Surratt's early exit rehashes quarterback question

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Quarterback Chazz Surratt (12) lets a pass fly against California on Saturday.

Just when the North Carolina football team looked like it may have found its quarterback for the next four years, head coach Larry Fedora was thrown a curveball.

First-year quarterback Chazz Surratt, who got the nod to start in the Tar Heels’ (0-2, 0-1 ACC) second game of the season against No. 17 Louisville (2-0, 1-0 ACC), had an abbreviated showing on Saturday, manning quarterback responsibilities for only the first half. While on the field, Surratt put together a solid performance, going 12 of 14 for 168 yards and two touchdowns.

But in the second half of the former Gatorade State Player of the Year’s first ever start, he was tied to the sideline. Surratt’s absence could be tied to an in-game injury.

“The very first time I ran it, I just got hit in the lower back, and the rest of it got worse as the game went on,” Surratt said after UNC’s 47-35 loss to the Cardinals.

The starting quarterback said the hit he took made pain run down the side of his right leg. And despite showing signs of a quick recovery — like hopping on a training bike throughout the second half and telling Fedora that he thought he was good to re-enter the game at any time — Surratt didn’t take another snap.

“I could have went back, but Fedora I guess (made) a head coach’s decision,” Surratt said. “And I just supported Brandon as he went out, and he played well for us.”

Surratt learned that he would start Saturday’s contest on Thursday, and he said he expected to “play a whole lot” after getting a majority of the reps in practice.

“The plan was to start Chazz and to play it by ear from there …” Fedora said. “We were going to give (Brandon) a chance, and he came out and did a nice job. Chazz probably could have gone. Not sure he would’ve been 100 percent at that time, so we’ll just see how it plays out.”

In his place, graduate transfer Brandon Harris — who started the Tar Heels’ home opener against California a week ago — played the entire second half. He finished 17 of 23 for 216 yards and one touchdown, putting together a redemptive performance after his two-interception debut.

“I was just playing relaxed,” Harris said of his improvement over the last two weeks. “Again, and I’m going to repeat this and it’s going to be verbatim, but the thing is, this is my second time playing with these guys."

Ironically, though, Harris’ relaxed play and impressive command of the offense rehashes and re-complicates the question Fedora has been asked since the ACC's football media day in July.

After nailing down two potential starters from the four-man race it was at the beginning of August — and later assessing Surratt’s performance in the opener as superior to Harris’ — Fedora and the Tar Heels thought they knew what was coming. 

And now, two weeks into its so-far winless season, it’s fair to say that this North Carolina football team still has more cluster than clarity.

@alexzietlow05

sports@dailytarheel.com

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