that can be attributed to NDSU’s offense leading the country in time of possession at 34:12 a game.

— Towson is the sixth team from the Colonial Athletic Association to play for a national title joining Massachusetts, Delaware, James Madison, Villanova and Richmond. “The competition toughens you,” Towson head coach Rob Ambrose said. “If we didn’t play in the CAA, I’m not sure we would have made it to the championship game.”

Jeff Kolpack
Jeff Kolpack covers North Dakota State athletics, the Fargo Marathon and golf for The Forum. His blog can be accessed at On the radio, Kolpack & Izzo sports talk show runs from 9-11 a.m. every Saturday morning. April through August, the WDAY Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack runs from 8-9 a.m.