Talking Points: Triangle quarterbacks in the spotlight
Posted August 31, 2014
1. After months of poring through preview magazines, parsing countless media day interviews and diligently reading every camp update -- college football is finally back.
Let me guess. Your first Saturday of the season probably started out like this, correct?
By now the initial excitement has worn off and you've been pondering the deeper meaning of the results ever since. Perhaps your favorite program trounced the competition. Maybe it took a few quarters for everything to click and the win was too close for comfort. And heaven forbid your squad suffered an embarrassing loss.
It was a Saturday where Florida State was taken to the brink, Clemson was run over by Todd Gurley and Virginia was left wondering "what if those turnovers didn't turn into touchdowns?" Whatever happened, just keep in mind the first Saturday of football does not define the rest of the season.
2. The anticipation of Jacoby Brissett's NC State quarterback debut grew with every injury and bad throw at the position last season. The glowing reviews from his Wolfpack teammates and head coach Dave Doeren only added to the hype, but Brissett had to shake off the cobwebs first. Considering he hadn't seen actual football competition in almost two years, his early struggles should've surprised no one.
Brissett was 10-of-17 for 78 yards and an interception in the opening half. There were at least three passes that could have turned into touchdowns had they not been overthrown. Eventually Brissett settled down and delivered when NC State desperately needed it in the fourth quarter. Two of his three second half touchdowns came in the final 7:00.
The moment where it all came together for Brissett came on the game-winning drive, where he completed a series of quick strikes to his receivers. NC State's offense was moving so efficiently that Georgia Southern was forced to burn their final timeout. Unable to adjust, Brissett eventually hooked up with Matt Dayes for a 35-yard touchdown.
The Wolfpack lacked that level of consistency seen in Brissett's second half performance all of the previous season. While credit should also go to the offensive line and runningback Shadrach Thornton, NC State doesn't rally without him. Just another not-so-subtle reminder how much that position matters.
3. North Carolina head coach Larry Fedora openly trolled the media over who would be his starting quarterback against Liberty. Would it be Marquise Williams or Mitch Trubisky? Fedora simply wouldn't reveal his choice, going so far as to drop a bunch of "or" qualifiers in the game week depth chart.
Which was fine. Common sense said Williams would start against the Flames and sure enough that was the case. Fedora felt that his experience from last season gave him a slight edge. However, Trubisky also earned the opportunity to take meaningful snaps. So this quarterback competition is far from over despite Williams getting the first crack at it.
Williams finished 19 of 29 for 169 yards. While he did throw two interceptions, Williams did toss two touchdowns and rushed for two more scores. Trubisky wrapped up the evening 10 for 16 for 66 yards, one interception and one touchdown.
Although Williams didn't exactly wow on Saturday night, he does have a better grasp of the action compared to Trubisky. Call it a hunch, but Williams will continue to start for the Tar Heels.
4. Duke cruised past Elon as quarterback Anthony Boone threw for 247 yards and four touchdowns. The Blue Devils scored on all but three of their offensive drives against the Phoenix.
And that's about it. Seriously.
5. Duke made it look easy. North Carolina and NC State not so much. Both the Tar Heels and Wolfpack experienced self inflicted moments of severe anxiety in the second half of each game.
Those mistakes will undoubtedly be addressed by the respective coaching staffs in the coming weeks, but some of these issues are holdovers from last season.
NC State's rushing defense, which gave up an average of 217.4 yards per game in the ACC in 2013, had similar trouble stopping Georgia Southern's ground attack. Down 20-10 to the fourth quarter, the Wolfpack got a break when Eagles runningback Kevin Ellis fumbled at the goal line. NC State turned that stop into a 99-yards touchdown drive and changed the momentum of game.
North Carolina upped the difficult level of knocking off Liberty with early turnovers, a missed field goal and a botched snap that resulted in a safety. It got real dicey for the Tar Heels when Liberty took a 22-21 lead in the third quarter after safety Jacob Hagen returned a fumble for a touchdown.
The Flames were then extinguished with a combination of their own mistakes and opportunistic defense from the Heels.