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NDSU athletic director says football players charged in petition fraud scandal won't be suspended

Marcus Williams of North Dakota State advances against Colorado State on Saturday, Aug. 8, 2012, in Fort Collins, Colo. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

North Dakota State's football team made two statements Saturday night: It is a very good football team and it is a very angry football team.

With all the publicity over this past week's petition fraud looming over them, the Bison took out their frustrations on Colorado State with a dominating 22-7 victory.

After the 6,000 Bison fans who made the trip to Fort Collins celebrated yet another win over a big-time opponent, they couldn't help but wonder if any of the Bison players are going to eventually face suspensions for their involvement in the highly publicized petition fraud case.

NDSU athletic director Gene Taylor quickly answered that question after the game:

"There are not going to be any suspensions," Taylor emphatically said after the game. "These kids don't deserve a suspension. I'm not going to suspend them and neither is Craig (head coach Craig Bohl). As far as we are concerned, it is over."

This statement was made with NDSU President Dean Bresciani standing only a few feet away. Bresciani said he did not want to comment, saying he does not comment on inner-department matters.

This statement, no doubt, is going to add plenty of fodder for those who think the current 10 Bison players who were charged for forging names on petition drives should be suspended. There were even some Bison boosters at Saturday's pregame tailgating festivities who were anticipating some sort of suspension once these players have their day in court.

"What's going to happen in court, in my opinion, is going to be a lot less than what people think," Taylor said. "At the end of the day, these kids have been through enough."

One of those kids is junior All-America defensive back Marcus Williams, who declined to be interviewed after the game. He did his talking on the field of Hughes Stadium.

His 53-yard kickoff return and 64-yard punt return sparked the Bison to a 16-7 lead. His third-down pass breakup eventually set up a blocked field goal.

His interception set up a field goal that gave the Bison a 19-7 halftime lead.

"Marcus Williams had great focus, great focus all week long," said Bohl. "He really wanted to play well tonight."

When asked if off-the-field distractions like last week's petition fraud charges can make a team even more focused, Bohl responded:

"I want to be real clear, this didn't happen by chance ... OK?" Bohl said. "It was a methodical plan that those guys put together all week long and came out and performed really well. And that occurred because these guys had a great week of practice and came in a beat good football team."

Earlier in the week, Bohl had said he would make a decision on his charged players after they had their day in court. He also delivered an emotional speech to his players earlier in the week, according to senior center Joe Lund.

"He told us there is a lot of hating on you right now," Lund said. "It's really the first time I've seen him so emotional.

"There was the thorn in the side, some salt in the wound. There were a lot of people kind of doubting us and kind of bad-mouthing us for a couple of players who decided to do a criminal activity."

For the record, what the charged players did is considered a Class A misdemeanor. Fifteen current or former players are scheduled to appear in Cass County District Court Oct. 2.

By then, the Bison will have played Prairie View A&M and Northern Iowa. And four days after that court date, they are scheduled to have a showdown with Youngstown State, which was the only team that beat the Bison during last year's national championship run.

Just when Bison fans thought they may be without the services of Williams, three other starters and three key backups for that game, Taylor eased those fears Saturday night.

"It's over," Taylor reiterated. "They felt horrible, they felt horrible. Every day, their pictures are in the paper, day after day after day. It gets and old and it does get to them.

"They were villified many times over and to come out and perform like they did, it's hats off to them. I'm tired of talking about it and I'm tired of seeing it in the paper. People need to move on because it's not changing."

Readers can reach Forum Sports Editor Kevin Schnepf at (701) 241-5549 or Schnepf's NDSU media blog can be found