CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- North Carolina ended its defensive drought in style.
Safety Dominquie Green intercepted a pass by The Citadel’s Dominique Allen in the second quarter and returned it 58 yards for a touchdown as part of the Tar Heels’ 41-7 victory on Saturday.
The interception gave UNC (8-3) a 28-0 lead and ended the team’s streak of interception-free defense. The Tar Heels had not intercepted a pass all season, a span of 10 consecutive games that was the longest active streak in the nation. Every other FBS team entered Saturday with at least three interceptions for the season.
Green’s interception happened in unlikely circumstances. The Bulldogs (10-1) entered the game averaging just 9.6 pass attempts per game and had thrown only two interceptions all season. Prior to the streak-snapping interception, the Tar Heels had not intercepted a pass since Green did so against Baylor in the third quarter of the Russell Athletic Bowl last season. UNC went a total of 285 pass attempts between interceptions.
The play was UNC’s first interception return for a touchdown since Jeff Schoettmer’s 29-yard return at Notre Dame in 2014.
Turnovers Key Defensive Effort
In addition to Green’s interception, the Tar Heels recovered three fumbles by the Bulldogs. The four turnovers were the most caused by UNC’s defense all season, and they led to 13 points. The Tar Heels had caused only nine turnovers all season - and never more than two in a single game - before Saturday.
The Citadel had a total of nine turnovers in its first 10 games.
The Tar Heels had a chance for their first shutout since 2012 before Grant Drakeford got the Bulldogs on the scoreboard with a 28-yard touchdown run with 9:21 left in the game.
Instead, UNC settled for allowing fewer than 13 points for the first time since a 34-10 victory over Boston College in 2013.
Early Stops Fuel Lead
Entering the game, one of the keys for UNC was to take an early lead and force the run-oriented Bulldogs to play from behind. The Tar Heels were able to do that thanks to some good fortune and defensive stops. The Citadel marched the ball down the field on its opening possession before a false start penalty helped force a 25-yard field goal attempt, which Cody Clark missed.
The Bulldogs went three and out on their next two possessions, allowing the Tar Heels to take a 14-0 lead. UNC’s stop on The Citadel’s second possession was especially large. The game was still scoreless at that point, and the Bulldogs had second and 1 after UNC went three and out in 35 seconds on its first possession. But an incomplete pass followed by a tackle for loss by linebacker Cole Holcomb got UNC’s offense back onto the field.
Switzer Goes Deep
Senior wide receiver Ryan Switzer struck for one of his patented big plays late in the first quarter. Switzer beat cornerback Ben Roberts on a deep post, hauling in a 72-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Mitch Trubisky to give the Tar Heels a 14-0 lead.
It was UNC’s second longest play from scrimmage for the season, surpassed only by Switzer’s 75-yard TD grab against James Madison on Sept. 17.
Switzer finished with four catches for 93 yards. He had averaged just 35.2 receiving yards and 6.5 yards per catch in UNC’s previous five games.
Logan Sprints Into Record Book
T.J. Logan made the best catch by a UNC player all year in the first half, diving in the end zone for a one-handed grab on a 23-yard touchdown pass from Trubisky. As it turns out, Logan was just getting started.
Logan opened the second half with a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to give the Tar Heels a 38-0 lead. It was the fourth kickoff return for a touchdown in his career, breaking the school record that Logan shared with Brandon Tate. Logan’s second kick return for a TD this season - he had a 95-yarder to start the second half in UNC’s season-opening loss to Georgia - was the third 100-yard kickoff return in program history.
The Tar Heels still have a chance to win the Coastal Division as they enter their regular-season finale. The only way for it to happen is for UNC to beat N.C. State on Friday and for Virginia Tech to lose at home to Virginia on Saturday.