No. 21 North Carolina (7-2, 5-1 ACC) started on the right foot and found a way to close things out in the second half against Georgia Tech (5-4, 2-4 ACC). Elijah Hood scored three touchdowns and rushed for 168 yards for the Tar Heels in 48-20 victory to keep UNC in strong contention for the ACC Coastal Division coming down the final stretch.
After Georgia Tech kicker Harrison Butker kicked a 42-yard field goal in the third quarter to cut UNC’s lead to seven, the Tar Heels scored 21 unanswered points, including one short touchdown run by Hood (who had two in the first half). T.J. Logan added a 20-yard touchdown scamper and Mitch Trubisky took off running 18 yards for a score inside the red zone in the fourth quarter. Trubisky also passed for 329 yards and a score. UNC’s offense piled up 636 yards of offense against Georgia Tech, who also managed to pick up 518 yards of offense against the Tar Heels.
Dedrick Mills led Georgia Tech with 132 rushing yards. Quarterback Justin Thomas passed for 184 yards with a touchdown and rushed for 82 yards. Both teams converted eight third downs on 14 (Georgia Tech) and 13 (UNC) opportunities. Georgia Tech, however, was the only team to turn the football over (twice), which led to 14 UNC points in the second half.
For now, UNC leads the ACC Coastal Division with a 5-1 ACC record. They entered the day tied with Virginia Tech, but the Hokies own a head-to-head tiebreaker with the defending division champions. One Virginia Tech loss would give UNC the inside track once again. With Pitt losing at Miami, the division is a two-team race the next few weeks between UNC and Virginia Tech.
Georgia Tech is still within reach of a postseason bowl game, but must pick up one win in the final three weeks, with road trips to Virginia Tech (next Saturday) and Georgia in the regular season finale and a home game with Virginia in between.
Despite pulling Marquise Williams in search of a spark this past weekend, UNC head coach Larry Fedora is not about to unseat his starting quarterback this week against Georgia Tech.
”I don’t want to start some type of controversy because there’s not one,” Fedora said Monday.
In a 41-14 win against Delaware over the weekend, Williams was pulled in favor of Mitch Trubisky late on the first half, and Trubisky led the offense in the second half while Williams remained on the sideline. Fedora explained he switched quarterbacks simply to ignite a spark on offense. UNC took a narrow 13-7 lead into halftime against the Blue Hens, with the lone UNC touchdown coming on an 18-yard run by Williams. Trubisky ended the game having completed 17 of his 20 attempts for 312 yards and four touchdowns. That would certainly qualify as a spark.
Williams has struggled at times this season, and the Delaware game was not the first time there were concerns about the passing game. Williams was picked off twice in the red zone against South Carolina (and once more just outside of the red zone) in a Week 1 loss in Charlotte. Despite etching his name in the school record books for a number of categories, UNC has little time to waste waiting and hoping they will get the absolute best out of Williams on a consistent basis. The ACC Coastal is still up for grabs for any team in the division, and Georgia Tech returns home looking to bounce back after two straight losses on the road. UNC will have to be ready from the start to perform, otherwise Georgia Tech could potentially grab the game by its horns early on and allow its running game to grind out a win while running as much clock as possible.
Virginia Tech (4-2, 1-1 ACC) has been a little up and down this season, but the good Virginia Tech showed up on the road at North Carolina (2-3, 0-2 ACC) Saturday afternoon. The Hokies left town with a 34-17 victory that offered a glimpse of how good Virginia Tech can be and just how far North Carolina still has to go.
Things got off to a bad start for UNC, with Marquise Williams taking a sack and losing the football on the first play of the game. That was quickly turned into a touchdown by Virginia Tech for an early 7-0 lead. The Hokies defense was the story fo the day, forcing three turnovers and holding Williams to just 17 completions out of 33 attempts. Virgina Tech’s Kendall Fuller returned an interception off the arm of Mitch Trubisky 47 yards for a touchdown late in the first half, giving the Hokies a commanding 24-3 lead at the half.
UNC did come alive in the fourth quarter, but by then the damage had pretty much been done. The Tar Heels never got closer than 10 points. Not spending much time on the field may have contributed to that. Virginia Tech controlled the football for 41 minutes and three seconds to UNC’s 18 minutes and 57 seconds. The Tar Heels went 2-for-13 on third down conversion attempts and was 0-for-4 on fourth down. North Carolina simply could not stay on the field, a credit to Virginia Tech’s defensive efforts.
Virgina Tech’s offense did not have a great afternoon, but it was enough. Michael Brewer had 186 passing yards and a touchdown. Nine different players had a rushing attempt, including Marshawn Williams before having to leave the game with an ankle sprain.
North Carolina has now lost three straight games by a combined score of 154-93. That includes two ACC losses to Clemson and the Hokies. Next week UNC travels to Notre Dame in non-conference action, and they return home the following week against Georgia Tech. Given how open the Coastal Division could be, UNC can still hop back in the mix but they look to have an uphill battle in front of them.
Virgina Tech, already with a conference loss to Georgia Tech, is very much still in a good spot in the division. The Hokies are off next week but head to Pittsburgh for a Thursday night game on October 16. The following week Virginia Tech hosts Miami. If the Hokies can grab victories in both of those games, they will likely control the fate of the division the rest of the way. That is assuming the good Virginia Tech shows up the rest of the year.
If you thought Marquise Williams was just going to waltz through the spring as the clear starter for North Carolina football in 2014, think again. UNC head coach Larry Fedora has said the quarterback competition this spring is opened up and Mitch Trubisky and Kanler Coker will each have a chance to compete with Williams for the starting job edge this spring.
“We’ve opened the position up,” Fedora said to ESPN.com. “He and Mitch Trubisky and Kanler Coker are going to battle it out this spring, and we’ll see what happens there.”
This may come as somewhat of a surprise after Williams took over the Tar Heel offense last season once Bryn Renner went down with an injury. Williams ended the season completing 58.1 percent of his passes for 1,698 yards and 15 touchdowns with six interceptions. Williams was one of the sparks to the turnaround last season as well, with UNC going from 1-5 to finishing the season with a 7-6 record. Williams was the starting quarterback for the final five games of the 2013 season, including the bowl game against Cincinnati, and UNC went 4-1 in that span. Williams also added some flexibility to the offensive game by rushing for a team high 536 yards and six touchdowns.
Is Williams really in a competition or is this just Fedora trying to light a fire under all of his players this spring?
“We’re going to compete and we’ll see what happens,” Fedora said. “[Williams] has the most experience of anybody, but those guys are definitely going to compete for that job. You don’t earn a job just because a guy gets hurt. Marquise stepped into that role because Bryn got hurt. Now we’re going to compete for the job. Yeah, he does have the advantage because he started [five] games, but that doesn’t mean it’s his job.”
Unless Trubisky or Coker make a huge statement starting this spring, it still seems as though the starting job will eventually be for Williams to lose.