Motivated Tar Heels rout Boston College
The Tar Heels snapped their four-game losing streak spanning nearly two months.
The day before the North Carolina football team faced Boston College, senior cornerback Jabari Price expressed his biggest fear to his teammates as the Tar Heels looked to avoid extending its worst start to a season since 2006 with yet another loss.
“I didn’t want losing to become an OK feeling, like guys just being OK with it,” Price said.
When game day arrived, senior tailback A.J. Blue relayed a similar message to select members of the team on the bus ride to Kenan Stadium.5
“It was just win in the worst way — no matter how pretty it is, no matter how ugly it is, let’s just try to get this W,” Blue said. “I was just talking to a couple guys like Marquise (Williams) and Romar (Morris) and never have I in my career been 1-5 — in Pop Warner, middle school, high school — never.
“So this is a new feeling for us, and it’s a sour feeling. We don’t like it.”
The words of both seniors translated to the field Saturday as the Tar Heels channeled a sense of urgency, a feeling of desperation, to defeat the Eagles 34-10 in a dominating fashion — the team’s first win since Sept. 7.
UNC displayed its urgency early. On just the second play of the game, a botched handoff between Boston College quarterback Chase Rettig and running back Andre Williams led to a fumble, which redshirt sophomore linebacker Jeff Schoettmer recovered.
The Tar Heel offense then took the ball 35 yards on five plays in 1:43 to the end zone — a drive ending on a 13-yard touchdown pass from redshirt senior quarterback Bryn Renner to freshman wide receiver Ryan Switzer. The score was the first of the freshman Switzer’s career after having two 80-yard touchdowns called back due to penalties in previous games.
Coach Larry Fedora commended the efforts of his defense led by senior defensive end and team co-captain Kareem Martin, who led the team in solo tackles on the afternoon with five and sacks with two.
“He’s been the most consistent guy for us all year, but in the last two games he’s really come on hard,” Fedora said. “He knows his career here at the University of North Carolina is coming to an end and is coming fast.
“I think he sees that and is wanting to get everything he can out of it.”
Outside of surrendering a 56-yard touchdown run to Boston College running back Andre Williams, who entered the game as the nation’s fifth-ranked rusher, UNC prohibited the Eagles from seeing their end zone.
And while the defense allowed Boston College to rush the ball for 202 yards, including 176 from Williams, the Tar Heels held Rettig to just 57 passing yards, utilizing a new-look defensive scheme featuring eight defensive backs for more than half the game, Price said.
“Where outsiders had concerns about stopping the run with Andre Williams being a leading rusher and we had problems stopping the run against (Miami) and also (East Carolina) and other opponents, we kind of answered the challenge,” Price said. “We came out and he played well, but we wanted to limit as far as their offensive production.
“(Boston College) Coach (Steve) Addazio, he had a lot of schemes on offense with play action, left and right with the shifts and motions, but we didn’t get confused. We didn’t flinch.”
The most telling stat from Saturday for the UNC defense was third-down conversions. The Eagles were just five-of-16 in the category. And with the Tar Heel defense frequently making its way to the sideline after third down, UNC’s offense was able to capitalize.
After going just 1-5 in the red zone with one touchdown against Miami, UNC scored five touchdowns on five trips inside of Boston College’s 20-yard line, utilizing its dual-quarterback scheme. Renner completed 18 of 21 passes for 227 yards and two scores to Switzer and freshman wide receiver Bug Howard. Backup Marquise Williams also threw a touchdown to Howard and rushed for a team-high 55 yards and one touchdown. Blue also crossed the goal line on the ground for his first score of the season.
“It’s a good feeling to get the ball back to our offense because they were kind of rolling tonight,” Schoettmer said. “To keep our defense off the field, to keep our offense on the field and keep the ball moving — that’s a big confidence-booster among your defense and a morale-booster for the whole team.”
Fedora said that despite an early 1-5 start to the season, he knew what he saw in practice would eventually translate to the field.
And Saturday it did.
“Everybody questioned the frame of mind of our kids, and it’s understandable. But I’m telling you, you come back out and the guys put it behind them,” Fedora said. “It’s not like we’re putting our arms around them with hugs and kisses. We’re getting after it, and they’ve had a great attitude.
“They understand what it’s going to take to be successful, and tonight we got it done.”