CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – While Marquise Williams’s struggles against South Carolina in Thursday’s season-opening loss has been a talking point among fans and media, North Carolina head coach Larry Fedora believes his quarterback had a solid game with three critical mistakes.
“It was not a total game where he couldn’t throw the ball or couldn’t make decisions,” Fedora said during Monday’s press conference.
Williams threw three interceptions in the red zone against the Gamecocks in the Tar Heels’ 17-13 loss, including two balls picked off in the end zone. He finished the game completing 19 of 31 passes for 232 yards, a touchdown, and the three crucial turnovers.
Fedora said that each interception was a matter of failed execution by Williams.
“The first pick down there in the red zone was he knew where he was going with the ball, and he threw a bad ball,” Fedora said of the interception on the Tar Heels’ opening drive. “The ball was too low, he knew the (linebacker) was there… you need to put the ball on the top of the helmet to give us a chance.”
The second interception, according to Fedora, came down to Williams surveying too much of the field.
“We had slants to the field and we had a route into the boundary, and he had free access to the boundary and checked it, but then tried to come back to slants on the field,” said Fedora. “In a quick game throw, you’re not going to be able to work both sides of the field.”
On the 4th-and-goal end zone interception on UNC's final drive, Fedora attributed the mistake to defensive pressure.
“On the last play, he got flushed out of the pocket,” Fedora said. “(Williams) had to make a quick decision and a quick throw, and he just didn’t get the throw where it needed to be.”
Despite the deflating nature of leading an SEC team for three quarters, only to lose after giving up one catastrophic play and turning the ball over in the end zone, Fedora said that his team will be ready for its home opener against North Carolina A&T.
“We move on, we move forward," Fedora said. "We’ve made the corrections, and we expect them to be corrected, and we expect them to not be made again.”
What positives did you see in Williams’ game on Thursday?
“He made a lot of really good throws. He made good decisions, most of those runs that we had were run-option-to-pass, and he made a lot of good decisions to run the football at the time that we ran them. And there were times where he pulled it out and threw it that were good decisions, so it was not a total game where he couldn’t throw it or he couldn’t make good decisions. The one he threw behind Bug was a coverage situation. The backer dropped into the coverage, so he threw it behind him instead of trying to get it into the second window. He tried to get it to him too quick.”
Will you call Elijah Hood’s name in red zone situations more after the South Carolina loss?
“If I could do it over, I’d do a lot of things differently. But I don’t get the option to do that. That’s the great things that you guys get to do that we don’t. Sure, we could say ‘heck, we’ve got 60-something plays, we can hand it to Elijah 60-something plays.’ Yeah, we could have called a different pass, we could have called a different run, we could have called a lot of different things. The ones we called, we had prepared for, and we felt good about those calls or we wouldn’t have made those calls in the game. We expected them to be successful, and unfortunately they weren’t.”
Do you think N.C. A&T will have plenty of confidence heading into Saturday after its strong performance on Saturday?
“I’d imagine they do (feel confident), they were dominant in just about everything they did. They’ve been picked to win their league again, I believe they won it last year, and I would imagine they’ll come in here with a lot of confidence, and they’ll come in here expecting to win a football game.”