Instead, a despondent yet honest Williams took responsibility.
He didn’t shy away from questions about his abysmal first half, during which he threw for just 38 yards. On four occasions, Williams credited his offensive line, which played with four underclassmen while missing two starters.
But perhaps most revealing, the typically confident Williams admitted that nerves got the best of him under the lights at Death Valley — where a sea of orange served as a backdrop to the Clemson defense led by All-American defensive end Vic Beasley, who was waiting to deliver pressure to Williams before every snap.
It was his own game, though, that Williams had to wait to come to him.
“I let the environment get to me a little bit, thinking about, ‘Hey there’s Vic Beasley on that side, a couple guys on this side,’” Williams said. “That shook me down for the first bit. But hey, I had to get it together.”
In his first three drives of the game under center, Williams completed just three passes for negative seven yards.
The crowd, the noise, the pressure all hit Williams — early and hard.
“Man, I stepped out on the first drive, and I said, ‘This is not real,’” he said.
Williams didn’t pick up any momentum until late in the second quarter when he connected with sophomore wide receiver Mack Hollins on a 17-yard touchdown pass. The throw appeared to be hanging, but Hollins thought otherwise.
“The ball ‘Quise threw me gave me a chance...,” Hollins said.
The touchdown pass was the lone bright spot of the first half for Williams who got sacked for a safety on the next drive. The Clemson defense sacked Williams twice in the first half while backup quarterback Mitch Trubisky led UNC into halftime with 49 passing yards.
But the second half turned into a different game for Williams.
“I felt like, you know, something went through me,” Williams said.
“I felt like I wasn’t giving my all in the first and second quarter. Just that dog (in me) told me, ‘Let’s go, man. Let’s get it going.’ I found ways to get it going. I just wanted to be there for my teammates.”
Williams threw for 307 yards and three touchdowns in the second half alone to erase a dreadful first half and finish the game with 345 passing yards, four touchdowns and one interception. Trubisky only played one snap in the second half.
Regardless of his complete body of work Saturday, an air of fault hung over Williams in the stadium tunnel.
He exclusively talked about his first-half performance, not his second-half play. And rather than make excuses, Williams decided to hold himself accountable.
“I’m going to be critical of myself,” said Williams of his plan for Sunday film study.
But after the game, Hollins and junior wide receiver Quinshad Davis weren’t critical of their quarterback.
Davis focused on the entire offense’s woes in the first half, not just Williams’.
“He threw four touchdowns, didn’t he? He did great,” Davis said.
Maybe Williams was too hard on himself after the loss. But not once did he make an excuse.