North Carolina appeared to be on their way to one of the most soul-crushing losses in recent memory after plundering a 24 point lead, but Ryan Switzer would have none of that nonsense and took a punt to the house for the go ahead touchdown. It was Switzer’s second punt return TD for the Heels, and his third in just two games. North Carolina has now evened its record at 5-5 and appears to be on its way to a bowl game.
UNC got off to an amazing start behind a strong defense and performance from Marquise Williams. Quise ran for two touchdowns in the first half, and UNC added in a field goal to counter Pitt’s field goal to go up 24-3 at the half. It was the best half of football UNC had played all season. Kareem Martin played out of his mind, racking up three sacks and a forced fumble in just the first half. All was looking good for the Tar Heels, and it appeared they would cruise to a big victory like last week.
But Pittsburgh would have none of that. Give credit to the Panthers, who came back from a 24 point deficit to tie the game at 27. UNC made some very stupid turnovers and plays, and the defense reverted to its “ECU-level” performance. UNC’s defense, in the bad stretch where Pitt scored 24 unanswered points, missed way to many tackles and struggled bringing down Panther RB James Connor. With the game tied at 27 with 8:52 left in the fourth quarter, all Tar Heels fans were nervous.
The defense flipped the switch back on after that, holding Pittsburgh and forcing them to punt to Ryan Switzer. Switz wrote his name in the North Carolina history books with his second punt return touchdown, the seven points which also turned out to be the difference in the game. UNC would hold on after that, and come away with a huge victory.
We learned a lot about this North Carolina team. We saw what the potential is, and how good the team can be, in the first half when they went up big. But we also saw the reason why UNC started out 1-5 on the season when Pitt came back to tie the game. And finally, we learned this Carolina team has heart. Lots of it. They held tough at the end and came away with the victory. After the game, it was jubilation from Coach Larry Fedora and his team. North Carolina has evened its record and is one step closer to a bowl game.