Game Recap (Football): Pitt vs UNC
By: Nick Rose
Things got off to an ominous start on Thursday night for the Panthers when Anthony Ratliff-Williams returned the opening kickoff 98 yards for a North Carolina touchdown. As a result, the Panthers found themselves down 7-0 a mere 16 seconds into the game. On the ensuing drive, Pitt’s rushing attack led them into North Carolina territory, but the Panthers had to settle for a 42 yard Alex Kessman field goal after the drive stalled out at the 24 yard line.
After exchanging punts, Anthony Ratliff-Williams struck again by hauling in a 40 yard reception from Tar Heel quarterback Nathan Elliot that ultimately set up an 11 yard touchdown toss from Elliot to receiver Brandon Fritts.
Trailing 14-3 at the end of the first quarter, Pitt knew that they had to respond immediately, and they did just that by putting together a 49 yard drive capped by a Darrin Hall 7 yard touchdown scamper. A shanked punt by Tom Sheldon on North Carolina’s next drive allowed Pitt to set up shop at the UNC 38 yard line, and the Panthers capitalized thanks to a 20 yard rush by Maurice Ffrench on a Matt Canada-esque jet sweep call that advanced the ball to the UNC 1 yard line. Yet again, it was Darrin Hall punching it in for the Panthers touchdown.
All of a sudden trailing 17-14 after building a 14-3 lead, UNC recaptured the lead on a beautiful trick play that had the Panthers secondary completely fooled. Receiver Anthony Ratliff-Williams got the ball on an end-around and threw a 35 yard touchdown pass to a wide open Josh Cabrera to put the Tar Heels ahead by a score of 21-17.
It looked like Pitt was going to answer North Carolina’s call on the next possession by putting together a touchdown drive of their own, but a Quadree Henderson fumble on the UNC 1 yard line was returned by Tar Heel linebacker Cayson Collins for 66 yards to set up a 51 yard field goal by Freeman Jones. North Carolina entered the half leading Pitt 24-17.
After a fairly uneventful first half, Pitt quarterback Ben Dinucci came out on fire for the first drive of the second half, completing two passes for 28 yards and dashing for two first downs en route to a 9 yard Darrin Hall touchdown run that knotted the game up at 24. Then, after North Carolina broke the tie thanks to Freeman Jones’s second field goal of the night, Pitt’s offense responded with a 75 yard touchdown drive that concluded with Darrin Hall’s fourth score of the game, this time from a yard out.
Not to be outdone, Nathan Elliot led the Tar Heels to what would ultimately be the game winning touchdown with 6:18 left in the contest. Elliot threw a 3 yard strike to Anthony Ratliff-Williams to seal a 34-31 victory for North Carolina. Pitt would only possess the ball one more time before the Tar Heels took over and ran out the clock, improving their record to 2-8 on the season. Meanwhile, the Panthers fall to 4-6 and now face an uphill battle if they aspire to make a bowl game with #17 Virginia Tech and #7 Miami remaining on the schedule.