UNC let Lamar Jackson do 700 yards of Lamar Jackson things, but that does not mean that the Tar Heels were without their bright spots. Austin Proehl hauled in 120 receiving yards, Brandon Fritts brought in four catches for two touchdowns, and Jalen Dalton had a decent game on the defensive line with a sack, three tackles-for-loss, two hurries, and a 74-yard chase down of running back Malik Williams. However, the defense struggled to stop much of anything the Cardinals did en route to a 47-35 win. With all of those scores, however, came the kickoffs, and Anthony Ratliff-Williams proved himself as a worthy asset in the return game.
On his first return, he took a kick from the goal line to the 39 yard line and almost seemed to have broken away. On his next two kicks he returned them 18 and 24 yards.
His next kick return came during the early minutes of the third quarter. The Tar Heels punted on their first drive and Louisville scored on theirs pushing the lead to 27-14. Needing something to swing the momentum back in their favor, Ratliff stepped up.
Taking the kickoff at the six yard line outside of the left hash, Ratliff cut towards the middle of the field where a huge hole opened. He then cut back to the outside and made his way through a clogged lane. Then, it was just a footrace to the sideline where he beat the kicker and made his way into the endzone for a 94-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. He added another 24 yard return to push his total for the day to 199 yards, which sets the new UNC record that was previously established at 184 yards by Marcus Wall in 1994. On the season, he has seven returns for 244 yards and is averaging 35 yards per return. Ratliff is looking more like the heir-apparent in the kickoff return game.
As always, Jones Angell gives us the best call of the return:
However, he wasn’t only a factor in the return game, he also made a few nice catches as a receiver being targeted four times and hauling in three of them for 41 yards.
Other than his solid action as a returner, his best play has to be on the opposite side of special teams when he downed a booming punt from Tom Sheldon before it bounced into the endzone.
Who do you think made the biggest impact during this ACC opener?