After giving away their first contest against an Atlantic Coast Conference team, the Pirates were on a desperate search to prove they're ready to take the next step.
They took that step Saturday, and did it in a convincing fashion. The offense ran 101 plays and eclipse the 600 yards mark.
Quarterback Shane Carden assured this performance was no gimmick.
"We knew we could play this way," Carden said. "We just hadn't quite got to that point yet, we knew it was there. We were off a little here and there, but knew we had to keep playing and getting better. It was like we were clicking today."
The confidence on the team is high after a win that taught fans this team has finally gotten over the hump. It's safe to say the team needs to be taken seriously by more ACC schools and nonconference opponents. One could go as far as saying the Pirates could be the best team in the state of North Carolina.
Running back Vintavious Cooper had a huge day against the Tar Heels. He touched the ball 43 times (35 runs, 8 catches) and finished with 256 yards from scrimmage without a score.
Cooper was expecting to have a big game and believes this offense can control the game no matter the opponent.
"We feel like we can move the ball against anybody," Cooper said. "We want to keep that confidence after every game and keep momentum to let our opponents know that we can execute. The sky is the limit for our team. We just have to keep working, progress and understand we can beat a lot of people if we play and execute the way we're supposed to on both sides of the ball."
The offense put on a clinic against UNC, but a lot of people may overlook how important the defense was in the win.
After a slow start statistically this season, safety Chip Thompson was a man on fire in the first quarter against the Tar Heels. He had six tackles and an interception that the offense cashed in on to take a 14-0 lead to close the quarter.
Thompson finished the game leading his team in tackles with 9 total (7 unassisted, 2 assisted) and the lone interception for Rick Smith's defense.
Head coach Ruffin McNeill knew Thompson could play the way he did yesterday and that it could continue.
"Since (defensive coordinator) Rick Smith has been back Chip has done well," McNeill said. "Through summer, through fall camp and each week he's been a great leader for us. He's been one of those kids from day one…hard worker, a leader with a lot of enthusiasm. I expected Chip to play like he is right now when he first came, but it takes time for people to adjust and he has adjusted well. He and Adonis (Armstrong) have come in here from day one and been guys that we've counted on."
The win yesterday taught fans that this team is for real. When it doesn't plague itself with penalties and executes on all sides of the ball this team can win against highly talented nonconference opponents.
The Pirates will continue their road trip and open their last season in Conference USA Saturday Oct. 7 at Middle Tennessee State.