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Eric Peterson, Published September 21 2013

Phil Hansen's big day capped by Bison blowout win

FARGO – It was hard to decide who had the best Bison pick Saturday – Phil Hansen or Marcus Williams.

Hansen, a former North Dakota State football great, picked his alma mater to beat Delaware State on the set of ESPN “College GameDay” in downtown Fargo. Williams, the senior Bison cornerback, had a 33-yard interception return for a touchdown late in the first quarter. Williams’ pick six helped spark the Bison to a 51-0 victory against Delaware State in Division I FCS play at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome.

“As soon as he picked it off, I said, ‘He’s out of here, six points,’ ” Bison head coach Craig Bohl said.

Williams has returned six interceptions for touchdowns in his career, tying an FCS record. William Hampton, who played for Murray State (Ky.) from 1993-96, also returned six interceptions for scores.

“I had no idea,” said Williams, who is the Bison career leader with 20 interceptions. “It’s a big accomplishment. I give a lot of thanks to my teammates and coaches.”

Williams didn’t watch Hansen get on the “GameDay” stage, which was surrounded by NDSU fans, and put on a Bison baseball cap to predict an NDSU victory right around 11 a.m. Hansen got the royal treatment as he was whisked to the set in a golf cart through a tunnel of fans.

“Easy pick for me,” Hansen said on the ESPN broadcast. “Bison are deep, they’re healthy and they’re hungry.”

On some of his picks, Hansen was met with a few, “Not so fast, my friend” retorts from ESPN’s Lee Corso.

“At some point, I might have said that to him. Unfortunately, I went first and he got me with his, ‘Not so fast,’ ” Hansen said with a laugh.

Corso agreed with Hansen on the NDSU selection. Corso illustrated his Bison prediction, emerging form the Fargo Theatre with a real-life bison, while wearing Thundar’s head.

Williams saw none of that by design. He wanted to make sure he was focused on the Hornets.

“I haven’t watched it yet. I told myself we still have a game to play,” Williams said. “I heard it was a good show. I heard they brought out a bison.”

Like he’s done many times in his career, Williams put on a show for the fans at Gate City Bank Field.

The Bison led 14-0 in the first quarter when he intercepted Delaware State quarterback Cory Murphy. Williams then weaved his way up the sideline 33 yards into the end zone, a score that gave the Bison a 20-0 lead with 2 minutes, 8 seconds remaining in the opening quarter. The rout was on from that point.

“I knew I was scoring the whole way,” Williams said. “As soon as I caught it, I saw nothing but green.”

Hansen said ESPN contacted him around 6 p.m. Friday, asking him to be the guest picker for “GameDay.” That was about an hour before Hansen was scheduled to officiate a high school football game in Hawley, Minn.

“I was a little nervous, but it all worked out fine,” said Hansen, who had to pick a series of primarily FBS games with the ESPN crew.

Hansen, who had an 11-year NFL career with the Buffalo Bills after he left NDSU, was impressed with the downtown “GameDay” scene.

“The people on top of the roofs were outstanding,” he said. “It’s just a fabulous thing to come to this area, something kind of unprecedented.”

The Bison players seemed unfazed by the hype surrounding the day and the week. Bohl said the team was allowed to visit the downtown “GameDay” set on Friday night. But it was back to business Saturday.

NDSU raced to a 41-0 halftime lead against Delaware State, gaining 322 yards in the first 30 minutes.

“Our guys had a hard edge and played really focused football for the entire football game,” Bohl said. “When they woke up this morning, they had a great look in their eye.”

“GameDay” coordinating producer Lee Fitting said Bison fans lived up to the hype, too. He called it one of the best “GameDay” shows ESPN has done.

“This is a combination of ‘College GameDay’ meets Wrigley Field meets Champions League soccer intensity,” Fitting said. “To see the people on the balconies and hanging out of windows and on the rooftops was something that we never get to experience. That was part of the charm of doing this show from downtown.”


Readers can reach Forum reporter Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.

Peterson’s blog can be found at peterson.areavoices.com