The No. 21 UNC football team (7-1, 4-0 ACC) picked up another conference win with a 42-24 victory over the Pitt Panthers (4-4, 1-3 ACC) in North Carolina’s homecoming game on Saturday night.
Pitt junior running back Israel Abanikanda, who Mack Brown called "the best running back in the country" earlier this week, made an early impact in Saturday’s game by scoring the game’s opening touchdown. With the clock at 11:30, he waltzed into the end zone on a 6-yard rush to bring Pitt out to an early 7-0 lead.
After two uneventful drives from either team, redshirt first-year Drake Maye got things started for the Tar Heels with a completion to sophomore running back Caleb Hood for 3 yards to the UNC 44-yard line. 10 plays later, Drake Maye connected with senior wide receiver Antoine Green, who brought the ball to his chest with an impressive one-handed catch on a 16-yard touchdown reception to tie the score at 7-7.
Pitt responded quickly in the second quarter as Abanikanda earned his second touchdown of the evening on a 4-yard gain up the middle to put Pitt ahead 14-7. Pitt scored in under two minutes on three plays, highlighted by a 41-yard completion from senior quarterback Kedon Slovis to senior wide receiver Jared Wayne.
Later in the second quarter, Pitt’s Ben Sauls booted a 47-yard field goal to add 3 more points to the Panthers’ score and bring the Pitt out to a 17-7 lead.
Less than two minutes later, Maye connected with wide receiver Kobe Paysour for a touchdown to bring UNC within 3 points. This touchdown was made possible by back-to-back completions by Green, who connected with Maye for an 18-yard catch and then followed it with a 50-yard catch.
Blown coverages continued to be an issue in the second half, as junior defensive back Tony Grimes was beaten down the field by senior wide receiver Jared Wayne early in the third quarter. Wayne completed a 50-yard reception to pick up a first down at the UNC 22-yard line, which later translated to another touchdown as Abanikanda rushed for 22 yards into the end zone to bring the score to 24-14.
To cap off an 11-play, 75-yard scoring drive with just over six minutes remaining in the third quarter, Maye found junior wide receiver Josh Downs breaking toward the back left corner of the end zone. The redshirt first-year fired a pass to Downs for a 13-yard touchdown reception, bringing the score to 24-21 and cutting Pitt’s lead to just 3 points.