Williams notched his first career start in place of Renner, who was sidelined with a left foot injury.
Williams, a red-shirt sophomore out of Charlotte, N.C., completed 23 of his 35 passes for 277 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. He also rushed for a team-high 56 yards on 18 carries against the ACC’s top defense.
“I’m a dual threat, so you never know what Marquise Williams will do,” Williams said during Larry Fedora’s radio show on Tuesday night. “He can pass the ball or run the ball. That was something I felt good about going into the game against Virginia Tech and it felt good coming out.”
When asked if he was surprised how well Williams threw the ball against Virginia Tech, Fedora replied: “No, not at all… Marquise can throw the ball very well. He proved that on Saturday, but he does that every day in practice.”
Due to his running ability, Williams is a more natural fit for Fedora’s spread offense that utilizes a variety of zone read and option plays. Renner, however, set a variety of school records behind a talented offensive line and beside running back Gio Bernard.
With the ground game struggling this season, Renner’s efficiency numbers have decreased. Williams’s performance in Blacksburg prompted some debate amongst the fan bases regarding which quarterback is better suited to maximize the offense for the remainder of 2013.
“Obviously, Bryn’s still the starter and it’s his team,” offensive coordinator Blake Anderson told reporters following Tuesday’s practice. “The way [Williams] handled himself on Saturday, the way he made decisions and responded from bad plays, lets you know you can integrate him more and we can create more stress on the defense so we plan on doing that very thing.”
Williams forced Virginia Tech out of its standard man coverage because defensive coordinator Bud Foster wanted to keep more eyes on the quarterback. Anderson complimented Williams’s ability to extend plays with his legs as well as his ability to stand in the pocket and control the offense, but stressed that a “couple of critical errors” hurt the team.
“One of the things he brings to the table is his ability to move the chains with his feet,” Anderson said. “That’s not Bryn’s forte – he’s more of a pocket guy. So it does expand the offense a little bit when he’s on the field. I thought he used his feet well and made good reads for the most part.”
Renner acknowledged those differences following Tuesday’s practice and welcomed any potential adjustments in the rotation for the greater good.
“He’s definitely more versatile than I am,” said Renner, who was back running with the ones during practice. “I’m more the thrower and he’s more the running guy. We understand that and we will feed off each other if that’s the case. But moving forward, I’m just going to do whatever it takes to win. If that limits my reps, then as long as we win games, I really don’t care.”
Anderson told reporters that if he had to do it over again, he would have opened the playbook up earlier in the game as UNC took a conservative approach to get Williams acclimated in the first quarter. While the coaching staff was aware of Williams’s handle on the playbook, Anderson said his sophomore quarterback handled the hostile atmosphere better than expected.
It’s those types of qualities, along with his versatility, that will earn Williams more playing time as the progresses.
“I wouldn’t hesitate to put him in the game,” Fedora said. “There’s a good chance that he’ll play in each and every game the rest of the way out to be able to use both of them and the skills that they both have.”