North Carolina rolls past Virginia 45-14
In his first game as North Carolina's No. 1 quarterback, Marquise Williams wore No. 2 to honor his injured teammate.
Williams accounted for scores in three ways, recording a touchdown passing, rushing and receiving to help North Carolina beat Virginia 45-14 on Saturday.
Ryan Switzer had a punt return for a touchdown and Dominique Green had an interception return for a score for the Tar Heels (4-5, 3-3 Atlantic Coast Conference).
North Carolina extended its winning streak to three games while posting its fourth consecutive victory over the Cavaliers (2-8, 0-6).
"I thought we probably played one of the more complete games that we have played this year, and I'm talking in all three phases," North Carolina coach Larry Fedora said. "I do believe that this team is getting a little bit better each week."
It was North Carolina's first game since starting quarterback Bryn Renner had season-ending surgery on his left shoulder, ending his college career.
Williams, who called Renner and a "big brother figure" and credited Renner with helping him become more mature, wore Renner's number rather than his customary No. 12.
"I felt like I should wear that to honor him because nobody has been through what he's been through and the ups and downs," Williams said. "I felt like honoring my guy and my leader and my boy. It just felt good wearing his jersey."
Wide receiver Quinshad Davis caught a touchdown pass and threw for a score for the Tar Heels, who led 28-0 late in the third quarter.
After a 1-5 start to the season, North Carolina can become bowl eligible with two wins in its final three games.
"It's just a good feeling in the locker room," Davis said. "Everybody's happy. Nobody's pouting, nobody's selfish about anything. It's just a good feeling right now."
The mood was opposite on the other sideline.
Kevin Parks rushed for 100 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries for Virginia. The Cavaliers suffered their seventh consecutive defeat, their longest losing streak within one season since 1981.
"They did an excellent job doing what they needed to do, and we did not," Virginia coach Mike London said. "The results are as they are."
Williams completed 15 of 28 passes for 185 yards and two touchdowns.
The Tar Heels had thrived in recent weeks using a two-quarterback system employing Renner and Williams, but Williams alone was enough against Virginia.
He led the Tar Heels on long touchdown drives the first two times they had the ball.
Williams threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to Davis to cap the first series, and Davis returned the favor with a 29-yard strike to Williams on the final play of the first quarter.
Davis took a pitch from running back T.J. Logan on a reverse and lofted a pass to Williams, who was alone in the Virginia secondary, for the touchdown.
The Tar Heels kept the drives alive by going 5-for-5 on third down. Four of the conversions featured passes by Williams on third and 9 or longer.
"Watching him pregame, watching him in the locker room, watching how he interacted with the guys, he was as comfortable as he ever is," Fedora said. "Nothing was changed about him, and he got out there and managed the game very well."
North Carolina led 21-0 at halftime after Switzer turned trepidation into celebration in a matter of seconds. He muffed a 49-yard punt by Virginia's Alec Vozenilek, but the ball bounced right back into his hands at the 15.
Switzer took off up the middle, broke a tackle and worked his way to the left sideline. He eluded Vozenilek at the Virginia 40 and coasted into the end zone for an 85-yard touchdown.
"I'm going to be in trouble for that tomorrow," Switzer said, referring to his drop. "Thankfully, it bounced right up. It kind of helped me because I got a second to hesitate, and the defense kind of outran it."
Trailing 28-0 after a 3-yard touchdown run by Williams, the Cavaliers showed signs of life when Parks had an 8-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter.
Anthony Harris intercepted a pass by Williams on the ensuing possession, setting up Virginia at the North Carolina 41.
But two plays later, Green intercepted an ill-advised pass by the scrambling David Watford and returned it 62 yards for a touchdown to put the Tar Heels ahead 35-7.
"It's obviously disappointing not being able to make something happen offensively early on," London said. "They got up on us quick."