The mouths ran all week long between rivals North Carolina and N.C. State, but at the end of the day the running of Jacoby Brissett was all that that mattered.
Brissett, the Wolfpack quarterback, gashed the Tar Heels defense for 167 rushing yards and a score, while throwing for 66 yards and three touchdowns to lead N.C. State’s 35-7 thrashing of North Carolina.
“I talked to Jacoby, I think it was yesterday, in my office,” said N.C. State coach Dave Doeren. “I told him, ‘I think there are two No. 12s playing in this game (Brissett and UNC quarterback Marquise Williams), and I think you’re the best one. Why don’t you go show everybody, because that’s all they’ve been talking about: the other guy.’ And he said, ‘I got you, Coach. I will.’ ”
He certainly did. Brissett’s 167 yards broke the school record for rushing yards by a quarterback set by Johnny Evans, who ran for 126 yards against Clemson in 1976.
Brissett was hot from the opening drive, as he used a 19-yard run to help set up his own 17-yard sprint to the end zone to take a 7-0 lead in the first quarter. In the second, he nearly reached the end zone again as he ripped off a 60-yard dash in the second quarter.
After the game, Brissett credited his blockers for his success.
“It’s a credit to the offensive line,” Brissett said. “They gave me those chances to make those plays, and credit to the receivers on the outside for really blocking it.”
Brissett had several chances to impact the game and seemingly made the most each one. The Florida transfer accounted for a total of 233 yards and four touchdowns on Saturday, which is 26 yards and three scores more than what the entire UNC offense produced.
After watching game film during the week Doeren said he knew he could exploit the Tar Heels defense by running Brissett.
“Whenever you run your quarterback you’re plus-one in the run game,” Doeren said. “There were some formations where we knew how they were going to line up. With the extra blocker we knew we could crease them, and that’s what we did.”
Thornton runs wild, too: One week after his season-high 110 rushing yards helped the Wolfpack down Wake Forest, 42-13, Shadrach Thornton galloped for 161 yards and a touchdown against the Tar Heels.
Thornton, a 6-foot-1, 206-pound junior who has rushed for a team-high 929 yards this season, ran behind an effective offensive line that dominated the Tar Heels.
“The O-line blocked perfect,” Thornton said. “It was so I could run right into that hole that I knew would be there.”
Thornton’s total was 12 yards shy of his career high, set last season against Florida State. The 100-yard game was the eighth of his career and helped the Wolfpack out-rush UNC 388-30 and take a 38:49 to 21:11 edge in time of possession.
“The game plan was to run the football and keep their offense off the field and dominate the clock and finish drives,” Doeren said. “… We were physical and we took care of the football.”
Thornton, who rushed 28 times and averaged 5.8 yards a clip, scored from 4 yards out in the second quarter to put the Pack up 21-0.
Doeren had a hunch his running back would be successful.
“Shad’s had a tremendous two weeks of practice,” Doeren said. “He was focused and locked in and we rode him. And I told him we would because of the way he worked in practice.”
Williams knocked out: North Carolina quarterback Marquise Williams has proven his toughness this season. It’s never been a question, given the number of times he has been hit and gotten back up. Not even Williams, though, could sustain the pounding he took on Saturday.
N.C. State hit him early and often, and sacked him three times. Williams got up, again, but didn’t return after the final sack, from defensive tackle T.Y. McGill, with about 121/2 minutes to play in the third quarter.
It was hardly the exit Williams envisioned after N.C. State safety Hakim Jones questioned his toughness last week. Jones said that once Williams is hit a few times “he basically almost quits.”
Williams didn’t quit on Saturday but was forced out of the game with an injury to his lower right leg. An X-ray was negative, a team spokesman said, after Williams’ least productive game of the season. He completed 11 of his 22 attempts for 97 yards and an interception, and ran for 11 yards.
“Quise was getting hit every single time he threw the ball,” UNC coach Larry Fedora said. “... To play this game you have to play with passion, you’ve got to play with energy, you’ve got to play with enthusiasm all the time. That’s the only way you can do it.
“And for whatever reason we didn’t have that today.”
Staff writer Andrew Carter contributed to this report.