Less than a month ago, at this very same Kenan Stadium, Georgia Tech’s DeAndre Smelter scored on a 75-yard touchdown run with 3:07 to play to give his Yellow Jackets a 43-42 lead.
On Saturday, Pittsburgh’s James Conner rumbled in for a 22-yard touchdown run with 3:33 to play to give his Panthers a 35-34 lead.
On both occasions, UNC quarterback Marquise Williams orchestrated a methodical march down the field for the game-winning score. The Tar Heels needed 2:56 off the clock to travel 75 yards in 12 plays against Georgia Tech. Assistant head coach for offense Seth Littrell trimmed a few seconds off the time and made use of an extra play against Pittsburgh, although the result was eerily the same.
UNC marched 75 yards in 13 plays, soaking up 2:48 off the clock and securing its fifth win of the season on T.J. Logan’s 1-yard touchdown run with 50 seconds to play.
The Tar Heels (5-5, 3-3 ACC) pointed to heavy repetition in two-minute drills to explain their composure following the Georgia Tech win. This time, however, they just referred back to the Georgia Tech game.
“Everybody knew that we wanted to go down and put six on the board,” sophomore wide receiver Ryan Switzer said following the 40-35 victory. “We knew we could do it. We felt like we were in the same position we were in against Georgia Tech, that kind of ran through everybody’s mind, and guys never flinched. They never hesitated once. Everybody was keying in on doing their part.”
Instead of growing frustrated in giving up another late lead, the players took a different approach.
“When they went down and scored, just like Georgia Tech, we just pulled together,” Logan said. “Nobody was blaming anyone. We just went down and we knew we had to score, and we did.”
After the touchback, Logan opened the final drive with back-to-back six-yard rushes. Then adversity struck following a couple of incomplete passes. On 3rd-and-10, Pitt blitzed a linebacker up the middle that plowed over Logan on his way to Williams. The junior quarterback shrugged the falling defender off and fired a 12-yard pass down the right sideline.
“I feel like if I just get a little bit of room in the pocket, I can make it happen,” Williams said. “And I got a little bit. The guy swarmed T.J., he had my shoulder and I just dumped him down and completed the ball to Mack Hollins.”
Logan picked up another 14 yards on a run off the left side. Getting UNC’s next first down, however, would be much more difficult. With 1:30 left on the clock, UNC faced a 4th-and-2 at Pitt’s 29-yard line. Littrell called a zone read and Williams kept the ball, bursting through the line for a six-yard gain.
“It was two guys on T.J. Logan and it was one guy for me,” Williams said. “I always tell myself, ‘One man won’t bring me down.’ So I knew I had to get lower with my pads and drive my feet on that linebacker.”
Two plays later, Williams again felt pressure but had time to find Quinshad Davis over the middle of the field for a 23-yard pass play down to the one-yard line, setting up Logan’s final score.
“It was just a crossing route,” Davis said. “They manned it up and I told Coach, ‘Listen, they’re going to go man right here, let me win.’ And he did and I won.”
The first read on the pass play was the vertical route on the outside. Davis was able to create space on the inside and hauled in his sixth catch of the day.
The Tar Heels’ postgame interview atmosphere offered no hint of late-game heroics. There was joy for a critical victory that put UNC one win away from bowl eligibility, but no one seem surprised at a 13-play, 75-yard game-winning drive with several clutch plays included.
“I really believed that the guys would go down and score,” UNC head coach Larry Fedora said. “I really did.”
Just Another Routine Game-Winning Drive
Inside Carolina Top Stories
Offense Adjusting to Personnel ChangesNo. 22 North Carolina managed well enough on offense in Saturday's 35-14 win over Virginia despite key players being sidelined by injury.
Inside Carolina12:31 PM
UNC-Virginia: Game ScoopGo inside the game with this feature for Inside Carolina premium members that includes expert analysis, exclusive tidbits and postgame extras ...
Inside CarolinaYesterday at 5:38 PM
ICTV: Larry Fedora PostgameLarry Fedora addressed the media following UNC's 35-14 win over Virginia.
Inside CarolinaYesterday at 4:45 PM
First Report: UNC Throttles VirginiaUNC won its 700th game in school history.
Inside CarolinaYesterday at 3:33 PM