New 'No. 2' Marquise Williams leads Tar Heels to rout over UVa.
After changing his jersey number to No. 2 Saturday in honor of injured quarterback Bryn Renner, sophomore Marquise Williams did his best Renner imitation to lead North Carolina to its third straight win.
Williams threw for two touchdowns, ran for a score and even caught a touchdown pass as UNC defeated Virginia 45-14 at Kenan Stadium in the 118th edition of the South’s oldest rivalry.
The Tar Heels (4-5, 3-3 ACC) also recorded their first special teams and defensive touchdowns en route to their highest scoring game of the year and their most lopsided win over an ACC opponent since they beat Virginia 44-10 in 2010.
Williams finished 15 of 28 passing for 185 yards, ran 16 times for 46 yards and caught a 29-yard pass thrown by Quinshad Davis — the third touchdown throw by a receiver this season — while turning the ball over just once in his first start since Renner suffered a season-ending shoulder injury last week against N.C. State.
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“Just for me, watching him pregame, watching him in the locker room, watching how he interacted with the guys, he was as comfortable as he ever is,” UNC coach Larry Fedora said. “Nothing was changed about him, and he got out there and he managed the game very well.”
Williams said that Renner cried when he told the senior about his plan to wear No. 2 instead of his usual No. 12.
“It was emotional,” Williams said. “He just told me go out there and represent for the team and do it for you, and I was like, ‘Bryn, I’m doing this for you.’
“He took care of me and did everything he could for me. He was that role model and big brother figure I needed, and that’s why I dedicated the game to him.”
Williams entered the year with the reputation as a running quarterback, but he used his arm to put the Tar Heels ahead early in the mode of Renner, who finished his career as the school’s most accurate passer. Renner watched the Virginia game from his house after undergoing surgery on Wednesday.
Williams completed passes on third-and-13, third-and-12, third-and-9 and third-and-9 as UNC scored touchdowns on its opening two drives. Williams hit Davis for an 8-yard score first, and then Davis found Williams wide open on a pass off a reverse to put the Tar Heels up 14-0.
Ryan Switzer made it 21-0 midway through he second quarter with UNC’s first special teams touchdown of the season, an 85-yard punt return in which the true freshman initially dropped the ball, and then broke two tackles en route to the fourth-longest punt return in school history.
Tar Heels kicker Thomas Moore missed a 38-yard field goal to end the first half, but the Tar Heels scored on the opening possession of the second half to go up 28-0. Williams completed a 15-yard pass on third-and-10 while being pulled down, and then scored on a 3-yard keeper one play later against the Cavaliers (2-8, 0-6), who have lost seven straight games, six by double-digits.
Later in the third quarter, Williams committed his only turnover when he was hit as he threw and floated a pass that was picked off. But one play later, UNC’s defense went one better, as Dominique Green intercepted a pass by David Watford and went 62 yards for the TD.
Tar Heels senior Tré Boston outfought Virginia tight end Zachary Swanson in the fourth quarter for another interception as the defense continued its resurgence. After being unable to prevent big plays early in the season, UNC’s has allowed just six defensive touchdowns in the last four games.
“They’ve come a long way,” Fedora said. “You start getting some confidence and you feel good about yourself, you feel good about each other, and you feel a little bit more accountable to your teammates, so you work a little bit harder. And that’s what they’re doing.”
The Tar Heels have now beaten Virginia (2-8, 0-6) four straight times, with an average of margin of victory of 25 points. It was the first time since 1995 and 1997 that the UNC won consecutive games over the Cavaliers at Kenan.
“You have to feel like their morale or their confidence is shaky,” Fedora said. “So you want to try to jump on them early and keep that foot on their neck the whole way, and we were able to do that.”
UNC could have been the team in freefall after a 1-5 start. Instead, it’s Virginia who has lost seven in a row, while the Tar Heels now need two wins in their last three games — at Pittsburgh and home against Old Dominion and Duke — to make a bowl game.
|NORTH CAROLINA 45, VIRGINIA 14|
NC_Q.Davis 8 pass from Williams (T.Moore kick), 4:39.
NC_Williams 29 pass from Q.Davis (T.Moore kick), :00.
NC_Switzer 85 punt return (T.Moore kick), 5:42.
NC_Williams 3 run (T.Moore kick), 12:04.
UVa_Parks 8 run (Vozenilek kick), 4:53.
NC_Green 62 interception return (T.Moore kick), 2:34.
NC_Francis 15 pass from Williams (T.Moore kick), 12:50.
UVa_Johnson 23 pass from Lambert (Vozenilek kick), 11:38.
NC_FG T.Moore 24, 10:11.
|Time of Possession||33:32||26:28|
RUSHING_Virginia, Parks 24-100, Shepherd 4-11, Mizzell 3-9,
Lambert 3-(minus 4), Watford 6-(minus 4). North Carolina, Morris 4-48,
Williams 16-46, Logan 7-42, Francis 6-35, Blue 3-26, Brunson 2-4,
Washington 1-0, Coker 2-0.
PASSING_Virginia, Watford 14-30-2-129, Lambert 8-13-0-75.
North Carolina, Williams 15-28-1-185, Q.Davis 1-1-0-29.
RECEIVING_Virginia, Johnson 5-59, Mizzell 4-25, McGee 3-28,
Jennings 2-41, Parks 2-0, Gooch 1-17, T.Smith 1-15, Shepherd 1-10,
Terrell 1-5, Wingo-Reeves 1-4, Burns 1-0. North Carolina, Q.Davis 5-65,
Howard 2-33, Francis 2-22, Ebron 2-21, Tapley 2-18, Logan 1-30,
Williams 1-29, Thorpe 1-(minus 4).