The game today between North Carolina (5 & 5 ~ 4-3 ACC) and Pittsburgh (5 & 5 ~ 2-4 ACC), which the Heels won 34 to 27, could have been described as a tale of two halves. With UNC up 24 to 3 by half time and Pitt rallying in the second half, tieing it up at 27 with about six minutes left to go in the game. Or it could be the Ryan Switzer return show.
After returning a punt for a score last week against Virginia, the freshman returned a pair in this one, the second one putting his squad ahead to stay in a game both teams truly needed. With the Panthers having all the momentum in the second half that TD run by the young man quieted down the crowd and cooled off a Pitt team that seemed destined to win this game.
It might not have been pretty overall, but it was the fourth win in a row for Carolina, who is now at .500 and with two games left to dispute. Meaning that this team, with all of its ups and downs, could easily be looking at a bowl game appearance after starting off 1 and 5. I know you can not turn back time, but you have to wonder what UNC’s record could be if they had played some of the early games like they are now.
But back to today, it was all UNC in the first 30 minutes. After being down by a field goal head coach Larry Fedora’s team went off on all cylinders, scoring in a variety of ways. Sophomore Marquise Williams, who has gone back to his #12 after wearing #2 for Bryn Renner last week, had a decent day altogether (15 for 27 ~ 173 yards – 15 carries for 79 yards and 2 TDs), hitting eight different players for catches, four of the for multiple ones. It was not Williams’ best showing, but he was playing against the best team he has faced as a starter.
Between the job that Williams did with the offense, the punt return by Switzer and what senior defensive end Kareem Martin did on defense, including the 3.5 sacks on the day, made this seem like a blow out when the two teams went into the locker room at the half. However, as we all know, the games are made of two halves!
But then the mental errors came knocking. A fumble here and there, both giving short field position to the Panthers, a few flags when not needed, one on a pass interference that looked very iffy, and all of a sudden the opposition was only down by three scores, by ten points, by a touchdown, and voila… the game was tied and many would have thought the “thrive for five” might just end at Heinz Field.
Then, as though history was repeating itself, just like last season with Giovani Bernard against NC State, the Panthers had to punt it away. On the receiving end was Switzer, the rest is history. With a run made of speed and vision the freshman cut to his left, found the sideline, then cut it back to arrive to the promise land.
As far as the defense, it played well with the exception of the last part of the third quarter and the beginning of the fourth, where Pittsburgh managed to put together good drives that resulted in scores. Along with Martin, senior safety Tre Boston had a good game, and as a unit the D did not give up huge plays, even if they did give up some easy catches a few times.
On a side note, junior tight end Eric Ebron had three catches, but he got hurt, taken to the locker room, and the North Carolina fanbase must have felt relieved when number 85 was then able to come back onto the field a bit later.
As the team comes back to Kenan Stadium the good news is that finding a sixth win should not be very hard with Old Dominion coming into Chapel Hill next week. On the other hand, with a 4-3 record in the conference, looking back at the season, the losses to both VA Tech and Miami have to feel truly rough, since had Carolina won one out of two of those match ups they be in the running for the ACC Championship game.