Go-To Connection

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. --- The notion made Quinshad Davis smile, even if he wasn't ready to agree with it. Had he, during his freshman season, become Bryn Renner's go-to receiver?

"I don't know about go-to," Davis said, holding back a laugh. "But he's coming to me a lot more now."

That much is certain. A week after tying an ACC record with 16 receptions, Davis was at it again Saturday. He caught nine passes for 135 yards and two touchdowns to help the Tar Heels beat Maryland 45-38 in the final game of their season.

Renner, meanwhile, completed 28 of 39 passes for 305 yards and five touchdowns. He finished the season with 28 touchdown passes, breaking the school record (26) he set a year ago.

Renner nearly had another touchdown record. The five TD passes he threw against the Terrapins tied a single-game school record, a record that Renner had to himself for about a minute.

Davis dived toward the goal line late in the third quarter, scoring what he thought was his third touchdown of the game after some tough running on a tunnel screen. But a look at instant replay overturned the call, giving UNC the ball inside the 1-yard line. Giovani Bernard plunged into the end zone on the next play, giving the Tar Heels a 45-35 lead and keeping Renner from his sixth touchdown toss.

No matter. It gives Renner and Davis something to shoot for in 2013.

The duo built quite a connection - and plenty of momentum - late in 2012. Renner closed the season with four consecutive 300-yard passing games, throwing for more yardage (1,328) over that stretch than any UNC passer ever had in any four-game period. Davis was the primary beneficiary, surpassing 100 receiving yards in each of the last three contests.

With the way Davis and tight end Eric Ebron (three catches, 57 yards, one touchdown against Maryland) tormented opposing defenses this season, Renner was excited to think about the future.

"I hope we can build off this," Renner said. "Those are two great players, two great weapons, and we're going to need them to step up again next season. I'm just looking forward to having an off-season to improve. This is the first year of a new scheme, and I think we can get a lot better at it."

Davis already has made big strides.

He made perhaps the biggest play for the Tar Heels against Maryland. With UNC trailing 35-21 and reeling after having allowed three touchdowns in 34 seconds of game action, Davis caught a short pass from Renner over the middle. Davis turned up the field, made a defender miss, and raced for a 50-yard touchdown that cut Maryland's lead to 35-28.

Davis credited his veteran teammates, especially senior wide receiver Erik Highsmith, for teaching him how to watch film and learn to attack defenses. That knowledge and the experience he gained on the field translated into 32 receptions for 417 yards in the final three games of the season.

"I always felt like I had the talent," Davis said. "I was just raw. I was just out here doing what they're telling me to do. Now I'm out here doing what I know I can do."

Davis wrapped up the year with 61 catches for 776 yards, both figures ranking among the top four in history for ACC freshmen. The only negative is that there are no more games remaining - this season, anyway - to add to those totals. The assault on UNC's record books is on hold until the fall.

"I'm starting to get my groove," Davis said.

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