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Big Plays From Marquise Williams and Cayson Collins Boost Heels to Win

UNC goes to Atlanta and does something no Tar Heel team has done since 1997, win.

Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

With four minutes left in the second quarter UNC was pretty much left for dead. The Heels trailed 21-0 and showed very little ability or inclination to stop Georgia Tech's triple option. UNC scored a touchdown then got a break with a quick stop to grab another score just before half. From there the UNC offense rolled with Marquise Williams' career rushing day and the defense made plays late to move UNC to 1-0 in the ACC.

There is no QB controversy in Chapel Hill

Last week everyone was ready to crown Mitch Trubisky the Chosen One after his virtuoso performance against Delaware. Larry Fedora told anyone who would listen there was no controversy and Williams had his complete trust. No one was buying that and the assumption was if the offense sputtered, Trubisky would make an appearance. That wasn't the case. Even with UNC struggling Williams stayed in the game and ultimately ability as a rusher was a huge plus against a suspect Yellow Jacket run defense.

Williams turned in a huge performance leading UNC in passing, receiving and rushing. Williams still struggled passing the football. He missed Mack Hollins deep and continues to struggle throwing quick outs. On one play he bounced  backwards pass to Ryan Switzer who made a nice play off the turf to save the possession.  While his accuracy struggles continued, Williams did complete several key passes when the chips were down.

Ultimately it Williams' legs was the difference maker. As much as Georgia Tech's penchant for eluding tacklers and getting positive yardagr was a source of deep frustration for Carolina blue partisans, Williams doing the same undoubtedly drove the Jackets nuts. UNC played to his strength as a runner and on pass plays when there was nothing there, Williams didn't force it but took off for big gains.

With UNC facing 4th and 5 and protecting just a three point lead, Larry Fedora opted to go for it. With the ball in Williams' hands he not only found the first down marker but broke open a 27 yard run for a touchdown to give UNC an incredibly important two possession lead. That is the sort of playmaking UNC needs from its fifth year senior who ended up with a career high 148 yards rushing.

Almost as impressive as that was Williams' touchdown reception. UNC had just forced a turnover. In those situations it is not uncommon for Fedora to take a shot downfield or in this case call an unusual play. The Tar Heels opted for a play it used at Notre Dame last year and got a similar result.

After an abysmal start offensively, UNC find its stride. Williams play was a crucial part of that. Thiis game served as a nice bounce back for the senior after a week of people questioning whether he should be the starter.

Cayson Collins leads the defense with two big plays

Through much of the first half the defense was getting run over on a regular basis by the Georgia Tech rushing attack. UNC gave up 207 yards on the ground in the first half to the tune of 5.1 yards per play. That isn't a horrendous number but when the Yellow Jackets consistently hit 4-6 yards on every play it was akin to a death by a thousand cuts.

In the second half the defense tightened up on the run but gave away yards and points on the pass. In the third quarter UNC held Georgia Tech just just 40 yards rushing for a 3.6 yards per carry average. However the Jackets found some gaps in the pass defense and exploited it with Justin Thomas going 5-5 for 70 yards a touchdown. For as much as UNC was able to stop the run, the Jackets passing helped Georgia Tech to produce 6.9 yards per play in the third quarter.

The fourth quarter was a different story with the defensive stepping up to play winning football. In the fourth quarter Georgia Tech had 10 rushes for just 11 yards as the Tar Heels did a much better job stopping the Yellow Jacket offense.  A big part of that effort was the play of linebacker Cayson Collins.

The sophomore started the season behind Joe Jackson on the depth chart. Jackson was injured versus South Carolina and UNC announced this week a neck injury had ended his career. Enter Collins who made the most of his chances today. After UNC missed an opportunity to take the lead following a goal line stands, Collins got to Justin Thomas and forced a fumble. Junior Gnonkonde picked it up and returned it across midfiield to set up UNC's next score.

On Georgia Tech's next possession and UNC up 31-28, Collins tackled Georgia Tech's Connor Lynch for a three yard loss on 3rd and 2. The play led to Georgia Tech facing a tougher 4th and 5.  Thomas' pass fell incomplete to give UNC the ball back. For the game Collins collected ten tackles, nine of them solo and two for a loss to go along with a key forced fumble.

After a rough start, UNC ultimately held Georgia Tech to 255 yards rushing and 4.3 yards per carry, below the 5.06 yards per attempt UNC had given up through four games.

Notes(via UNC):

-21 points is the largest comeback in UNC history. The previous record was a 17 point rally versus Georgia Tech in 1987.

-UNC is 4-1 for the first time since 2011 and 1-0 in ACC play for only the 2nd time in 15 years.

-Williams has accounted for 69 touchdowns in his UNC career, second in school history. He is ten behind Darian Durant's record of 79.

-Quinshad Davis' career passing numbers: 4-4, 121 yards, 4 TDs, passer rating of 684.1.