UNC’s Davis: Just call him ‘record breaker’

acarter@newsobserver.comNovember 17, 2012 

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UNC's Quinshad Davis (14) races away from Virginia's Brandon Phelps (21) during the Tar Heels' game against Virginia on Thursday November 15, 2012 in Charlottesville, Virginia. Davis set a school record for a UNC freshman, completing 16 catches for 178 yards.

ROBERT WILLETT — rwillett@newsobserver.com

— Quinshad Davis caught his first pass on North Carolina’s first offensive play Thursday night during its 37-13 victory against Virginia. And then he caught another, and another.

After each one, the public address announcer at Scott Stadium called him “Quinton Davis.” Never before, perhaps, had Davis heard his name mispronounced more often.

“Yeah, I was getting kind of upset,” Davis said with a smile. “But it’s all right. I’ll be Quinton for the night.”

People are likely to know Davis’ name soon enough. The Tar Heels freshman caught 16 passes for 178 yards, and set a pair of school records in the process.

Entering Thursday, no UNC freshman had caught more than the nine passes than Octavus Barnes caught in the 1994 Sun Bowl. And no freshman had more receiving yards than Hakeem Nicks’ 171 against Notre Dame in 2006.

Davis broke the receptions record before halftime. By the game ended, his 16 catches had tied the ACC record, which Davis now shares with five players.

Standing amid a crowd of reporters, Davis spoke about what it meant to set those records.

“It feels amazing,” he said. “Coming in here, I wasn’t even thinking about it. It hasn’t hit me. But sooner or later it probably will.”

Then someone informed him that his 16 catches represented a conference record, too.

“Oh,” Davis said. “It is?”

He seemed surprised that he’d become a part of history. His coaches and teammates, meanwhile, might not have been.

Davis arrived at North Carolina as the most heralded member of the Tar Heels’ incoming recruiting class. A season ago, he was one of the best prospects in South Carolina, and after Larry Fedora became UNC’s coach he made Davis a top recruiting priority.

Now it’s becoming clear why. During UNC’s past three games, Davis has caught 29 passes for 349 yards. Both the receptions and receiving yards have increased in his past three games.

“He’s just maturing,” Fedora said. “He’s what – 18 years-old? He gets better each week. He’s brimming with confidence right now. He really feels good about what he’s doing. He expects to make plays now.”

Many of the plays that Davis made Thursday night came off of screen passes, and as a result of his ability to read his blocks and elude defenders. The Cavaliers elected to give UNC’s receivers room at the line of scrimmage, and Davis took advantage of the space.

He also received some help from fellow receivers Erik Highsmith and Sean Tapley, both of whom, Davis said, “were out there blocking their butts off.”

Overall, the Tar Heels’ offense was as sharp as it had been in a while. The offense didn’t have a turnover and quarterback Bryn Renner completed 29 of 36 passes for 315 yards and three touchdowns. More than half of Renner’s completions went to Davis.

“He shows up every practice,” Renner said of Davis, who has emerged in recent weeks as Renner’s primary receiving target. “And kid’s dealing with a hurt shoulder, too. And not many people know that, he’s playing a little hurt. And he’s always making plays.”

With one game remaining, Davis already has set a school record for receptions by a freshman, with 52. That’s tied for fifth in ACC history for a freshman, and his 641 receiving yards rank seventh in league history for a freshman.

Before long, people might start to get his name right, too.

Carter: 919-829-8944 Twitter: @_andrewcarter

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