UNC claims 27-19 rivalry win against N.C. State
RALEIGH — Freshman receiver Ryan Switzer corralled the backward pass from Bryn Renner, rolled out to the right and flung up a high-arching lob that settled nicely into the hands of Quinshad Davis for a touchdown.
Switzer said that he didn’t expect coaches to call the option pass, that he hadn’t thrown a ball in a game since “midget league.” Davis said Swizter had looked rough tossing the football in practice all week. But the play worked to perfection, giving UNC a second-quarter 21-16 lead against N.C. State — much to the jubilation of Switzer, who chestbumped every teammate who would comply.
In a teeter-totter 27-19 win against the Wolfpack (3-5, 0-5 ACC), the Tar Heels (3-5, 2-3) needed to use every asset at its disposal. Coach Larry Fedora joked after the game that he considered putting Switzer at quarterback, as both Bryn Renner and platoon partner Marquise Williams went down with injuries throughout the course of the contest.
Fedora said his team showed resiliency, responding to those injuries and playing past its mental miscues and penalties.
“We had talked about going into this game what was going to happen, and it happened,” Fedora said. “Whether we went up or down, there were going to be a lot of ups and downs in the game … I just said, ‘Play it the same way with the same emotion, same enthusiasm, same energy.’”
The adversity began early as Renner, admittedly pressing, threw a pick in just the second play of the game, giving the Wolfpack the ball at UNC’s 24-yard line and jumpstarting N.C. State to an early 10-0 cushion. Quarterback Brandon Mitchell gashed the UNC defense on the ground, rushing for 40 yards in N.C. State’s first two drives en route to N.C. State’s best quarterback rushing mark (105 yards) since 1976.
It took Williams taking over at quarterback in UNC’s third offensive series for the Tar Heels to get into their own groove. Playing at a noticeably faster pace, the Williams-led offense charged 74 yards down the field in eight plays, finishing off the drive with a two-yard touchdown pass to Davis.
Renner took over in the next drive, and tallied a rushing touchdown of his own, as UNC mixed and matched its offensive weapons throughout the course of the game, partly for strategy and partly out of necessity.
Both quarterbacks were able to return to action after their respective injuries.
“We did a good job during the week of having the scenarios come up,” Renner said. “You throw in one in practice and then you come off the field, so I’m kind of used to it now, and I think we do a great job feeding off each other.”
The tinkering wasn’t just limited to the quarterback position, however.
UNC’s less-experienced players, like Swizter, have progressively gotten more reps during the season, and that was the case again Saturday.
Receiver Bug Howard figured largely into UNC’s aerial attack, pulling down five catches for a team-best 72 receiving yards. Freshman running back T.J. Logan gained 43 yards on five carries and scored his first career touchdown, and freshmen Khris Francis also crossed the plane before his run was called back on a holding call.
“We sat down and talking this week, and we collectively decided that we aren’t freshmen anymore,” Switzer said. “We had to play like upperclassmen.”
It wasn’t all positive for UNC by any stretch — the Tar Heels lost a total of 80 yards on eight penalties, missed a field goal and extra point and mishandled the ball on a few occasions.
But the Tar Heels were able to do just enough top their in neighbors from the Triangle.
“Coach Fedora said we were going to get adversity,” said tight end Eric Ebron, who wasn’t shy about his feelings for N.C. State before or after the game.
“We responded just like he said. Laugh at it, put it in our pocket, run with it, and that’s exactly what we did.”