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November 9, 2013
Youngsters lead UNC to third ACC win
North Carolina beat Virginia 45-14 to claim its third consecutive win Saturday and it relied on some of its teams youngest players for the second consecutive week en route to the win.
All of UNC's offensive yards - passing, receiving and on special teams - except for Eric Ebron's 21 receiving yards were gained by freshmen and sophomore players, but coach Larry Fedora knows that his younger players are having impacts in less visible areas too.
"This class, I really do think this freshman class is going to be pretty special," Fedora said. "Not only are they playing for us, they're making plays for us - each and every one. We'll be able to go back, and you watch those guys on defense, Mikey Bart and [Desmond] Lawrence and Dominique Green and Brian Walker and those guys, they're making plays for us."
"They're not just out there - they're making plays, then the guys on offense, it's obvious they're making plays. Again, Lucas Crowley, I don't know how many series he played, you don't even pay attention to it because you don't see a change.
Sophomore Marquise Williams led the underclassmen who scored, contributing to four of North Carolina's six touchdowns - passing for two and both catching and running the ball for one.
"To be honest, I think there's more pressure to catch it because I'm wide open by myself and there are hundreds of fans there screaming that you've got to catch it so I think there's more pressure catching that ball than throwing one," he said.
Williams added that the play called for his reception was one the team wanted to try against NC State but did not use because of the Wolfpack's coverage, but he was excited to see the call to catch from Quinshad Davis.
For the second year, sophomore Davis had a stand out game playing against Virginia, this year leading all receivers by catching five times for 65 yards and one touchdown. Davis was also responsible for hitting an open Williams for six and his first receiving touchdown.
"When I got the call and I seen the ball going up, I was just praying 'Please, don't let me drop this ball,'" Williams said. "It felt great when I saw it called from the sidelines, I was like 'Oh man, I'm about to get a receiving touchdown.'"
But between Williams' confidence in Davis' ability to complete the pass and Davis' own accomplishments in the game, Davis insisted that his ability to play so consistently well against the Cavaliers is nothing more than coincidence.
"I just got out there and try to do my job to the best of my ability every game and luckily I had a good one this year in this (Virginia) game too," Davis said. "It's a little bit of everything, but I would say it's energy more than anything,"
Ryan Switzer showed his energy and was the guy to finally make the big special teams play that Fedora has been waiting for this season.
The 84-yard punt-return touchdown added variety to Switzer's repertoire of ways to score, but the freshman - who threw for a touchdown against NC State after scoring his first touchdown receiving against Boston College - has yet to score in the way he is most comfortable.
"If they let me get a carry out of the backfield, that's where I'm most comfortable at," Switzer said. "I played running back all through high school so I'm still getting used to receiver, but it'd be great if they let me get a couple carries."
Fedora recognizes Switzer as the first of several of the freshman players who are not only impacting games, but having an increasing effect as the season progresses.
"[Ryan] Switzer is continuing to make plays, Bug [Howard] is making plays, now you've got Khris Francis getting into the endzone, (and) no. 8 [T.J. Logan] is doing a good job."
Francis scored his first career touchdown on a 15-yard reception from Williams early in the fourth quarter, but his biggest concern wasn't merely getting into the endzone he said, it was making sure the points would count once he crossed the goal line.
"I was just hoping it didn't get called back, but I was excited," Francis said. "Everybody else was there to share that moment with me and it probably just made that moment that much better just going through the sidlines, having everybody just tap you on the head and say 'Good job,' that was nice."
"Coming here as freshmen and being able to get involved so early, it changes how you're starting to play. Once you get some confidence getting in there, you're starting to see that you get used to the flow of the game. It's not high school but you start to adapt to it."