CHAPEL HILL, North Carolina — Marquise Williams and North Carolina's offense never showed anything like the high-scoring form of recent weeks against rival North Carolina State. Instead, Williams found himself under constant duress while the Tar Heels found no rhythm or momentum in Saturday's 35-7 loss to the Wolfpack.
Overwhelmed by N.C. State's defensive front, the Tar Heels managed 207 total yards and barely averted a shutout loss with a meaningless late touchdown.
"Offensively, that was probably as bad as I've ever been around, actually," UNC coach Larry Fedora said.
Williams — one of the league leaders in total offense — threw for 97 yards on 11-for-22 passing and ran for just 11 yards while taking three sacks. The last knocked him out of the game early in the third quarter with an injury to his lower right leg.
But the Tar Heels generated no rushing game to help him, finishing with 30 yards on the ground. T.J. Logan had run for at least 92 yards in the past two games, but finished with 12 yards on five carries. And it didn't help losing center Lucas Crowley to an apparent leg injury in the first half.
"That was definitely one of our worst games as an offensive line," right guard Landon Turner said. "It wasn't a lack of ability. It was more of a mental gap. We got in our own heads today."
For N.C. State, Jacoby Brissett and Shadrach Thornton each ran for touchdowns in huge rushing performances. Brissett ran for a career-best 167 yards while Thornton ran for 161 more for the Wolfpack (7-5, 3-5 Atlantic Coast Conference), part of a 388-yard ground game that set a physical tone from the outset.
Brissett threw just 11 passes, three went for short touchdowns.
Meanwhile, the Wolfpack's defensive front mauled the Tar Heels (6-6, 4-4) in a surprisingly one-sided performance against an offense that had been rolling coming into the game.
N.C. State finished with four sacks and 10 tackles for loss, repeatedly swallowing up running plays and swarming around Williams or backup Mitch Trubisky. The Wolfpack led 21-0 by halftime in a performance that ended up looking a lot like a 41-10 win here in 2008 when Russell Wilson was the quarterback and Tom O'Brien was coach — complete with the Wolfpack celebrating late in Kenan Stadium after the home fans had long since fled for the exits.
Now second-year coach Dave Doeren has his first win against the rival Tar Heels, snapping a two-game skid in the series with the most impressive win of his brief tenure in nearby Raleigh.
North Carolina entered this game with a lot of momentum after a lopsided win against another rival, Duke, last week. Yet the Tar Heels looked nothing like that team, while the Wolfpack looked more than ready after a week off.
Brissett scored on a 17-yard keeper to start the game, had five runs of at least 16 yards and had a 60-yard run to set up Thornton's short touchdown late in the first half.
N.C. State had just one 100-yard individual rushing performance all year, but Brissett (115) and Thornton (106) had reached that mark by halftime.
By the end, Brissett had set the program's single-game rushing record for quarterbacks and N.C. State had its first back-to-back 300-yard rushing games since 1981.
Williams left the game after being sacked by T.Y. McGill as he tried to escape with 12:29 left in the third quarter.
Williams stayed down briefly before slowly walking off the field. He was eventually carted to a nearby tunnel for evaluation, and was spotted walking gingerly along the sideline back to UNC's locker room at the opposite end of the field late in the quarter.
Team spokesman Kevin Best said X-rays on Williams' lower right leg showed no fracture.
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