No. 11 UNC keeps focus on NC State, not year-old trash talk
The North Carolina quarterback has more important things to worry about than trash talk.
His 11th-ranked Tar Heels (10-1, 7-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) are in the midst of the program's best season in nearly two decades.
A year ago, a Wolfpack player called him out for being soft, and N.C. State backed up those strong words in a 35-7 thumping that has haunted the Tar Heels ever since.
''Last year's team was last year,'' Williams said Monday. ''Marquise Williams 2014 was last year. We're a different team. That's the thing - that's what rivals do. You go back and forth with each other.''
The Wolfpack (7-4, 3-4) didn't have any such incendiary comments this year, with coach Dave Doeren praising the Tar Heels for their quick-strike offense and their vastly improved defense.
''I don't really have to get fired up for this one,'' Doeren said. ''The guys, from the minute the (Syracuse) game ended, they're ready. The mental part of wanting to play well is not going to be a problem. Like I told them, this is not going to be, `Do you want to win the game?' It's not going to be, `Do you not like your opponent?'
''It's going to be, `Are you going to stay focused and execute the plan with great fundamentals and detail?'''
That's what the Wolfpack did last year in their lopsided win - their sixth in eight meetings with the Tar Heels. It came after defensive back Hakim Jones said Williams ''he basically almost quits because he doesn't really like to get hit'' when running.
Williams, the ACC's leading rusher among quarterbacks, ranks seventh in the league with an average of 66.6 yards and is just the fifth QB in conference history with at least 2,000 career yards rushing.
Asked if those words have stuck with him during the past 12 months, North Carolina coach Larry Fedora took a long pause before saying ''I don't know how to answer that.''
For the Tar Heels, the focus is on the present and the near future.
Fedora has spent the season keeping their focus on two key goals - winning the Coastal Division, and winning the mythical state championship.
North Carolina clinched at least a share of the Coastal title - and the ACC championship game berth that accompanies it - by beating Virginia Tech in overtime last week.
Not that anybody in light blue is looking ahead to that just yet.
Before the Tar Heels play for an ACC championship, they want to polish off their state title and make that blowout loss a more distant memory. They already have wins over two of their three main instate rivals, Wake Forest and Duke.
''We're not done. I won't sit back and look back until it's all over with,'' Fedora said. ''I told them earlier in the week, `We've come too far to only come this far.' We still have our blinders on and our heads down and continue to be focused on the job at hand. They know what we have to do.''
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