By Andrew Tie
At the end of the first quarter against Virginia, North Carolina wide receiver Quinshad Davis took a reverse from T.J. Logan, stopped, cocked his arm back and threw the football right into the open arms of quarterback Marquise Williams for a touchdown.
That's right, Williams was on the receiving end of a touchdown this time.
"When I saw the ball go up, I just saw it was me," said Williams, a redshirt sophomore. "I was praying, 'God, please don't let me drop this ball.'"
Williams, who said he's never caught a touchdown before, was one of the biggest reasons the Tar Heels won 45-14 over the Cavaliers. He threw for 185 yards on 15 of 28 attempts with two touchdowns and an interception. To top it off, Williams ran for 46 yards on 16 carries, and yes, another touchdown.
To recap, that's 231 total yards, two passing touchdowns, a rushing touchdown and a 29-yard touchdown catch.
Not too bad for someone making his second career start and filling in for one of the most decorated quarterbacks in UNC history in senior Bryn Renner, who is out for the year with a shoulder injury.
You might not have even noticed Renner was missing because Williams honored his teammate by wearing Renner's No. 2 jersey instead of his typical No. 12.
Even with those shoes to fill and more responsibility as the full-time quarterback, coach Larry Fedora said Williams managed the game very well for UNC.
"Watching his pregame, watching him in the locker room, watching how he interacted with the guys, he was as comfortable as he ever is," Fedora said. "I thought he really did a great job of taking care of the football and then moving the chains for us."
Speaking of first downs, Williams got out to a hot start with the offense, converting all five third down chances in the first quarter.
Though Williams didn't have to share playing time this week, he said there wasn't that much of a difference from previous games with Renner.
"It's just going out, doing what I need to do to execute the plays and try to get a victory," Williams said.
But, Williams did admit he felt more poised in the pocket with more playing time. Quinshad Davis said he noticed Williams playing more aggressively against the Cavaliers.
"Marquise came in, knew he had to step up and that's what he did," Davis said. "He came in prepared like he's supposed to and practiced hard. Today he got to stay in the whole game and played like a man with his hair on fire."
Throughout the game, Williams showed tremendous poise and confidence, going through his progressions and not forcing throws. Williams is known as a dual-threat quarterback, and he especially showed that on one particular play early in the second half.
On a designed run play on third down, Williams eschewed the play, scrambled around and threw a pass, while nearly on his knees, for a first down to tight end Eric Ebron. That play eventually set up Williams' rushing touchdown.
"If you're not a mobile quarterback, you're probably not going to make plays like that," Fedora said. "(Williams' running ability) enables you to do more things with the offense."
Though Williams constantly faces pass rushes and large defensive linemen, he said passing wasn't the most nerve-wracking part of the game.
"To be honest, I think it's more pressure to catch it because I'm wide open by myself and a hundred fans are there screaming," Williams said of his touchdown catch.
UNC's offense could be even more explosive with Williams as a running and throwing option at all times now. But at least for Saturday's game, Williams' touchdown reception made him a triple threat quarterback.