ATLANTA (AP) – There are no more questions about North Carolina’s starting quarterback.
Making big plays as a passer, runner and receiver, Marquise Williams proved he’s the do-it-all leader of the Tar Heels’ attack.
Williams caught a 37-yard touchdown pass on a trick play to cap a comeback from a three-touchdown deficit, leading the Tar Heels to a 38-31 win over Georgia Tech on Saturday.
One week after Williams was pulled in a win over Delaware, there were suggestions he might again be replaced by backup Mitch Trubisky if he had a slow start against Georgia Tech.
The Tar Heels indeed started slowly, falling behind 21-0, but coach Larry Fedora stuck with Williams, and the senior delivered.
“He was a beast today,” Fedora said.
North Carolina (4-1, 1-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) began its comeback with two touchdowns in the final 90 seconds of the first half. That started a run in which the Tar Heels outscored the Yellow Jackets 38-10.
Williams’ go-ahead touchdown catch came less than 4 minutes into the fourth quarter. He handed off to running back T.J. Logan, who ran left and handed off to Davis on what looked like a reverse. Davis stopped and threw to Williams, who was wide open for the touchdown.
All he had to do was wait — and wait — for the ball to come down before strolling into the end zone.
“The ball was in the air for a long time,” Williams said. “I said if I drop this, I’ll never be able to go back to Chapel Hill.”
Williams’ touchdown catch came one play after Georgia Tech quarterback Justin Thomas fumbled when hit by linebacker Cayson Collins. Junior Gnonkonde returned the recovered fumble 20 yards.
It was Williams’ third career touchdown catch — each from Davis. Williams added a 28-yard touchdown run on a fourth-down play with about 5 minutes remaining.
“He took a lot of criticism last week,” Fedora said. “He came out and … was determined to do well, and he did a great job.”
Williams had 15 carries for 148 yards and two touchdowns, completed 13 of 24 passes for 134 yards and added the scoring catch.
North Carolina’s Elijah Hood ran for 60 yards and two touchdowns.
Georgia Tech (2-3, 0-2) has lost three straight.
Coach Paul Johnson said he felt as if he had been “gut-punched.”
“We kind of let it slip away from us,” Johnson said.
The Tar Heels ended a streak of eight straight losses at Georgia Tech since their last win in 1997.
The Yellow Jackets’ last possession, which began at their 30 with 1:04 and no timeouts remaining, ended with an interception by M.J. Stewart.
Thomas completed 12 of 21 passes for 168 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He ran for 56 yards and two touchdowns.
North Carolina’s defense stopped a fourth-down run by Thomas at the Tar Heels’ goal line early in the fourth quarter. Georgia Tech had converted its three previous fourth-down plays.
A 1-yard scoring run by Thomas gave the Yellow Jackets a 21-0 lead. With less than 5 minutes remaining in the half, Georgia Tech’s overwhelming advantage in time of possession was 20:38 to 4:48.
North Carolina finally put together its first scoring drive. A 13-yard run by Hood set up Williams’ 2-yard touchdown run with only 1:29 remaining.
Following a low snap and short punt by Georgia Tech, Williams’ 7-yard scoring run cut the lead to 21-14.
Georgia Tech defensive tackle Adam Gotsis was called for targeting for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Williams early in the second quarter. A review, which appeared to show contact was made with Gotsis’s facemask, confirmed the call and the senior defensive leader was ejected.
Fans booed the ruling as Gotsis was escorted off the field.
AP college football website: collegefootball.ap.org