Young Tar Heels spark UNC football past ODU
Fireworks boomed in Kenan Stadium again and again and again. So much so that rumors spread about the firework supply nearly running out.
Touchdown after touchdown after touchdown in an 80-point offensive outburst featuring performances that would make video games blush, and saw longstanding school records fall like dominos, eventually led to the coaches agreeing to shorten the fourth quarter.
Sophomore Marquise Williams was the star of the show early on, totaling 425 total yards of offense in the first half, including 379 yards passing, and a dizzying five touchdowns.
“It feels great,” Williams said. “It feels like we just clicked on everything.”
Williams would be supported by stellar performances from Ryan Switzer, who caught two touchdowns and scored on a 64-yard punt return, and T.J. Logan, who ran for 137 yards and three touchdowns and added a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
The most eye-popping statistic associated with these three players? They’re all underclassmen.
Williams is the old guy of the trio, a redshirt sophomore, and Switzer and Logan are both freshmen. These three are a part of an uprising of talented young Tar Heels who have grown from dim lights in the distance to stars on the field.
“I wish we could’ve got it rolling earlier in the season,” Switzer said. “But you know, better late than never.”
They aren’t alone. Of UNC’s last 47 touchdowns, freshmen and sophomores have scored 39, including 23 in a row and all 11 against ODU. But while these players might be freshmen and sophomores in the classroom, Williams says he doesn’t make that distinction when they step on the field.
“They’re not freshmen to me. I just look at them as playmakers,” Williams said. “The guys can play football.”
Williams and Switzer have found themselves in the spotlight in recent weeks, but Saturday might have been Logan’s true coming-out party after he ran for just 55 yards against Pittsburgh Nov. 16 .
“I was down on myself,” Logan said, “But (Offensive Coordinator Blake) Anderson, he talked to me and just let me know that ‘You’ve got to put things behind you.’ And that’s what I tried to do.”
And on his 63-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, complete with a full cutback across the field, he put a lot of things behind him, including 11 ODU defenders.
Coach Larry Fedora said the emersion of young talent has been a large part of why this team has made such an unlikely turnaround.
“It’s been a big help to this football team,” Fedora said, “And I think because these guys have kinda grown up about midway through the season, I think you start to see this team become much better.”
After a 1-5 start, bowl eligibility seemed as unlikely as a pig flying into Kenan Stadium. But behind the trio of young Tar Heels have made a 180-degree turn, rattling off five straight victories and punching the team’s first ticket to a bowl game since 2011.
Ask these young stars what this kind of talent and success means to the team and their answers were nearly identical:
“The future is bright.”