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October 27, 2013
Making the QB Rotation Work
North Carolina found quite a bit of success in Game Two of the Bryn Renner/Marquise Williams quarterback experiment Saturday, as the UNC signal caller tandem combined to complete 22 of 29 passes for 282 yards and three passing touchdowns with no interceptions in its 34-10 victory over Boston College.
"I think the whole offense did a great job of being patient," said Renner, who was especially sharp in completing 18 of 21 passes for 227 yards and two scores.
Though he was sacked four times and had a total of -22 rushing yards, Renner was pinpoint accurate and surpassed the 8,000 career yardage plateau with his 35-yard second quarter touchdown pass to T.J. Logan.
Renner is just the third UNC quarterback in history (along with Darian Durant and T.J. Yates) to pass the 8,000-yard career total.
With only five regular season games left in his UNC career, however, Renner isn't worried about yardage totals right now. He's worried about the win column, and finding a way to push the Tar Heels back to a bowl game with a late-season surge.
"I'm not aware of them (the UNC school records), but I think I'll look back on them after the season. We have a lot more football to play and my goal is to get this team to a bowl game. We're 2-5 right now and we have a lot of games left to play, but we can do it," he said.
Williams led the Tar Heels in rushing with 55 yards---the second time he's done that this season---and he completed four of eight passes for another 55 yards and a 17-yard touchdown to Johnathan Howard late in the third quarter, giving UNC a commanding 27-7 advantage.
Williams' explanation of the touchdown pass showed just how far he's come in a short time in terms of decision-making and maturity.
"I had a little play-action pass. I read Quinshad (Davis) there. It felt like he was in a 'cover two' with the safety over the top, so I couldn't go that way. So I had to make a play. Either I was going to make a play with my feet, or I was going to have to scramble and hit somebody," Williams said.
"I saw Johnathan. And he was there to make a great catch. And that's about it. He made the play. It wasn't me. It was my guy that caught the ball. He kept his feet in, and that's the way I look at it."
Against BC, Renner and Williams successfully kept the Eagles defense off-balance by constantly rotating in and out, sometimes after the defense had set up to defend one or the other.
"Bryn can be on the field, and then we'll it rotate real quick. And they'll never know. They're already set for when Bryn is on the field, so now they've got to set for when I come on the field," Williams said of the rotation.
"It's like tricky, tricking them (the opposing defense) with things. Either you're going to know how we're going to do it or not. That's what I like about it. I've just got to be ready for when my time comes for me to go out there, because nobody ever know when we're going to go."
"Any time you're moving the chains you're going to have a better rhythm," added UNC head coach Larry Fedora. "I've got to give both of those quarterbacks some praise as far as how they're handling that transition between the two. A lot of people are going to tell you that you can't do that. That it's going to mess with the flow of the game. But they really are doing a great job. It's a seamless transition between the two. They're very comfortable with it."
The Tar Heel players love the current rotation, because it's freeing things up for them and creating a more open dynamic within the framework of the offense. While the running game still isn't producing at a level that the coaches would like, Williams' ability to run the ball---as well as the threat of him running---has forced defenses to approach UNC a little differently.
"We love the rotation that we have (at quarterback)," said Howard, who had his first career two-touchdown game against the Eagles on Saturday. "They're really similar guys, but 'Quise can just run a little bit better than Bryn, and Bryn has got better balls sometimes than 'Quise, but it's all working out good. They're leaders. They get the job done, and that's all we need."
"We like it," added junior tight end Eric Ebron, who again led UNC in receiving with 67 yards on four receptions against Boston College. "'Quise brings a different side to the offense. Bryn brings a different side to the offense."
"It works. I mean, it confuses the mess out of people," he continued. "You don't know if 'Quise is going to run it or throw it or not. You don't know is Bryn is just going to run it or throw it. Everybody thinks they have it all bottled up, but they don't."
Ebron says that having both quarterbacks rotating in and out 'Never' throws off the team's rhythm, 'Because we know exactly what each one of them wants to do, and how to do it, because we practice it a lot."
What's been really exciting in recent games has been the improved passing of Williams. And though he missed a couple chances in Saturday's game with overthrows, he's proving with each passing week that he can be a viable option through the air, which of course makes the possibility of his running an even more dangerous prospect.
He threw into some tight windows, Renner-style, especially on a 15-yard reception to Quinshad Davis at the end of the first quarter.
"That's just throwing the ball, doing my job," Williams said of his throwing improvements. "I feel like I can squeeze it in there. I thought I squeezed it in there well for Quinshad to catch the ball. It was a tight, tight window. I was really surprised, but you know, I got it in there and we kept the drive going."
UNC was trailing BC 7-6 at the time of that late first quarter Williams completion to Davis, but that pass triggered the Tar Heels towards a vital touchdown that gave them the lead that they would not relinquish.
"With me going in every now and then, it's been more confidence with me. I feel like when I go in, I'm not nervous anymore. It's just back to playing like basic football like from elementary to middle school to high school," said Williams. "It's starting to build confidence, confidence, I guess. The coaches are starting to feel confidence in me that the things I do, so I'm liking it."
Given how well things have worked the last two weeks with Williams and Renner rotating in and out, it would seem that this is the new normal for North Carolina's offense as they head into the stretch run.