North Carolina QB Marquise Williams does a little of everything

Bob Wieneke
South Bend Tribune

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SOUTH BEND — Before he headed to the locker room following his team’s 50-43 loss to sixth-ranked Notre Dame on Saturday, Tar Heels quarterback Marquise Williams got a chance to catch up with an old friend, “chopping it up,” as Williams put it, with Irish counterpart Everett Golson.

The two have known each other since they were freshmen in high school, Golson in Myrtle Beach, S.C., Williams in Charlotte, N.C., a friendship forged while on recruiting trips.

The gist of their postgame talk?

“He said, ‘I didn’t think you were going to come out and play like that today,’” Williams said. “He knows his defense is usually containing quarterbacks.”

Not Saturday.

The redshirt junior dazzled, rushing 18 times for 132 yards and a touchdown. He also completed 24 of 41 passes for 303 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. For good measure, Williams caught a 23-yard touchdown pass from wide receiver Quinshad Davis that gave Carolina a 36-35 lead it took into the fourth quarter.

Do the math on Williams’ day and he had a hand in 458 of the Tar Heels’ 510 total yards, and was in on four touchdowns.

“What can’t that man do?” Carolina freshman running back Elijah Hood said. “He can do everything.”

As much as Williams did, though, there was one play he wish he could undo. That play came in the fourth quarter and ND leading 43-36.

Facing a third-and-4 at the ND 26, Williams was flushed out of the pocket by Irish defensive lineman Isaac Rochell. Williams ran to his left and tried to shovel a pass toward the sideline, but ND corner Cole Luke managed to intercept the ill-advised throw, taking away a field-goal attempt for North Carolina. The Irish took the gift and scored a clinching touchdown.

“I wish I had ditched it out of bounds at the time,” Williams said. “As a quarterback you’ve got to know those things and at the time I was just wanting to make a play, I was just trying to help my guy make a play, get the ball in his hands.”

For all of Saturday, Williams had the ball in his hands, which was a bit of a change for the Tar Heels. In previous games, UNC coach Larry Fedora had brought in backup Mitch Trubisky on the third series of games, and gone from there. On Saturday, it was all Williams.

“I was getting a rhythm and I was going with the flow and the guys were behind me,” the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Williams said. “Everybody comes to me to lead the guys and it felt good.”

Williams looked especially good running the ball, although as often as he ran it, he insisted his scampers were not designed calls.

“My running game comes when I’m in a passing down … and they just leave a big gap. That’s where my running comes from,” Williams said. “My running doesn’t come from a quarterback draw. It comes from going through my reads, and if it’s not there just taking off and try to avoid a sack.”

Williams and Golson for a time were both North Carolina commits before Golson flipped to Notre Dame late in the 2011 recruiting cycle. Williams, who was offered by Notre Dame, was thrilled to play at ND Stadium.

“This is a childhood dream,” Williams said. “On NBC, 3:30 against one of the best teams in the country. I got the chills.”

While Golson and Williams were both offered by Notre Dame, and had been North Carolina commits, they have more in common.

While Golson was in academic exile last fall, he worked out with quarterback guru George Whitfield. Williams attended Whitfield’s spring break quarterback camp in California earlier this year. Williams later served as a counselor at the Manning Passing Academy in Louisiana a few weeks before the fall camp began.

The work showed on Saturday.

“I tell you what, that guy played his heart out, now,” said Fedora, whose team dropped to 2-4 while the Irish improved to 6-0. “He really gave everything he had out there.”

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North Carolina quarterback Marquise Williams (12) heads upfield as Notre Dame defensive lineman Sheldon Day attempts a tackle in the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014, in South Bend, Ind. (AP Photo/Joe Raymond)