Backup quarterback Trubisky stars in UNC win
Marquise Williams entered his senior season at North Carolina as the definitive, no-questions-asked starting quarterback – a role that coach Larry Fedora reaffirmed even after Williams threw three interceptions in a season-opening loss against South Carolina.
But now? Now there's a giant question mark – and perhaps several of them – hovering over the Tar Heels' quarterback position entering their first ACC game of the season, which comes next weekend at Georgia Tech.
Mitch Trubisky, who to this point has been Williams' backup, led UNC to a 41-14 victory against Delaware on Saturday. He entered the game late in the first half, played most of the second, and completed 17 of his 20 passes for 312 yards and four touchdowns.
Yes, it was Delaware – a lower-division Football Championship Subdivision opponent. Even so: Trubisky, a third-year sophomore, couldn't have been much sharper, much more on target, than he was on Saturday. Which brings us to those questions. They include:
--What happened to Williams, the starting quarterback, on Saturday? Was he hurt? Or simply benched after completing six of his 12 attempts for 65 yards and not looking all that great on UNC's first three series?
--Will Trubisky's role expand? And even if Williams is healthy (and his health seems doubt after Saturday), would coach Larry Fedora consider starting Trubisky next weekend at Georgia Tech?
There are no clear answers to these questions at this point. Fedora, given his insistence on not discussing injuries, didn't say on Saturday whether Williams had sustained an injury. Williams happened to leave the game after taking a sack for an 11-yard loss midway through the second quarter.
He told a team spokesman afterward that he was receiving treatment on his hip – he had hip surgery after last season and missed spring practice – and he didn't meet with reporters. Back to that sack, though. It appeared to be a fierce collision, one that included some helmet to helmet contact.
Here's how part of Fedora's postgame press conference went:
Reporter: Was there any injury to Marquise?
Fedora: “I don't know. I have no idea. And plus I don't talk about them, anyway, so.”
Reporter (who happened to be me): If he was hurt would you let us know?
Fedora: “Only if it was a season-ending injury.”
Reporter (also me): Could Marquise have played in the second half?
Fedora: “I don't know. Come on – surely you've got more than this.”
I mean, not really. What's going on at quarterback will remain the focus – at least among fans and media members – this week before a game at Georgia Tech that's of paramount importance for UNC (and for the Yellow Jackets, given their loss at Duke on Saturday).
Later during Fedora’s press conference I asked if Williams was still the definitive starter.
“As of right now there’s no changes, yes,” Fedora said.
What about as of next Saturday?
Even if Williams were healthy the way Trubisky played on Saturday would have to give Fedora and his staff something to think about. Williams played well last weekend against Illinois, but inconsistency and decision-making have been problems early in the season.
They were again on Saturday on UNC's first three series against Delaware. Afterward, Fedora criticized Williams' decision-making and praised Trubisky, saying he “took advantage of his opportunities.”
But what does it all mean going forward? Trubisky didn't have a sense of it, either.
“I'm not sure,” he said when I asked him if he thought his performance on Saturday would provide him with an opening for more playing time or, perhaps, with an opportunity to start. “But I know whenever an opportunity is given to you, you've got to take full advantage of it.”
Trubisky did that and more. Now the question is how UNC answers all the questions that Trubisky's breakout performance created.