Tar Heels pick up first win, defeat Pitt in Chapel Hill
By Andrew Svensson
Pitt traveled to Chapel Hill for their first away game of the season against the North Carolina Tar Heels on Saturday afternoon, a 38-35 loss for the Panthers, who fall to 2-2 on the season and 1-1 in ACC play.
The Tar Heels opened up their first drive of the day on their own 30-yard line. Nathan Elliott led the offense to the Pitt side of the field until UNC faced a 4th and 1. Antonio Williams took the handoff and got the first down and more for a 37-yard UNC touchdown. The PAT was made, and UNC got points on the board first for a 7-0 lead with 7:02 remaining in the 1st quarter.
Qadree Ollison started off the ensuing Pitt drive with an explosive 28-yard run to the UNC 47 before the Panthers faced two 4th and shorts, both of which Pitt converted. A 13-yard run by Ollison in the red zone set up a 1st and goal on the UNC 7. Kenny Pickett kept it himself and scored a touchdown before Alex Kessman made the PAT to even the game at 7-7 with 2:31 left in the 1st quarter.
The Heels started off their next drive on the 25-yard line after a touchback. The biggest play of the drive came from a 37-yard pass from Elliott to Anthony Ratliff-Williams. The 1st quarter ended in the middle of the series before Antonio Williams rushed for a 1-yard touchdown 24 seconds into the 2nd quarter to give UNC a 14-7 advantage.
The Tar Heels got the ball on their own 30 following a Pitt three and out, and after a few plays, a pass to Ratliff-Williams led to a fumble which was recovered by the Panthers at their own 36. Pickett made big plays to Maurice Ffrench three times to drive the Panthers to the UNC 2-yard line before Ollison rushed up the middle to get his first touchdown of the day. Kessman made the extra point and the game was even once again, 14-14 with 8:23 left in the 2nd quarter.
UNC capitalized on a chance to respond after Pitt committed an unnecessary roughness penalty, giving the Tar Heels the ball on the Panther 31-yard line. Elliott passed to a wide-open Michael Carter who scored the touchdown to go up 21-14 with 5:56 left in the 2nd.
Pitt started the following drive with a bad holding call on the kickoff which backed them up to their own 15, a penalty that proved to be no problem for the Panther offense as Darrin Hall found an open hole and rushed for a 65-yard touchdown to make the score even once again at 21-21 with 3:07 left in the 2nd.
UNC went three and out, and Pitt elected to take a timeout to get the ball back within two minutes. Pickett led the offense to more points on the board before halftime. The sophomore threw an incredible 42-yard pass to Taysir Mack to set up a 1st and goal at the 2-yard line. Pickett then found George Aston who walked in for a touchdown, giving the Panthers their first lead of the day by a score of 28-21 at the half.
After a pair of three and outs to start the 3rd quarter, UNC’s next drive started with favorable position at their own 44-yard line. Elliott and the Tar Heels drove down the field to set up a first and goal at Pitt’s one-yard line. Jordon Brown scored the first touchdown of the second half, and the PAT was good to even the score up at 28-28 with 7:17 left in the 3rd quarter.
The Panthers weren’t able to find any offensive flow in the second half. Pickett took a costly 13-yard sack and forced Pitt to punt on a 4th and 22 on their own 9 to continue a scoreless 3rd quarter for the Panther offense. The punt was short, and UNC started their next drive on Pitt’s 37-yard line.
Elliott continued to carry the Heels through some big throws to receiver Ratliff-Williams for 21 yards, and a 19-yard touchdown pass to Dyami Brown to give UNC a 35-28 lead with 4:53 left in the 3rd. Ffrench fumbled the ensuing kickoff return, and Carolina kicker Freeman Jones scooped it up to give the Heels possession in Pitt territory. UNC was not able to score a touchdown and elected to kick the first field goal of the game to go up 38-28 with 1:48 left in the 3rd.
The next few drives of the game led to punts as UNC chewed the clock in the 4th quarter. The Tar Heels received the ball with 10:12 left in the game. During this drive, Elliott found Dazz Newsome, who shed multiple tackles to Pitt’s 6-yard line. Jones missed a 38-yard field goal and gave the Panthers a chance to respond.
Pitt started the following drive on their own 21-yard line with 5:07 left in the game. Pickett and the Panthers started their hurry-up offense to try to minimize UNC’s lead. With 3:12 left in the game, Pickett threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to Ffrench, cutting the Tar Heel lead to 3, 38-35.
Kessman’s kickoff went out of bounds, and the Tar Heels started on their own 35-yard line. UNC rushed on every down to chew the clock and rid the Panthers of all of their remaining timeouts. After a couple of first downs, the clock reached zero and UNC earned their first win of the season.
The Tar Heels are now 1-2 on the year and 1-0 in ACC play. Pitt falls to 2-2 and 1-1 in-conference. The Panthers’ next game is 3:30 on Saturday at UCF, Pitt’s third non-conference opponent of the year.