Monar­chs can’t stay with Tar Heels early

Wil­liams fin­ishes at quar­ter­back for Old Do­min­ion

Richmond Times-Dispatch Weekend - - College Football - BY CHAR­LIE BROADDUS Rich­mond Times-Dis­patch Old Do­min­ion coach Bobby Wilder

NOR­FOLK — Af­ter los­ing to North Carolina by 60 points in 2013, Old Do­min­ion ap­peared poised to pro­vide its home fans a more com­pet­i­tive con­test against just the se­cond ACC foe to ever visit the Monar­chs.

Then the Monar­chs be­gan their first drive with a re­verse, which gave the im­pres­sion they knew all along they would need some magic to keep up with North Carolina. Af­ter all, they were with­out four of­fen­sive starters, in­clud­ing run­ning back Ray Lawry, and one de­fen­sive starter, all be­cause of in­juries.

Old Do­min­ion got one flash of that magic in the first half when Isaiah Harper caught a kick­off, con­sid­ered kneel­ing, and in­stead ex­ploded for a 100-yard kick­off re­turn touch­down.

But it barely made a dent, and the Monar­chs fell 53-23.

The re­sult showed Old Do­min­ion is still a long way from com­pet­ing with ACC teams. With a trip to Vir­ginia Tech loom­ing next week, the Monar­chs may be in for an­other rough day.

Nei­ther team had many long drives in the first half — of the 15 com­bined of­fen­sive pos­ses­sions, just three lasted longer than two min­utes.

But the re­sults of those drives were dras­ti­cally dif­fer­ent for each team. Old Do­min­ion was lucky when it got a first down, with just four in the first half. North Carolina had no such mis­for­tune, us­ing a hurry-up of­fense to score on six of its eight first-half pos­ses­sions.

“The first half was an em­bar­rass­ment all the way around,” said Old Do­min­ion coach Bobby Wilder. “The crowd shows up, they’re into it, they’re all be­hind you, and we em­bar­rassed our­selves.”

Wilder tried to find a so­lu­tion on of­fense, us­ing three quar­ter­backs through two quar­ters. Jor­dan Hoy started be­fore be­ing re­placed by Blake LaRussa, but Hoy would come back in af­ter LaRussa failed to make progress. Then Wilder opted to play 17-yearold fresh­man Steven Wil­liams Jr., who led a promis­ing drive late in the se­cond quar­ter be­fore fum­bling at North Carolina’s 1-yard line.

“Be­fore the game, I had a dream. I was like, ‘They might pull me and put me in the game,’ ” said Wil­liams. “(Wilder) looked at me and said, ‘Let’s go. Go get your hel­met, you’re play­ing.’ ”

To his credit, Wil­liams was poised as he led a more ef­fec­tive of­fense in the se­cond half. He threw a nearly per­fect pass down­field to Travis Ful­gham, who out­ran North Carolina de­fend­ers for a 71-yard touch­down.

Wil­liams’ per­for­mance prompted Wilder to name him the start­ing quar­ter­back.

“We needed Ste­vie Wil­liams to play like he did in the se­cond half,” said Wilder. “That was a big mo­ment for the 2017 team. …that was very im­por­tant.”

Wil­liams fin­ished with 139 yards, com­plet­ing 9 of 20 passes for two touch­downs and no in­ter­cep­tions. North Carolina’s Chazz Sur­ratt went 16 of 24 for 257 yards and three to­tal touch­downs, while Jor­don Brown rushed 17 times for 125 yards and two touch­downs.

The Tar Heels out­gained the Monar­chs 511 to 316 in to­tal of­fense.

With his red­shirt re­moved, Wilder said Wil­liams would start next Satur­day against the Hok­ies at Lane Sta­dium — a daunt­ing en­vi­ron­ment for any 17-year-old to start his first game. But nei­ther Wil­liams nor Wilder showed any trep­i­da­tion.

“I fully ex­pect he’ll go up there, and I ex­pect he’ll play well,” Wilder said. “That’s a lot to ask for some­one that’s 17 years old, but you’re the start­ing quar­ter­back at Old Do­min­ion now. Let’s go.”

“The first half was an em­bar­rass­ment all the way around. The crowd shows

up, they’re into it, they’re

all be­hind you, and we em­bar­rassed

our­selves.”

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