Talking The Talk

RALEIGH, N.C. -- It started with an innocent question about Marquise Williams and what the impression was of his performance during this season.

The response kicked rivalry week into a higher gear.

This season the North Carolina quarterback has posted some gaudy numbers. With a completion rate that is over 63 percent, Williams averages 252 yards in the air and also leads the Tar Heels in rushing yards and touchdowns. He has a ratio of four touchdowns scored (passing and rushing) for every interception thrown this year.

Redshirt junior Hakim Jones doesn't sound that impressed. On Monday at NC State's weekly press conference, the safety articulated why.

Jones initially gave Williams praise, but it did not last long. After submitting that "I think a lot of him," fireworks ensued.

"He is very hesitant for the most part because he runs the ball a lot," Jones said. "So, after you hit him a few times, he basically almost quits. He doesn’t really like to get hit even though he runs the ball a lot of times in the game.

"Once you hit him a few times, he is going to hesitate [while] going to the hole and start trying to think of other options."

Quit is a four-letter word. While it takes the courteous driver usually around a half-hour to travel from Raleigh to Chapel Hill, Jones’ assessment of Williams reached North Carolina head coach Larry Fedora with lightning speed. The third-year coach actually thanked members of the media for informing him, while also taking the chance to defend his quarterback.

To be fair, the North Carolina football program is not even remotely worth being sympathetic over. Academic impropriety and rings for phony titles aside, the Tar Heels were not sportsmanlike after the win in Carter-Finley Stadium last season and many football players, Williams included, have taken great glee in trolling NC State via social media and other means.

Jones and Fedora’s remarks also came literally minutes after [Durham] Herald-Sun beat writer Steve Wiseman reported that UNC had caused extensive damage to Duke’s facilities after defeating the Blue Devils on Thursday.

Simply put, the Heels, both on the field and off, haven't always shown that they deserve receiving respect since the team has typically eschewed giving it to others.

Jones was later asked to elaborate during the press conference. Usually the chance to expand on the initial response can lead to a form of reprieve or even retraction. The native of Henderson, North Carolina had little interest in backtracking. He even related why he came to his conclusion.

"For the first few plays of the game, it is all hard runs," Jones stated. "Last year when [Brandon] Pittman hit him... he didn’t really want to run the ball too much.

"He just runs the ball so much. That is why he has the numbers that he has."

NC State head coach Dave Doeren is diligent and always prepared for his Monday press conferences, despite often being emotionally charged and prone to controversial statements immediately after a game. He downplayed the remarks when asked about them afterwards contending that when it is a rivalry those things will happen.

If the Wolfpack is looking for previous experience to draw on, then the arrival of Debbie Yow as Director of Athletics would be an ideal place to begin. When Yow arrived in Raleigh, the NC State Athletic Department had several sports mired in mediocrity and seemingly accepting of its place as an also-ran in the ACC and the third-best school in the Triangle.

Yow famously said that NC State would "Refuse to Accept the Status quo" and was determined to bring the Pack to a level where they competed for titles and not just lingered barely above .500.

Typically, slogans are the domain of the marketing department but once Yow adopted it the origin became instantly irrelevant. The second she uttered it for the first time, she owned it. Ironically, it was the adherence to that policy that led her to jettison Tom O’Brien after the 2012 regular season and hire Doeren to replace him. She even repeated the line when she announced O’Brien was dismissed.

The NC State football team will now be tested as the game in Chapel Hill draws near. Will Doeren leave Jones on an island or will he own the remarks as well?

Whether what Jones said was correct and appropriate or inaccurate and foolhardy will be debated among fans and members of the media alike. The truth, however, is that it no longer matters.

Either way, it can no longer simply be the opinion of Hakim Jones; it has to be the mantra of NC State, right or wrong. The Wolfpack now has an obligation to stand together as a Pack, and not isolate the one Wolf. If Williams cannot take hits, then NC State has put itself in a position where it has to prove it.

The words of Hakim Jones are now the words of NC State.

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