Highlights from UNC's win over James Madison
Mitch Trubisky last weekend set a school record that he has little interest in discussing. He’s not embarrassed by it, but maybe a little superstitious, which is a characteristic Larry Fedora denied when he didn’t want to talk about it, either.
“No,” Fedora, the North Carolina coach, said earlier this week with a laugh. “I’m not superstitious. I’m not. I’m not.”
It’s just that Trubisky, the Tar Heels quarterback, has a good thing going, and why talk about it for fear of jinxing it? During UNC’s 56-28 victory against James Madison last Saturday, Trubisky threw his 156th consecutive pass that landed either in one of his receivers hands or on the ground or out of bounds.
One-hundred-and-fifty-six consecutive passes without an interception.
“Yeah,” Trubisky, the fourth-year junior, said earlier this week. “I wish you guys would stop talking about that.”
“I’d rather you all not say anything about it,” he said on Wednesday when asked about Trubisky’s interception-less streak, which he’ll hope to continue on Saturday when UNC plays against Pittsburgh at Kenan Stadium.
Slowly, Trubisky had been approaching the record. He attempted 40 passes without an interception during UNC’s season-opening defeat against Georgia and then, in a victory at Illinois, he completed 19 of his 24 passes, none of which were intercepted.
He was getting closer. The performance at Illinois put the record within reach. Oscar Davenport, the Tar Heels’ quarterback two decades ago, had held it for nearly 20 years. During the 1996 and ’97 seasons, Davenport attempted 154 consecutive passes without an interception.
Nobody had surpassed that streak since. Until Trubisky.
To tie Davenport, Trubisky entered the game against James Madison needing to throw 25 consecutive passes without an interception. He did two better, and left the game in the fourth quarter with the result decided after he completed 24 of his 27 attempts for 432 yards and three touchdowns.
The streak came up afterward. And naturally, Trubisky was mindful of the jinx. He used the same analogy earlier this week that he did on Saturday, after he set the record.
“You don’t talk about a no-hitter when someone’s got a no-hitter going,” Trubisky said with a smile.
Indeed, that’s among the unwritten rules in baseball. In football, there is no standard equivalent of a no-hitter, or a perfect game, though Trubisky came close, statistically, on Saturday. Even so, Fedora said Trubisky could have been “a lot better, actually.”
Asked how, Fedora elaborated.
“Well, the decision-making process on where the ball goes sometimes,” he said. “Even though he throws a completion, that may not have been where the ball should have gone. Or, there were times that we ran the football that we should have been throwing it. And those are, again, his decisions.”
It’s difficult to fault Trubisky’s decision-making, though, in the midst of his long interception-less streak. Trubisky, who last season served as the back-up to Marquise Williams, has now played in 12 consecutive games without throwing an interception.
His most recent interception came during UNC’s defeat against N.C. State at the end of the 2014 regular season. Since then, he has thrown 156 passes, and counting, without one – though he doesn’t exactly want to be reminded of it.
Trubisky’s streak would have to endure a while longer – a long while – for him to challenge the NCAA record for consecutive passes without an interception. Former Louisiana Tech quarterback Colby Cameron, who attempted 444 consecutive passes without an interception, set that record in 2012.
Throughout his streak, Trubisky has often struck the right balance between aggression and conservatism. He wants to be aggressive enough to create opportunities for his receivers to make plays, but conservative enough to minimize turnover risks. Luck plays a role, too.
“You try not to think about it,” Trubisky said. “You just do what you do in practice, and I’m not worried about the other team making a play. I’m just having faith in my abilities and my guys that when I throw the ball, we’re coming down with it.”
More often than not, that’s what happens when Trubisky attempts a pass. He completed 85 percent of his attempts last season, in a limited role, and he’s completing 73.6 percent of his passes through his first three games as the Tar Heels’ starting quarterback.
And when he does throw an incomplete pass, it has landed on the ground or somewhere on the sideline, out of bounds. Just don’t remind him of the trend. Or Fedora, for that matter.
“I don’t like to talk about it, actually,” he said.