Backup quarterback Trubisky stars in UNC win
North Carolina coach Larry Fedora on Monday attempted to put to rest any speculation about whether the Tar Heels have a brewing quarterback controversy: Marquise Williams, he said, remains the Tar Heels’ starting quarterback.
Fedora began his weekly press conference by reiterating Williams’ role after Williams apparently was benched Saturday in favor of Mitch Trubisky, who led UNC to a 41-14 victory against Delaware.
“Let me go ahead and address the quarterback issue so we don’t have to answer 78 questions about the quarterbacks,” Fedora said. “Marquise Williams is our starter. Yes, I’ve talked to him. He knows why I did what I did on Saturday. And that’s where we’re at. He’s our starter going into this game.”
UNC begins ACC play at Georgia Tech on Saturday. In the victory against Delaware, Williams left the game midway through the second quarter after completing 6 of 12 attempts for 65 yards. He was sacked on his final play.
Trubisky entered on UNC’s next series. He led the offense during the Tar Heels’ final drive of the first half. He played throughout most of the second and completed 17 of 20 attempts for 312 yards and four touchdowns. Trubisky on Monday was named ACC Offensive Back of the Week.
Fedora on Saturday expressed his discontent with Williams’ decision-making. Asked Monday to elaborate, Fedora said, “There were some things that were done in the game that weren’t what (Williams is) coached to do.”
Fedora said he was “looking for a spark” when he put Trubisky into the game. It took a little while – UNC didn’t begin to pull away from Delaware until late in the third quarter – but eventually Trubisky provided that spark.
“I thought he added a little bit to the offense and as he got rolling he got hot and things were moving, so I didn’t feel like going back the other way,” Fedora said.
Fedora said Monday that he hadn’t decided whether Trubisky’s role would expand, or whether Williams and Trubisky would rotate possessions as they did during the first half of last season. That rotation didn’t produce memorable results and eventually Fedora ceased using it.
Fedora said he and Williams met and discussed Fedora’s decision to take him out of the game Saturday.
“I told him what I thought, what my expectation level was, and he understood,” Fedora said. “He didn’t question anything.”
Williams accounted for 3,856 yards of total offense a season ago – second in the ACC behind Florida State’s Jameis Winston – and he entered this season as the most experienced quarterback in the conference. Inconsistency and questionable decision-making, though, have been issues through the Tar Heels’ first four games.
In UNC’s first game, a 17-13 defeat against South Carolina, Williams threw three interceptions inside the red zone – including two in the end zone. He completed at least 70 percent of his passes in easy victories against N.C. A&T and Illinois, but then got off to a slow start passing Saturday against Delaware.
Asked if Williams had placed too much pressure on himself Fedora said, “Maybe so.”
“And he doesn’t need to do that,” Fedora said. “When he’s playing carefree and playing, he’s a dang good football player, you know. And so I hope he’s not putting too much pressure on himself. He doesn’t need to do that. Just stay within the offense.”
UNC’s offense, though, looked different – and more vertical – with Trubisky at quarterback. The play-calling against Delaware changed, Fedora said, once coaches gained confidence that Trubisky could consistently make accurate throws down the field.
That dimension has been spotty early in the season. Williams has had success making medium- and long-range throws, but consistent success has eluded him.
Fedora acknowledged that UNC opened the playbook more with Trubisky at quarterback. Trubisky took advantage of his opportunity – and the more open play-calling – and set a school record with a pass efficiency rating of 282.
“Once we started being efficient in what we do, we can (open the playbook),” Fedora said. “We can open it up and start running our offense the way we want to run it. But when you constantly are struggling to stay ahead of the chains, that makes it difficult.”
Fedora dismissed the notion of a quarterback controversy, and Landon Turner, the senior offensive guard, said Monday that he and his teammates haven’t discussed the merits of Williams and Trubisky.
Turner, like Williams, is a fifth-year senior. They were roommates their freshman season, and Turner before the start of this season praised Williams’ growth and increased mental maturity.
“I think Marquise is a very mentally tough person,” Turner said. “Him and I have both been through a lot here. It doesn’t take much to see that. I think through that he’s really grown a lot and matured a lot and I don’t think this is going to shake him up in any way or change how he prepares.”
In addressing the quarterback situation early in the week Fedora was hoping to quell any notion of controversy, or that Williams’ role as the starter was in jeopardy. Fedora dismissed the thought that he might have created controversy by pulling Williams against Delaware, a lower-division opponent from the Football Championship Subdivision.
“That’s why I wanted to make sure that it was clear that there is no can of worms to open,” Fedora said. “So I don’t know how to make it any more clear to y’all.”