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Jeff Kolpack, Published December 07 2013

Kolpack: A little bit of history just adds to career of NDSU's Williams

Fargo - Marcus Williams was better known in high school as a basketball player who also was a receiver on the football team. He was a guard on an undefeated Minnesota state championship team at Hopkins that could have beaten most prep teams in the country.

Two years later, he surfaced at North Dakota State. As a football player. A defensive back, to boot.

It hasn’t been the easiest of senior years for Williams because of back, hand and knee injuries, yet he showed something that was more impressive than an interception.

He showed leadership. This is not the same guy who four years ago had people wondering if he was going to play basketball for the Bison, too. He is a young mature adult.

Last Tuesday, defensive coordinator Chris Klieman looked into his crystal ball so to speak and said Marcus was going to make a big play Saturday in the second round of the FCS playoffs. Klieman was right.

Williams returned an interception 61 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter that essentially was the last straw for Furman University. The plane that carried Furman University back to South Carolina might as well stay there because another team from that state is returning next weekend for the quarterfinals.

The 38-7 win in front of 18,455 fans means Coastal Carolina will be the next opponent at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome. Like Furman’s Reese Hannon, the Chanticleers will bring another good quarterback to Fargo.

But NDSU also has No. 1 back in the lineup.

“It’s about time,” Williams said. “It felt good to be out there with my teammates again.”

His big play gave Williams the FCS record for most interception returns for a touchdown with seven. Records are meant to be broken of course, but that one may stand for a while.

To his credit, Williams said he wasn’t aware of the record in the first place and did what senior leaders do: Deflect credit to his team.

“It’s a great thing we have going on at North Dakota State,” he said. “Nobody takes the blame and nobody takes the glory. We’re all in it as one. It’s not all me making plays out there, it’s all of us. I’m honored, but I feel like it’s everybody’s award.”

Williams’ 21st career interception led to this question: What do Eastern Washington, Minnesota, Illinois State, Youngstown State, Western Illinois, Delaware State and now Furman have in common? They’ve all seen No. 1 go the other way with a pick-six.

“When he’s out there, he’s a big difference maker,” said NDSU safety Bryan Shepherd. “It’s nice just having him out there with his leadership. It’s a big lift for our defense.”

With 21, he tied Illinois State’s Jeff Smith (1985-88) for second place on the all-time Missouri Valley Football Conference list. About the only question was whether his sprained MCL would allow him to outsprint every Paladins player to the end zone.

He went untouched.

“He made a good break on the ball,” Hannon said. “That was really good defense. I left it a little outside and he made a good break on it.”

The win was the 21st straight for NDSU and leaves them at 12-0. With two straight national titles, Bison fans are watching history in the making.

They’re also watching the coaching search websites, such as the one on Saturday that speculated head coach Craig Bohl would be a good match for Wyoming.

The Cowboys are holding a news conference today to name their coach, and nobody with football knowledge around Laramie had a clue who as of Saturday night. Bohl does not comment on coaching matters and athletic director Gene Taylor said after the game he hadn’t heard anything.

Coaching rumors are common with a successful program. So are players making plays.

That’s what you got with Marcus Williams on Saturday.

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546. Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia