CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Facing an opportunity to defeat an inferior foe on the road, finally defeat a historic thorn in their side and take off with a 2-0 start to ACC play, Pitt fell far short on Saturday, losing 38-35 to previously winless North Carolina.
It was the Tar Heels’ sixth consecutive win over Pitt and fourth under Pat Narduzzi.
The Panthers tackled poorly, took five penalties, Kenny Pickett wasn’t sharp and despite rushing for 228 yards and averaging 6.3 yards per carry, the Panthers couldn’t do enough on offense to compensate for a leaky defense.
Antonio Williams set the mood with a 37-yard first-quarter touchdown scamper that featured several missed tackles. On North Carolina’s second drive, Anthony Ratliff-Williams out-jumped Dane Jackson on a deep ball to set up a 1-yard Williams touchdown.
The following Tar Heels possession saw a badly missed assignment, with no one covering Michael Carter, who scored on a 31-yard pass from Nathan Elliott.
Pitt finally got a pair of three-and-outs to close the first half and the offense kept moving the ball throughout all of that, to the point that the Panthers took a lead into the break.
Pickett scored on a 7-yard keeper, Qadree Ollison pushed one across from two yards out, Darrin Hall broke off a 65-yard game-breaker and George Aston caught a one-yard shovel pass to give the Panthers the lead.
But in the second half, it was more of the same for the Panthers’ sloppy defense and special teams units.
Kirk Christodoulou had punts of 34 and 30 yards that set up Carolina in solid field position that led to two third quarter touchdowns. As it has been all season, Pitt’s offense faltered in the second half. The Panthers had a total of negative-5 yards from scrimmage in the third quarter. Pitt finally scored its first second-half touchdown of the season when Pickett hit Ffrench in the end zone, but Pitt’s defense was unable to get a stop and North Carolina ran the clock out.
Pickett finished 19 of 33 (57.6 percent) for 174 yards (5.2 yards per attempt.) Ollison had 72 yards on 12 carries. Hall had 84 yards on six carries. Ffrench led Pitt receivers with seven catches on eight targets for 65 yards.
Quintin Wirginis led the defense with nine tackles and a tackle for loss. North Carolina finished with 485 yards of total offense.