CHAPEL HILL–The Tar Heels won the 118th meeting in the South’s Oldest Rivalry 45-14 to improve to 4-5 on the season in front of the Homecoming crowd in Kenan Stadium Saturday afternoon.
UVA received the opening kickoff and running back Kevin Parks bashed ahead for a solid pick-up for the Cavaliers. The Carolina defense got some pressure to force a third down scenario for Virginia.
And Virginia picked up the first down on a pass from quarterback David Watford to Keeon Johnson.
The UVA offense was really marching the ball right down the field on the Tar Heels. But the Carolina defense was flying around the field to force a long field goal try by the Cavaliers, but they chose to pooch punt it at the last second into the outstretched arms of Ryan Switzer.
Quarterback Marquise Williams would have to go solo in this contest following Bryn Renner’s career-ending injury. Williams slung a nice pass out to receiver Quinshad Davis to set up a short yardage situation on second down.
And then the Tar Heels kept moving the ball methodically through the Virginia defense. Sean Tapley came up with an athletic reception diving to the sideline as Williams was looking comfortable in his new starting role.
A.J. Blue got in on the action next, running ahead for a 12-yard carry to progress the football to the Cavalier 33-yard line. It was Blue again to9 get inside the 10-yard line to set up a touchdown pass to Quinshad Davis that put UNC up 7-0 with 4:39 remaining in first quarter.
***Listen to the call***
On the ensuing possession, Virginia had third down and one. The Cavaliers elected to go for a pass, but Tre Boston delivered a punishing blow to knock the ball out of the receiver’s hands and force a punt. That was a big stop for the ever-improving Tar Heel defense.
Marquise Williams and the offense delivered on the next drive as Bug Howard made a guy miss out in space to pick up a nice gain. Then Williams threw a good sideline pass to Quinshad Davis to move the ball into Virginia territory as time was running out in the first quarter of play.
Another third down came for UNC, and up to this point the Tar Heels were a perfect 4/4 on third downs. And guess what? They converted again with an 11-yard pass from Williams to Tapley.
The very next play resulted in a touchdown strike to a wide open Williams from his receiver Davis. How did he get that wide open? The Cavalier defense was struggling mightily on this afternoon.
***Listen to the call***
And with that, the first quarter came to a close with Carolina leading 14-0. And what a special ceremony that occurred in between quarters. A wife and her children were reunited with their husband and father for the first time in a while due to military service. The crowd went wild in a heartwarming moment.
But it was back to football for the start of the second quarter with Virginia getting the ball back. The Cavaliers picked up one first down, but the Tar Heel defense did its job again to get the ball back to their clicking offense.
But the offense sputtered this time around, and Tommy Hibbard’s services were needed to boot the ball back to Virginia.
On the next series, Jabari Price stepped up for an impressive backfield tackle to force a third and long. Virginia called their first time out to talk things over for the crucial play. The third down was incomplete to result in a punt for the Cavaliers.
Some sloppy play followed for Carolina. Surprisingly, they failed to find Eric Ebron despite him being in one-on-one coverage a couple times in the series.
Virginia began their next drive with 8:48 remaining in the first half. Virginia moved the ball a bit, but then failed to convert on a third down and nine. The Cavalier offense was beginning to look anemic with misfired passes by quarterback Watford.
Lightning struck next. Ryan Switzer returned the punt for a touchdown to ignite the home crowd. It was Carolina’s first punt return for a touchdown since Giovani Bernard’s legendary game winner against N.C. State a year ago.
***Listen to the call***
The Tar Heel defense was emerging as a weapon on this team. They stood up UVA on fourth down by stuffing the run and getting the ball back to the offense. The “bend don’t break” style defense was serving Carolina well.
With less than three minutes remaining in the half, Carolina would have one more opportunity to throw some points on the board. A field goal try by kicker Thomas Moore sailed wide right to close out the first half with the Tar Heels up 21-0 over Virginia.
The halftime stat sheet showed a 206-124 edge for Carolina in total yardage. Marquise Williams was UNC’s leading rusher with 27 yards while Kevin Parks rushed for 59 yards to lead Virginia.
An unbelievably athletic improvising play by Marquise Williams to Ebron bailed out the Tar Heels on their opening drive of the second half. Williams himself capped off the scoring drive with a dash into the end zone to put Carolina up 28-0 with 12:04 left in third quarter.
Norkeithus Otis delivered a physical sack on the UVA quarterback to bring up fourth down on the following series. The Tar Heels were dominating the contest in every aspect at this point. Tar Heel fans were left to wonder where this Carolina squad was earlier in the season?
Virginia burned Carolina defender Jabari Price on a long bomb that set The Cavaliers up for a good opportunity to avoid a shutout.
But it was if every time the Cavaliers crossed the 50-yard line, the Tar Heels would amp it up to the next level. But this time, Virginia found an answer and pushed the ball in the red zone with some good play calling that was keeping Carolina on its heels.
An eight yard carry by Kevin Parks put Virginia on the board, and with 4:53 remaining in the third quarter, the Tar Heels maintained a 28-7 lead.
Marquise Williams gave possession right back to the Cavaliers with an errant throw that fell into Virginia’s hands. The interception was helping to build momentum for UVA.
But the Tar Heels returned the favor with interest. Dominique Green picked one off and returned it 62 yards for a touchdown. The crowd went wild. The score was ratcheted up to 35-7 in favor of North Carolina.
The intense play and pressure delivered by Kareem Martin was becoming hard to ignore all day long. He was playing like a possessed man.
At the close of the third quarter, Carolina committed another holding to tally 10 penalties already in the contest, yet the Tar Heels had assumed a commanding 35-7 lead.
Williams failed to connect with Ebron on back-to-back plays. He overthrew him both times. And that resulted in a 47 yard punt for Hibbard to hand the ball back to the Cavaliers.
But a Tre Boston interception snagged it back for the Tar Heels yet again. Would Carolina take advantage of the great field position? Yes. A beautiful screen pass to Khris Francis scored a touchdown to give the Tar Heels a 42-7 lead with 12:50 remaining in the game.
Virginia answered back with a pass to Johnson to close the score to 42-43 with 11:38 left in the fourth quarter.
Despite the score by UVA, the only thing in doubt about this game was the final score.
Norkeithus Otis registered his second sack of the day to halt yet another Virginia drive with under 3:30 left in the game.
The time expired on the contest shortly thereafter. It was Carolina getting a solid home win to keep alive their bowl aspirations. It was shaping up to be a November to remember.