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UNC football team's hopes rely on tempo

The word is typically a noun. Definition: The rate of speed of motion or activity; pace.

Sometimes, Williams describes the noun form of the word, explaining the tempo with which an opposing team plays.

After Tuesday’s practice, reporters asked the redshirt junior quarterback about the tempo the North Carolina football team (4-4, 2-2 ACC) will likely get to taste in a road matchup with the University of Miami Hurricanes (5-3, 2-2) Saturday.

“It’s the Miami Hurricanes,” Williams said. “They run like rabbits.”

Most often than not, though, Williams uses tempo as a verb.

He did this recalling UNC’s 23-27 loss to Miami in 2013.

“Last year they showed they’re not very good with tempo — when we’re tempo-ing them,” he said. “That’s a lot of teams. When we get a first down, get going and we tempo, a lot of people tend to start putting their hands on their knees, substituting late, getting 12 men on the field, if we continue to go.”

For UNC to pick up its third consecutive win, Williams believes it will take that tempo.

This means UNC must start fast from its first possession of the game, though the team has struggled to do so all season.

In eight games, UNC has only scored three times on its first offensive drive — two touchdowns and one field goal.

The remaining five opening possessions? Four punts and one fumble.

A week ago, on the road against Virginia, the UNC offense didn’t score until its third drive of the game.

“We gotta create our own energy,” Williams said. “Last week, we came out too flat ... We found a way to keep going and kept it going, kept it going. But this week, we’re going to try to jump on them early.”

If the Tar Heel offense starts as slow as it did against UVa, it will find itself in quite of an early hole in Miami, Coach Larry Fedora says — especially given the speed and experience of Miami’s defense.

“(Miami is) really good on defense,” Fedora said. “They’ve got seven seniors over there, they’re playing hard, they’re doing all the good. But we have to take care of business. We have to get our tempo going, so that we can continue to move the chains.”

Sophomore wide receiver Mack Hollins has noticed the lasting effect a fast start from the UNC offense has on opposing defenses.

“That gives us a sense of comfort that we’re gonna be good the rest of the game,” Hollins said. “If we can get an early lead, since we play so fast, teams are dead by the fourth quarter.”

Williams, who leads the ACC in passing yards with 2,035, will face the nation’s ninth-ranked pass defense in Miami. It’s a unit sprinkled with speed from the defensive line to the secondary.

The UNC quarterback’s plan, though, is not to slow the game down and make the Hurricanes think. Rather, it’s to match speed with speed.

“They’re big, and they’re fast, and they compete,” he said. “We’re gonna do the same thing. We’re gonna go down and compete.”

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Against Miami, Williams wants to see how well his offense can “tempo.”