It seemed like UNC had been here so many times before. National stage, chance to show the program had turned a corner, only to fall flat in prime time. For once, anyway, the Tar Heels flipped the script.
Carolina came out of the gates to build a 20-3 halftime lead and held on for a 26-19 road win over a ranked Pitt team that was undefeated in the league. Carolina notched its 7th straight win and took over sole possession of first place in the Coastal Division following Duke's loss on Saturday night.
UNC blew the game open in the second quarter with two long touchdown strikes from Marquise Williams to Mack Hollins and Ryan Switzer before taking their foot off the offensive gas. And UNC's defense remained stout with five sacks and numerous pass breakups yet gave up one of their worst passing performances of the year and two second-half touchdowns for the first time all season.
With that in mind, here is this week's GBU Report:
Ryan Switzer: The junior has made the best of his appearances in Pittsburgh, which is relatively close to his West Virginia hometown. Switzer had a 71-yard touchdown reception and finished with a season-high 126 yards. Two years ago Switzer returned two kicks for scores against the Panthers.
Quinshad Davis: The senior has quietly become UNC's career receptions leader with 183, surpassing Hakeem Nicks.
Penalties: After a season-high only four days before, Carolina only drew three flags for 15 yards.
Defensive line: After generating only six sacks in the first six games, UNC had five against Pitt. Injuries have decimated the D-line but younger players who have been plugged in may finally be getting some things together.
Nick Weiler: Weiler scored UNC's only points of the second half on a pair of field goals. Weiler was 4-4 on the day and is now 14-16 on the season, as well as a perfect 33-33 on extra points. Ask NC State what a luxury a competent kicker is.
3rd down conversions: As much improvement as UNC's defense has made, the propensity to give up 3rd down conversions is troubling. Pitt was a healthy 8-17 on 3rd down, including 5-11 on 3rd and more than 6 to go. In other words, when Pitt was behind the chains, they converted on 3rd down nearly 50% of the time. At some point you feel this is going to come back and bite the Tar Heels when they can't get off the field.
Punting: OK, this is getting really bad. UNC went back to Corbin Daly last week and backup punter Hunter Lent didn't even make the trip to Pittsburgh. But after Daly had a punt blocked, Carolina called on backup place-kicker Joey Mangili to punt in a situation where you might have expected the Tar Heels to go for it. UNC ended with a net 22.8 yards per punt. Likewise, this will have to come back and bite them at some point, right?
The good news for UNC was that this was an impressive win on the road against a ranked team on a short week of preparation. This is the Heels' second road win in the division on the season and Carolina will certainly be ranked this week when the polls come out on Sunday. Now next week UNC will welcome to sold-out Kenan Stadium for homecoming a Duke team reeling from their bizarre loss to Miami. I'm sure the Blue Devils won't have any motivation and inspiration to take it to Carolina, especially after last year's game. UNC controls its own destiny but the back-loaded schedule continues and the Heels will need to remain in playoff mode.