DUELING QBs: Trubisky-Williams battle heats up
North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky didn’t throw for a touchdown or complete a 20-yard pass during Saturday’s spring game at Kenan Stadium.
Then again, he didn’t need to.
Though Trubisky didn’t have a highlight-reel moment, he led the offense to 38 points during the Blue team’s 38-17 win over the White team, ensuring that the quarterback competition between the redshirt freshman and rising junior Marquise Williams won’t be decided any time soon.
“Coach always talked about you don’t have to go out and make a big splash, you just have to move the ball and do your job,” Trubisky said. “I was itching for that splash — I wanted to get one in the end zone — but we moved the ball well today as an offense and I was really pleased with the effort.”
Both quarterbacks switched between Blue (the starters) and White (the backups) and finished with one interception and no touchdowns. Trubisky completed 20 of 32 passes for 183 yards, while Williams was 22 of 32 for 135 yards. But Williams, who started six games last year when Bryn Renner was injured, took six sacks to Trubisky’s one and led his unit to just 10 points.
Still, faced with his first quarterback competition since he came to UNC, coach Larry Fedora wasn’t about to pick a winner from Saturday’s game.
“I thought their command of the offense was pretty good,” Fedora said. “ There were a couple times that guys were misaligned and they got them straightened out, so I thought they did a nice job of just managing the offense today. I thought there were a couple balls that shouldn’t have been thrown where they were, and we’ve got to get that adjusted, but pretty much I thought the decision-making process was pretty good, which is what I was looking at today.”
Williams started with White while Trubisky started with Blue. The quarterbacks switched teams for the second quarter, and then alternated series with the starters in the second half.
Both came out slowly, throwing two incompletions as their units went 3-and-out. They also threw early interceptions, with linebacker Travis Hughes picking off Trubisky on a pass that was broken up by Alex Dixon and freshman cornerback M.J Stewart intercepting a scrambling Williams on the next series “I started slow — 2-3 throws I wish I had back — but after that we started to get it going,” Williams said. “I felt comfortable out there. I felt relaxed when I was back there, like I was watching TV. That’s the thing about playing last year — I’m more comfortable and I don’t have to worry about messing up or doing something wrong when I know what to do with the football.”
Trubisky helped the backups to an early 10-3 lead, but the starters tied the game on a 37-yard touchdown pass from receiver Quinshad Davis to Jordan High product T.J. Thorpe.
The game was still tied at 17-17 entering the fourth quarter before the starters scored three unanswered touchdowns.
“Every time you go into the spring game, the White team is going to play with a chip on its shoulder,” Fedora said. “They want to prove to everybody. And the Blue team usually needs a foot in the rear end to get them going, and once they do they play pretty good.”
Third-stringer Kanler Coker (8 for 19, 75 yards) was the only quarterback to throw a touchdown pass, a 3-yarder to Bug Howard.
Fedora said that Williams has been impressive with his leadership this spring, while Trubisky has shown that he understands of the offense. Williams said that he’s improved his throwing mechanics, while Trubisky said he gained the trust of his teammates.
But it’s still uncertain who the quarterback on Aug. 30, when UNC returns to Kenan to face Liberty in the season opener.
“It’s pretty tight,” said Howard, the rising sophomore receiver. “I would say ‘Quise has the upper hand getting the six games of experience. But Mitch is coming along pretty good and made both teams look good, same as ’Quise.”
NOTES — Rising sophomore T.J. Logan had 108 yards on 15 carries, including a 36-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter. Freshman Elijah Hood, the AP prep player of the year in North Carolina, had nine carries for 15 yards and two catches for seven yards. … Davis had game-highs of six catches and 58 yards. … Rising junior safety Sam Smiley had a game-high 11 tackles and rising junior defensive tackle Justin Thomason had two of UNC’s nine sacks.
Follow UNC beat writer Harold Gutmann on Twitter at @haroldgut.