UNC Football: Tar Heels beat Pitt to earn first ACC win of season

PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 09: Nathan Elliott
PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 09: Nathan Elliott /

UNC earns their first ACC win of the 2017 football season by beating Pitt

The North Carolina Tar Heels wont go winless in the Atlantic Coast Conference this season.

UNC got their first conference win and second overall of the season on Thursday night beating Pitt at Heinz Field 34-31 to improve to 2-8 overall and 1-6 in the ACC.

The scoring got started on the very first play of the game when Anthony Ratliff-Williams returned the opening kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown.

It was Ratliff’s second kickoff return for a touchdown on the season.

After Alex Kessman’s 42-yard field goal on the ensuing drive for Pitt, Ratliff-Williams made another spectacular play to set up UNC deep in Panthers territory.

Ratliff-Williams went up and snagged a pass from Nathan Elliott with one hand  making a jaw-dropping catch.

It set up for a Elliott 11-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Fritz to extend UNC’s lead 14-3. But that lead didn’t last long as Pitt scored 14-unanswered points to take a 17-14 lead.

Then Ratliff-Williams struck again.

The wide receiver threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to Josh Cabrera on another trick play which gave the Tar Heels the lead again. Ratliff-Williams was a quarterback in high school and now has two touchdowns on the year.

His touchdown pass in Thursday’s game made him just one of two players in college football this year to have a touchdown pass and kickoff return for a touchdown in the same game, joining Penn State’s Saquon Barkley.

While Ratliff-Williams was shining for the Tar Heels, it was Pitt running back Darrin Hall doing the damage for the Panthers.

Hall scored all four of Pitt’s touchdowns, two in each half. He finished the game 121 yards on 24 carries.

The turning point came just before halftime. UNC led 17-14 and Pitt was marching right down the field when wide receiver Quadree Henderson fumbled the ball on his way to the endzone. Instead of it potentially being a 21-17 lead for the Panthers, UNC took advantage of the takeaway and kicked a field goal to take a 24-17 led into the half.

Pitt scored on their opening drive of the half but UNC was able to answer with a 48-yard field goal by Freeman Jones to take a 27-24 lead.

Then it appeared as if Pitt was going to put it away when they scored on a Hall touchdown run, then got the ball back after Jones missed a kick in the fourth quarter.  But trailing 31-27, UNC’s defense was able to make a big stop to get the ball back.

That’s when Elliott took over.

Elliott looked sharp, calm and collective all game long but particularly on UNC’s second-to-last drive when he marched them down the field on a drive that ended in a touchdown pass to Ratliff-Williams.

UNC’s defense made another big stop and their offense picked up three first downs to seal it.

Elliott finished the game 20-for-31 for 235 yards and a touchdown. More importantly, he didn’t commit a turnover.

UNC will host Western Carolina next Saturday for Senior Day in Chapel Hill before playing at NC State to close out the season in a few weeks.

Next: ACC power rankings for Week 10

The loss makes Pitt 0-5 against UNC in football since they joined the ACC in 2013.