How they won: 5 key plays in UNC’s Belk Bowl victory

December 28, 2013 

Breaking down five key plays in North Carolina’s 39-17 victory against Cincinnati in the Belk Bowl:

UNC sack leads to safety, more

•  Score: UNC 7, Cincinnati 0, 2:30 left in first quarter.

•  Situation: Cincinnati ball, 3rd-and-10 at its 6.

•  The play: Cincinnati quarterback Brendon Kay dropped back but was pressured immediately by UNC defensive end Kareem Martin. Martin, with help from blitzing “Ram” Brandon Ellerbe, sacked Kay in the end zone.

•  Why it mattered: The sack gave UNC a 9-0 lead, but it also set up T.J. Logan’s 78-yard return for a touchdown on the ensuing kickoff. Logan broke two tackles soon after fielding the kick near his sideline, found a crease up the middle and ran the rest of the way untouched for a 16-0 lead.

Ebron makes up for drop

•  Score: UNC 16, Cincinnati 3, 12:30 left in second quarter.

•  Situation: UNC ball, 4th-and-8 at Cincinnati’s 35.

•  The play: UNC quarterback Marquise Williams, with time to scan the field, threw high to Ebron on a crossing route, but the All-American tight end jumped, made the catch and then took a big hit for a 17-yard gain.

•  Why it mattered: Two plays earlier, Williams threw a perfect deep ball to Ebron, who freed himself and got behind the Cincy secondary. Ebron was inside Cincy’s 5-yard line when the ball slipped through his hands. Ebron’s fourth-down catch set up UNC’s third touchdown of the first half and a 23-3 lead.

No points, but sack forces missed field goal

•  Score: UNC 23, Cincinnati 3, 7:30 left in second quarter.

•  Situation: Cincinnati ball, 3rd-and-5 at UNC’s 19.

•  The play: Kay again dropped back but couldn’t find a receiver and couldn’t avoid blitzing “Bandit” Norkeithus Otis. Kay was sacked for a 10-yard loss. It was UNC’s fourth sack of the first half.

•  Why it mattered: Cincinnati field goal kicker Tony Miliano had made just 6 of 15 attempts during the regular season. He made a 34-yarder earlier in the second quarter, but floated this 46-yard attempt well to the right.

Switzer races into NCAA record book

•  Score: UNC 23, Cincinnati 3, 10:55 left in third quarter.

•  Situation: Cincinnati punting, 4th-and-18 at its 48.

•  The play: Cincinnati’s John Lloyd punted high enough to allow his defenders time to circle UNC’s return ace Ryan Switzer as he waited to field the punt. One Bearcat ran past him, but Switzer never called for a fair catch. Instead, he caught the punt in traffic at UNC’s 14 and sprinted upfield for an 86-yard touchdown.

•  Why it mattered: By the time Switzer reached midfield, it was clear he was headed to his fifth punt return touchdown, tying an NCAA record. The return put UNC ahead 29-3.

Cats’ comeback falls out of reach

•  Score: UNC 36, Cincinnati 17, 12:17 minutes left in fourth quarter.

•  Situation: Cincinnati ball, 4th-and-goal from UNC 3.

•  The play: Kay, out of shotgun, overthrew a wide-open Shaq Washington in the corner of the end zone.

•  Why it mattered: Cincinnati had just scored a touchdown and forced T.J. Thorpe to fumble the ensuing kickoff. The Bearcats recovered at UNC’s 6. Instead of scoring two touchdowns in two minutes and closing within 36-24, the Bearcats came up empty. On the final incompletion, there wasn’t a UNC defender within 5 yards of Washington, but Kay led him too far anyway. The throw floated off Washington’s fingertips.

Chris Wright

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