How would you feel if you showed up for work one day knowing that every decision you made was going to be wrong? That’s the dilemma defensive coordinators face when they take on North Carolina’s Marquise Williams.
The senior dual-threat quarterback is the personification of Star Trek’s Kobayashi Maru, a test designed purposely to have no correct answer. You’re going to fail, the only question is how bad.
“We feel like we can never be outnumbered by a defense,” UNC head coach Larry Fedora said. “Defenses can decide they are going to take a phase away from you. They can decide they’re going to sit back there and drop eight and take the passing game away, but we feel like we can run the ball.
Article continues below ...
“If they feel like they’re going to stop the run and they’re going to put everybody up there to stop the run, that can happen, but we feel like we can’t beat you throwing the ball. Having a quarterback that can do both I think is the greatest threat to a defense.”
If you don’t believe Fedora just ask Duke. Last Saturday, the Blue Devils were the latest team to take the test and it’s a safe bet they don’t want a makeup quiz.
The 6-foot-2, 225-pound Williams scorched the Devils for a school-record 494 passing yards and accounted for five touchdowns in only two-plus quarters of play to lead No. 23 UNC to a 66-31 victory over its archrival.
“That display Saturday was as good as I’ve seen anywhere,” Fedora said. “If you looked at every one of those deep balls that he threw, I don’t think anybody broke stride. I don’t think anybody slowed down, I don’t think anybody sped up. It was pretty phenomenal.”
The win was the eighth straight for North Carolina (8-1, 5-0 ACC). The victory also inched the Tar Heels one step closer to an ACC Coastal Division title, which they can clinch this Saturday with the combination of a win over Miami (6-3, 3-2) and a Pitt loss to Duke.
Hurricanes coach Larry Scott must have thought he put in the wrong film when he was watching UNC’s latest victory, because it could have easily been mistaken for a horror flick.
Williams was scary-good against the Blue Devils. The senior launched an 89-yard flea-flicker for a touchdown on his first snap of the game and finished the first half by delivering a 49-yard scoring strike with one second left on the clock. Oh, and sandwiched in between was a record-setting four-yard TD run and a 74-yard touchdown pass. All of which added up to 404 passing yards and four touchdowns – in the first half alone.
By the time he left, Williams had established himself as the UNC’s all-time leader in total touchdowns (83) and a threat like no other Scott has seen this season.
“He’s a little different from what we’ve faced in regard to that he has the ability to really throw the ball. He can make all the throws,” Scott said. “He throws a deep ball probably as good as anybody we’ve played this year and he can hurt you with his feet as well.”
In nine games, Williams has thrown for 2,117 yards, which ranks third in the ACC, while his 558 rushing yards is tops in the league among quarterbacks, and eighth overall in the conference.
For his career, Williams has rushed for 2,068 yards, the most by any Tar Heels quarterback, but make no mistake, the former high school All-American is a pass-first quarterback.
“He wants to go through his progressions and throw the football and then he runs when he needs to,” Scott said. “… Then he’s really good when they call a design quarterback run for him as well. He can hurt you in many different ways.”
In other words, he’s the perfect fit for Fedora’s up-tempo, spread offense and a big reason why UNC is averaging 40.1 points per game, 12th-best in FBS.
“He’s definitely what we’re looking for when we’re out recruiting,” Fedora said. “He’s a guy that, first of all, can make every throw. He’s really doing a good job of taking care of the football and then he can also beat you with his legs.”
Just how far those legs can take UNC is yet to be determined, but one thing is for sure: Williams will keep putting defenses to the test.