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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC football loses to No. 25 Pittsburgh in overtime, 30-23

Redshirt first-year Elijah Green (21) runs with the ball at the game against Duke on Oct. 2 at Kenan Stadium. UNC won 38-7.

Despite coming back from a 17-point deficit, the North Carolina football team (5-5, 3-4 ACC) fell to No. 25 Pittsburgh (8-2, 5-1 ACC) in overtime on Thursday night.

What happened?

Both teams couldn’t convert their first drives, with junior quarterback Sam Howell getting sacked inside the Tar Heels’ one-yard line. After a return to the UNC 20-yard-line, the Panthers scored four plays later on a two-yard run.

Another sack on UNC’s next possession lost the Tar Heels 19 yards, which the team was unable to gain back. After another punt, Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett shot a 45-yard pass to get the Panthers within scoring range. On third down, the Panthers converted again to lead the Tar Heels, 14-0.

The Panthers kicked another field goal before the Tar Heels made their initial first down on the night on the last play of the first quarter. The drive didn’t last long, however, as Howell was sacked for the fourth time just a minute into the second quarter.

The Tar Heels started heating up two possessions later as Howell completed a 76-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Antoine Green to bring the Tar Heels within 10 of the Panthers, 17-7.

Pittsburgh took advantage of the holes in the Tar Heels’ defense in the next drive, going 77 yards in four plays for another touchdown, but missed the extra point to pull its lead to 16. When the Panthers reclaimed possession, UNC junior defensive lineman Jahlil Taylor blocked a Panther field goal to keep the score at 23-7 entering the break.

Going into the third, the Tar Heels went on their longest drive of the night, but Howell was stuffed one yard short on a fourth-down rush. In the next possession, the Tar Heels gained momentum with 13 and 11-yard passes caught by sophomore running back D.J. Jones and sophomore wide receiver Justin Olson, respectively. 

Howell sent the ball to Green again for a 23-yard touchdown. But UNC failed to convert a two-point attempt and stayed 10 points behind Pitt, 23-13.

Just over midway through the fourth quarter, sophomore wide receiver Josh Downs caught a 46-yard pass and dove to Pittsburgh’s one-yard line. On fourth down, Howell stretched the ball past the goal line to trim the deficit to three points with less than six minutes remaining.

On the first play of Pittsburgh’s drive, senior linebacker Jeremiah Gemmel intercepted the ball to give possession back to North Carolina. The Tar Heels drove down to the red zone and graduate kicker Grayson Atkins kicked a field goal to tie the score with a minute left on the clock. After the Panthers were held scoreless to close regulation, both teams headed to overtime.

In four plays, the Panthers scored on an 11-yard dart to tight end Lucas Krull to put the team up seven. When UNC took over possession, heavy rain poured down on the field, and the Tar Heels lost one yard in four plays to doom their fate in the 30-23 loss.

Who stood out? 

Green clocked his fourth and fifth touchdowns of the season to put the Tar Heels’ only points on the scoreboard for the first three quarters of play time. He led the team with 108 receiving yards.

Sophomore linebacker Cedric Gray shined on the defensive front, totaling seven tackles and a sack.

When was it decided?

Although the Tar Heels faced a 17-point deficit in the first quarter and rushed for only six yards in the first half, Howell and Green sparked the offense and the defense was steady the rest of the way. The game came down to the wire, but UNC’s inability to move the ball in overtime sealed the win for the Panthers.

Why does it matter?

The Tar Heels’ hopes to contend in the Coastal Division are now faded, as they now have three more losses than the Panthers and still trail Virginia and Miami.

Despite being the preseason favorite, UNC has fallen short of expectations and will still need one more win to secure bowl eligibility.

When do they play next?

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UNC will host Wofford in Kenan Stadium for senior day on Saturday, Nov. 20 at noon.  

@DTHSports |