The Daily Tar Heel

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Sunday September 26th

Mitch Trubisky arrives in UNC football's win over Illinois

North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky (10) dodges a tackle from Illinois defensive lineman Dawuane Smoot (91) during the game against Illinois at Memorial Stadium on Saturday, September 10. The Tar Heels won 48-23.
Buy Photos North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky (10) dodges a tackle from Illinois defensive lineman Dawuane Smoot (91) during the game against Illinois at Memorial Stadium on Saturday, September 10. The Tar Heels won 48-23.

You could do it with numbers, of course. They will say this: North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky played well Saturday night. They will note his four touchdowns — two passing, two rushing — and they will mention his yards. They will show, in a way, how essential he was to UNC’s 48-23 win over Illinois.

But numbers are merely that, and this moment deserves more than their simplicity offers.

Words, then, must do the job. Right?

“He was ready to come out here and ball,” senior T.J. Logan said. “Just Mitch making plays.”

Keep going.

“He started to get in a groove,” junior Elijah Hood said. “That’s kind of what I expected to see.”

The picture’s taking shape now, of a confident aura and the man it drapes over. It does not envelop him — he wears it.

“He has more. He definitely has more,” redshirt junior Nazair Jones said. “He still hasn’t put a game together yet. And that’s what the crazy thing is, because he hasn’t played bad.

“But we definitely expect a lot more from Mitch.”

There’s still something missing. Something more to be said or done. If not with numbers or words, how do you describe this man and this moment and what it all means?

By action. Choices. Not by what he said he would do, or what others said he would do, but by what he actually did.

Take the first quarter Saturday night, the very first play the Tar Heels ran — a sack, Trubisky on the ground and flashbacks to the season-opening loss to Georgia.

He was crumpled on the ground, but he did not crumble.

Instead, he responded. The next possession, he stood in that same collapsing pocket and unleashed a dart across the middle to a streaking Ryan Switzer.

The number says 21 yards. The words say a key completion. The action says it all.

The next play, Trubisky crept past the defensive line and scampered down the left sideline, almost for a touchdown. He did not slide on the play. He got hit — as football players, but not typically quarterbacks, do.

The number says 39 yards. The words say a big run. The action says it all.

“I didn’t want him to really take the hit at the end like he did, you know,” Head Coach Larry Fedora said. “But he came off the field and I said, ‘Don’t do that.’

“He said, ‘I needed it.’”

Two plays later, he plunged headfirst into a swarm of bodies and came out in the endzone.

There are so many more details, minute ones, that capture this all. The screams from teammates in the tunnel after the game — “QB1” — or that each offensive player interrupted Trubisky’s interviews to dap him up. They could have waited. They chose not to, and that says more than they can hope to.

So, then, how do you describe this moment?

Perhaps like this: A quarterback, relegated to the bench for three years, finally taking his job and thriving. Playing poorly, accepting criticism and then inviting more now that he has found success. Hearing lofty expectations for himself and this team — his team — and raising them himself.

Then, surpassing both altogether.

Maybe this moment is a fluke, one that in time will be looked back on as equally temporary and taunting. But it does not feel as such.

It feels like an arrival. It feels like a beginning.

And that description will have to do.

@BrendanRMarks

sports@dailytarheel.com



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