GREENVILLE, N.C. — The North Carolina football team fell to East Carolina, 41-19, dropping its second straight game to start the season. It is the first time the two teams have battled since a 70-41 beatdown by ECU in 2014.
On just the second play from scrimmage, UNC (0-2) junior running back Antonio Williams found a seam and streaked down the field for 48 yards to put the Tar Heels in good field position at the East Carolina 22-yard line. A few plays later, senior kicker Freeman Jones converted a 32-yard field goal for the first score of the day.
The Pirates (1-1) responded quickly, marching down the field 84 yards for a touchdown. The drive was capped by a six-yard touchdown run from senior Anthony Scott to make it a 7-3 game.
After a 3-and-out from both teams, UNC took the ball on its own 19-yard line. The Tar Heels quickly found themselves in trouble on third-and-14, but a pass from quarterback Nathan Elliott to running back Jordon Brown resulted in 28 yards and a first down. After gaining another first down, Jones converted his second field goal, this one for 44 yards.
A 30-yard run from Williams on the Tar Heels’ next possession put them in decent field position. UNC moved into the red zone and with 13:18 remaining in the half, Brown scored a 12-yard rushing touchdown to make it 13-7.
Starting from its 14-yard line with 13:18 left in the half, ECU marched 86 yards on 14 plays, scoring on a rushing touchdown from backup quarterback Holton Ahlers to move in front, 14-13.
Disaster struck for UNC with 5:02 left in the second quarter. A big gain from wide receiver Anthony Ratliff-Williams put the Tar Heels on the opponents’ 26-yard line. But on the play, Antonio Williams led with his helmet against an ECU defender, leaving him on the ground for more than ten minutes. Williams was ejected from the game for targeting and UNC was assessed a 15-yard personal foul penalty.
Following the delay, UNC settled for a 49-yard field goal a few plays later.
Yet another long ECU drive ensued. The Pirates executed seven plays to go 86 yards, ending with a 22-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Reid Herring to wide receiver Trevon Brown.
Beginning at its own 11-yard line with just 1:15 remaining in the half, UNC moved to the 25-yard line of ECU. A 42-yard field goal from Jones cut the Pirates lead to 21-19 at the intermission.
ECU struck first in the second half. A 48-yard carry from Darius Pinnix at the 10:19 mark put his team ahead, 28-19.
The Pirates did not score again until the 14:23 mark in the fourth quarter. Ahlers executed a quarterback sneak on fourth down, exploding for 21 yards. His second rushing touchdown of the game made it a 35-19 contest.
ECU added two more field goals to make the final score, 41-19.
Who stood out?
Williams was on his way to a 100-yard game before his ejection in the second quarter. The transfer from Ohio State had 96 yards on six carries. Jones kicked a career-high four field goals. Ratliff-Williams clawed his way to 84 receiving yards.
When was it decided?
Pinnix's touchdown with 10:19 left in the third quarter made the game a two-possession contest for the first time and seemed to deflate the remaining oxygen from the Tar Heels. The Pirates scored another touchdown and two field goals to make it a 41-19 final.
Why does it matter?
The loss puts UNC at 0-2 this season, and the schedule doesn't get easier from here. The Tar Heels face Central Florida next weekend before beginning a slate of seven consecutive conference game, four of which are on the road. Head coach Larry Fedora is now 1-3 against ECU during his Tar Heel tenure.
When do they play next?
UNC returns to the friendly confines of Kenan Stadium for the first time this season on Sept. 15 to battle against No. 19 UCF. The game kicks off at noon.
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