All-American cornerback Marcus Williams will not play today when North Dakota State plays Youngstown State in a game that could decide the Missouri Valley Football Conference title, Bison head coach Craig Bohl said.
Williams suffered what was deemed a slight MCL strain in his right knee during the Bison's 28-7 victory over Illinois State in Fargo last weekend. Williams sat out the second half of that game.
When asked this morning whether Williams would play, Bohl said, "No. I don't think so."
Marcus Williams (Photo courtesy NDSU)
Early in the week, Bohl hinted Williams might be able to play against the Penguins. When comparing the chances of banged-up receiver Ryan Smith and WIlliams playing, Bohl gave the edge to Smith.
"Marcus is a day-to-day thing. We'll find out more during practices this week," Bohl said at his weekly press conference Monday.
Sophomore Jordan Champion will take Williams' place. C.J. Smith will be the other starter, as usual. Zach Colvin will be the first backup, taking over Brendin Pierre's role. Pierre has been slowed this week by a hamstring injury suffered against Illinois State.
While ranked No. 1 in the Football Championship Subdivision, NDSU's defense is hurting. Starting middle linebacker Grant Olson will miss the rest of the season after suffering a knee injury against Illinois State. Nickel back Bryan Sheppard has also been slowed by injury.
Williams' absence comes at a bad time for the Bison. Youngstown State is the top-ranked offense in the conference, averaging 429 total yards and 37.5 points per game overall. Senior quarterback Kurt Hess is completing 64 percent of his passes and has 20 TD throws and only four interceptions this season.
If NDSU (6-0 MVFC, 9-0 overall) wins today, it will clinch its third straight conference title and get an automatic bid into the FCS playoffs. A victory would also likely clinch the top seed for the playoffs, meaning NDSU would get home-field advantage until the championship game. A Youngstown State (5-1 MVFC, 8-2 overall) win would put the Penguins in first place of the conference. A win today and next week against South Dakota State would give the league title and automatic bid to Youngstown State.
(Mike McFeely is a talk-show host on KFGO-AM in Fargo, N.D. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MikeMcFeelyKFGO.)