ATLANTA – A week after being benched against a FCS opponent, Marquise Williams directed North Carolina to its largest comeback in school history in a 38-31 win at Georgia Tech on Saturday.
“He was a beast today,” UNC head coach Larry Fedora told reporters during his postgame press conference. “… He took a lot of criticism last week, everybody questioned him out there on the outside, and he did what he can do. He came out and played, was determined to play well, and he did a great job.”
In rallying his team out of a 21-0 deficit, Williams rushed for a career-high 148 yards and scored two touchdowns. He completed 13 of his 24 passes for 134 yards and also caught a 37-yard touchdown pass from wide receiver Quinshad Davis on a trick play to give the Tar Heels their first lead of the game.
The fifth-year senior quarterback led UNC in passing, rushing and receiving yards.
“It wasn’t about me tonight,” Williams said. “It was just coming out, having fun and doing what I need to do to help us get this victory.”
Against Delaware last weekend, Williams was pulled after completing 6-of-12 passes for 65 yards and rushing for 31 yards and a touchdown in UNC’s first three possessions. It was his decision-making, not his stats, that resulted in Fedora benching Williams in favor of backup Mitch Trubisky.
Fedora dismissed any notion of a quarterback controversy two days later during his weekly press conference.
“To win games, you’ve got to be good at the quarterback position,” Williams said. “We talked some on Sunday and he said, ‘I’m going to need you to do what you did last year, come out and put on a show.’ When it’s ACC play, I’m ready to go.”
Williams found his rhythm offensively at the end of the first half. UNC’s defense forced a three-and-out to give the offense the ball back with a short field and 56 seconds left before halftime. After moving the team 37 yards with three completions, Williams finished the scoring drive with a seven-yard touchdown run with four seconds left on the clock.
His biggest play came with five minutes remaining and UNC holding a three-point lead. Facing a 4th-and-5 at Georgia Tech’s 27-yard-line, Williams found running room and cut through the Yellow Jackets defense for the touchdown and a 10-point lead.
“He’s the ultimate competitor,” middle linebacker Jeff Schoettmer said. “Everything he does, he just competes and always wants to win. I can’t say enough good things about Marquise.”
Williams has tallied 69 career touchdowns (43 passing, 26 rushing), which ranks second in school history behind Darian Durant’s 79.