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UNC 48, Illinois 23: Heels capture first win of the season behind improved Trubisky

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Three second half touchdowns sealed the victory for Carolina.

North Carolina v Illinois
T.J. Logan Touchdown for the Heels
Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

The Tar Heels found an offensive groove in the second half against the Illinois Fighting Illini on the road in Champaign. Carolina extended an eight point halftime lead to a 48-23 final score. The road win against this Big Ten foe helps the Tar Heels get a Power 5 conference win on the season, however, improvements are still needed before UNC moves on to conference play.

Mitch Trubisky was 19-24 through the air, passing for 265 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions. Trubisky also ran for two touchdowns, totaling 42 yards on the ground. Elijah Hood had 15 carries, totaling 88 yards and two touchdowns, including a streaking 62-yard touchdown run. T.J. Logan touched the ball nine times on the ground for 54 yards, and scored a touchdown on a Trubisky pass. Mack Hollins hauled in Trubisky’s other touchdown pass, a 20-yard strike to start the scoring in the second half.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Tar Heels held the Illini to 127 yards through the air, however, Illinois picked up 182 yards rushing. Linebacker Andre Smith was a man possessed on defense, leading the team with 14 tackles.

The game changed for the Tar Heels when Illini quarterback Wes Lunt fumbled and Carolina recovered. On the ensuing offensive possession, Carolina scored a touchdown to go ahead 17-14 and never relinquished the lead after that point.

Questions remain about some of the play calls, especially at the end of the first half. Instead of kicking a field goal, Coach Larry Fedora went for the end zone with two seconds on the clock. In the end, the risk was not costly, as the Tar Heels pulled away in the second half.

Further improvements will be needed on run defense, as there were moments in the game when the Illini could run at will. Tar Heel fans feared the worst in the first quarter when Ke'Shawn Vaughn broke off a 65-yard run to open the scoring for Illinois.

The Tar Heels return to Chapel Hill for the home opener next Saturday against the James Madison Dukes. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 PM at Kenan Memorial Stadium.