The Tar Heels have ripped off consecutive wins over Boston College and Virginia in their home stadium and a short bus ride away at N.C. State. Now they venture into the cold northeast to meet the Pitt Panthers Saturday at 12:30.
Pitt in its first year in the ACC Coastal Division and second year under coach Paul Cryst has a 5-4 overall mark and 2-3 ACC record. The Panthers are coming off a 28-21 win over Notre Dame and in the ACC have beaten Duke and Virginia and lost to Florida State, Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech.
“This is a team that just beat Notre Dame and we’re going on the road,” Tar Heel coach Larry Fedora said Monday at his weekly news conference. “But our focus this year has never been about the opponent. We have focused on ourselves. Each week we’ve said, ‘Let’s be 1-0, let’s get one more win, let’s find a way, go the extra inch, do what it takes, no matter who we’re playing.’ I expect that mindset again this week.”
The Tar Heels and new starting QB Marquise Williams have survived the season-ending injury to senior Bryn Renner and used Williams’ part-time duty in October to launch him into the starting role for the home stretch. Williams had played in nine games as a red-shirt freshman in 2012 in relief of Renner, throwing 17 passes and running the ball 29 times, and he was out of school in spring because of academic related issues.
Fedora said that Williams impressed him and offensive coordinator Blake Anderson with the fact he had actually gotten better from the fall of 2012 even with missing spring practice.
“When we started camp after he missed spring, it was obvious to Blake and me that Marquise had worked really hard during his time away,” Fedora said. “He was ahead of where he was coming out of last season. We didn’t expect that. It was impressive to me that he put in the time and effort away from the program. At that point, I knew Marquise was going to have a chance. I did not expect him to be at the level he was.”
Williams’ success this fall sprung from sitting out last spring and learning to appreciate being able to play a game he’d taken for granted all his life.
“Bryn always told me I have to take the game more seriously,” Williams said. “Last year I didn’t really take it serious, not like I should have.”
Adds Anderson: “Quise heard what everyone else heard, that Mitch Trubisky had a great spring. He knew he had a fight on his hands.”