Rapid Reactions: Carolina 45, Virginia 14
Carolina’s 45-14 win over Virginia moved the Tar Heels to 4-5 on the year, two wins shy of bowl eligibility, and was the program’s largest margin of victory over an ACC opponent since a 44-10 in Charlottesville in 2010. After the game, Larry Fedora said it was his team's most complete performance of the season.
1. The Carolina offense rolled the Cavaliers in Marquise Williams’ second start, piling up 415 yards with a balanced attack. (201 yards rushing, 214 passing). It was a classy move by Williams to wear number 2 in honor of injured teammate Bryn Renner. Williams did Renner proud, as the redshirt sophomore scored passing, running and receiving. Quinshad Davis threw for his second touchdown of the year on a 29-yard reverse pass to Williams. Williams told Jones Angell that it was his first-ever receiving score.
Earlier in the season when he came off the bench, Williams’ running ability provided a change of pace from the more pocket-oriented Renner. With Williams starting, that change of pace wasn’t there, and defenses were able to prepare to face Williams. As such, a few designed outside runs didn’t net many yards early in the game. But they did help set up the passing game and create more lanes in the middle of the field. Williams’ feet helped him extend plays and find receivers downfield, particularly on a completion to Sean Tapley on 3rd and 9 in the second quarter. "When Marquise is running the show, now it’s his team," Fedora said. "We’re going to go according to how he plays and what he does and how he manages the game. He’s out there more and he’s making plays, and when he has the opportunity to do it, he steps up and he does it." Kanler Coker made his first appearance as a Tar Heel in relief of Williams in the fourth quarter.
Just as Renner and Williams complemented each other under center, the stable of Tar Heel tailbacks helped steady the still-improving running game. T.J. Logan got the start, but A.J. Blue was used on certain packages and Khris Francis scored his first career touchdown on a catch out of the backfield. Romar Morris’ 41-yard scamper in the fourth quarter was the longest play of the day for either team.
2. Larry Fedora is always looking for a “game-changing play on special teams,” and he got it from freshman Ryan Switzer in the second quarter. Switzer initially dropped the ball on a punt return, but found a seam and, with help from his blockers, took a punt back 85 yards for a touchdown.
As of this writing, the Carolina athletic communications staff had not found another Tar Heel who had a receiving, passing and punt return touchdown in a single season.
Fedora and his staff take pride in their special teams units, telling their charges that they can’t start on offense or defense without starting on a special team. Those players on those teams have displayed terrific commitment of late, getting downfield and making stops when the Tar Heels kick, and blocking for returners when they receive.
Freshman strong safety Dominique Green was one of those players not taking his role as a starter for granted. Green had tackles on the Tar Heels first two kickoffs, and later scored on a 62-yard interception return. Virginia quarterback David Watford got flushed out of the pocket by Jeff Schoettmer, and Green was there for the pick.
3. Green and the Tar Heel secondary have had better communication of late. With pressure coming up front from Kareem Martin, Tim Jackson, Schoettmer and even occasionally cornerback Tim Scott, the defensive backfield has been better on pass defense. They had seven passes defended and two interceptions on Saturday. In fact, when the Cavaliers’ Keeon Johnson scored in the fourth quarter, it was the first passing touchdown allowed by the Tar Heels in over a month (October 5 at Virginia Tech).
4. Despite the lopsided score, it wasn’t all gravy for the home team. The Tar Heels committed 13 penalties for 102 yards, including a baffling number of illegal formation - five men in the backfield - calls on the offense. You can bet Larry Fedora wants to see the team discipline improve as they get to the final quarter of the season. "We've just got to keep working to get better and play smarter," he said.
5. Saturday’s non-football highlight had to be this terrific military homecoming just in time for Veteran’s Day. Don’t miss the video.