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UNC 26 Pitt 19: Game Recap

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Tar Heels jumped out to a 20-3 lead at halftime but needed a strong defensive effort to tough out a 26-19 win over Pittsburgh.

For a fifth straight game UNC trailed early with Pittsburgh burning 8:19 on the way to a 44 yard field goal by Chris Blewitt. The Tar Heels responded in kind with a nearly four minute drive that ended with Nick Weiler's 25 yard tie the game at 3 apiece.

From there the Tar Heel defense stiffened forcing a punt on the next possession. On the ensuing drive Marquise Williams made a sensational play to find Ryan Switzer for a 71-yard touchdown pass. Williams shed a tackle then was facemasked before planting and throwing deep to an open Switzer. It was the junior wide receiver's fourth touchdown in three career games against Pitt.

The defense continue to play well though the Panthers did move the ball before missing a 53-yard field goal attempt. The Tar Heels settled for a field goal to take a 13-3 lead then Donnie Miles laid a hit on Pitt WR Dontez Ford to dislodge the ball. Junior Gnonkonde recovered the fumble to set the Tar Heels up at the Pitt 38. Williams found Mack Hollins on a slant who slipped past two defenders for UNC's second touchdown of the game.UNC would head into halftime leading 20-3.

The second half started in less than ideal fashion with UNC going three and out then Corbin Daly's punt blocked to set the Panthers up in the red zone. The Tar Heels held Pitt to a field goal then got one of its own on the next drive to keep the lead at 17 early in the second half.

UNC's defense then started to show some cracks. The Panthers embarked on a six minute drive for a touchdown which included a 3rd and 5 conversion when Nate Peterman escaped pressure, make Mikey Bart miss and got the first down. UNC again had a chance to get a stop on 3rd and 9 at the UNC 29 but Tyler Boyd made a tough catch to keep the drive moving. Two plays later Pitt cut the lead to 23-13.

The Tar Heels had difficulty getting sustained drives for much of the second half often stalling after a couple of first downs. That put a great deal of pressure on the defense to keep Pitt at bay. For the most part the defense did that thanks to five sacks and the play of Des Lawrence and M.J, Stewart. Following a fake punt conversion, the defense forced a punt on 4th and 6 to get the ball back with 7:17 left.

UNC was able to burn over four minutes on the way to Nick Weiler's fourth field goal of the game Pittsburgh wasn't done yet and managed a touchdown drive to pull within seven after Blewitt missed the extra point. Quinshad Davis, who broke Hakeem Nicks' career receptions mark in this game, came up with the Panther onside kick to seal the win.

Ryan Switzer had 5 catches for 126 yards and a touchdown to lead UNC. Mack Hollins had 81 yards and touchdown. Williams was 14-23 for 270 yards and two touchdowns and nine carries for 52 yards. Elijah Hood peaked over 100 yards but was dropped for a loss and ended up with 98 yards in his second straight game of at least 20 carries.

On the defensive side, Des Lawrence and M.J. Stewart combined for seven pass breakups and Stewart recorded one of UNC's five sacks. Donnie Miles and Andre Smith each had 11 tackles each.

The Tar Heels are 7-1 in the ACC and now bowl eligible. UNC is 4-0 in the ACC and atop the Coastal Division. The Tar Heels will most certainly break into the Top 25 on Monday and on November 7th face Duke in Chapel Hill in a game that could decide who wins the Coastal Division.