CHAPEL HILL — North Carolina put on a record-breaking performance Saturday in an 80-20 trouncing of Old Dominion, but the Tar Heels fell just short of another mark the players were going for.
“We tried to beat the basketball score,” said sophomore quarterback Marquise Williams, referencing the North Carolina men’s basketball 82-72 win over Richmond Saturday afternoon. “We wanted coach to let us kick a field goal so we could get 83, but that didn’t happen. But it felt good.”
Coach Larry Fedora told his team to take a knee, taking a 60-point win with still plenty to brag about, breaking the previous program records for single-game scoring, total offense (721 yards), average yards-per-play (10.6, an all-time ACC high) and touchdowns (11). The 80-point outing was also the second-best ever by an ACC team. Clemson holds that mark with an 82-24 win over Wake Forest in 1981. The UNC record was 66 against Idaho last season.
The Tar Heels’ (6-5, 4-3) fifth straight win makes them bowl eligible a year after NCAA sanctions banned the Tar Heels from postseason competition.
“The (coaching staff) kept this team together,” Fedora said. “They kept those kids believing in each other, kept them believing in the plan, kept them believing in the philosophy, and the kids did all those things and they continued to work hard.
“We’re playing our best football at this time of year, so it’s exciting as the head coach. You watch how the team has progressed and how these young guys have progressed and how this team has grown closer together.”
It was the young guys that had huge games individually for the Tar Heels. All 11 UNC touchdowns were scored by freshmen or sophomores.
Williams, a sophomore in his fourth game as a starter, broke the school’s single-game total offense record (469 total yards), including 409 passing yards on 20-of-27 passing with no interceptions. He also became the fifth UNC player to throw for five touchdown passes in a game.
Much of that production came in the first half, during which Williams set single-half marks to help put the game out of reach by halftime. UNC outscored Old Dominion (8-4) 35-0 in the second quarter, turning what had been a one-point game into a 49-13 margin.
Williams found Ryan Switzer twice on long strikes during that run, giving the freshman receiver his first 100-plus receiving yards outing. Switzer (five receptions for 118 yards) also cashed in a 64-yard punt return, his fourth on the year, good for the national lead this season. He has also tied the NCAA record for consecutive games with a punt return touchdown with three.
“It says the future’s bright. I wish we could have got it going earlier in the season, but better late than never,” Switzer said. “(Freshmen tailbacks) T.J. Logan had a great game, Khris Francis played great. It just says a lot about where this team is headed, and the shift in culture that Coach Fedora is bringing to the program, and we’re all excited to be a part of it.”
Logan (14 carries for 137 yards) punched in three rushing touchdowns en route to becoming the first player from UNC to rush for more than 100 yards in a game this season. He also added a 99-yard kick return score.
The scoreboard read 80-20 at the end of the third quarter, a margin wide enough that ODU coach Bobby Wilder requested that the final period be shortened to 10 minutes. Fedora obliged.
The Tar Heels, now with their first winning record of the season after starting 1-5, turn their attention to their regular season finale against Duke, though the Tar Heels know now their season may not end there.
“It definitely feels good because we can see that we actually have something to work for,” Logan said of the team’s bowl eligibility. “Coming into Duke we have to win that game and just stay focused in practice and keep working hard.”