Just before Fedora starting discussing Thursday’s win over Duke and Saturday’s matchup with N.C. State, local Twitter handles exploded with comments made by Wolfpack junior safety Hakim Jones 25 miles down I-40.
NC State's Hakim Jones all in on UNC quarterback Marquise Williams: "Once you hit him a few times he basically almost quits."— Luke DeCock (@LukeDeCock) November 24, 2014
Williams set the single-season record for total offense (3,499 yards) on Thursday and currently ranks second in the ACC and 14th nationally in total offense. The junior quarterback has completed 63.4 percent of his passes for 2,773 yards and 20 touchdowns against eight interceptions, while also running for 726 yards and 12 touchdowns.
He was named the ACC Offensive Back of the Week for the fourth time this season on Monday following his output (374 total yards) in the 45-20 win over then-No. 25 Duke.
Williams’s stats, however, haven’t defined his 2014 campaign. Without much ground support through the majority of the season, Williams manufactured offensive balance with his own play, churning out critical rushing yards and absorbing punishing hits both in the open field and in the pocket.
Ten days ago, Williams started poorly against a physical Pittsburgh team, missing on 12 of his first 16 pass attempts as the Panthers built an early 14-point lead. Early in the third quarter, Pitt linebacker Anthony Gonzalez drilled Williams high, knocking the wind out of him and forcing him to the sidelines for a play.
"Usually you'd get tossed out of the game for that, but he didn't call it," Williams said after the game. "I was like, 'All right, that's fine. Now I'm just going to get angry and I'm going to ball. I'm going to run through everybody and I'm going to complete every ball.'"
Williams quickly reentered the game and completed passes for 10, 5 and 20 yards to set up Charles Brunson’s 17-yard touchdown run. He set a school record with 16 consecutive completions on UNC’s next possession and gave UNC the lead with a 45-yard touchdown run to cap the drive.
Those gutty performances have become standard operating procedure for Williams in 2014, which is why Jones’s comments prompted chuckles from media members as well as Fedora and senior bandit Norkeithus Otis.
“He’s taken a lot of hits; he’s a tough guy,” Otis said. “So if he can hit Marquise and take him out of the game, then hey, I’ll shake his hand and say good job.”
When told about Jones’s remarks, Fedora responded: “Really? I appreciate you letting me know that.”
After learning that the bulletin board material was fresh, Fedora expanded on his quarterback.
“Well, Marquise will love hearing that, I guarantee you,” Fedora said. “Let me tell you what, I wouldn’t question Marquise’s toughness. You’ve seen all of our games. You’ve seen how he gets hit and what he does. I haven’t looked at a game and thought he laid down for any reason.”
Fedora even broke from his standard media persona following his press conference, pulling out his cell phone and announcing as he walked out of the media room: “I think I’m going to call him right now.”