North Carolina

UNC closes in on Coastal with 59-21 victory over Miami

North Carolina quarterback Marquise Williams scores a touchdown on a 14-yard run against Miami’s Trent Harris (33) to give the Tar Heels a 24-0 lead in the second quarter at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill.
North Carolina quarterback Marquise Williams scores a touchdown on a 14-yard run against Miami’s Trent Harris (33) to give the Tar Heels a 24-0 lead in the second quarter at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill. rwillett@newsobserver.com

Earlier in the week, North Carolina coach Larry Fedora insisted that he’d pay no attention on Saturday to the Duke-Pittsburgh game, one that would determine whether the Tar Heels with a victory over Miami could clinch the ACC’s Coastal Division.

Fedora had said he wanted his team focused on the task at hand – their game Saturday against Miami, which the Tar Heels won 59-21 at Kenan Stadium. It took a little while for UNC to get going but once it did, it quickly put the game away.

The Tar Heels scored 24 points in the second quarter, the last of those coming on a 78-yard punt return for a touchdown from Ryan Switzer, and they led 31-0 at halftime. Pitt’s victory against Duke earlier in the day kept UNC from clinching the division but the Tar Heels are on the cusp.

UNC would win the Coastal with a win in one of its final two games, at Virginia Tech and at N.C. State, or if Pitt loses one of its remaining games against Louisville and Miami.

Turning point

The moment Miami stepped off the bus? The Hurricanes never seemed prepared, never seemed to be enthused to be playing. UNC pretty much put it away when it scored on four consecutive drives in the second quarter to take a 24-0 lead.

Three who mattered

Marquise Williams: Playing the final time in Kenan Stadium, the fifth-year senior quarterback ran for 101 yards and three touchdowns and passed for another touchdown.

Jeff Schoettmer: Another fifth-year senior playing in his final home game, Schoettmer’s 60-yard interception return – one in which he weaved through defenders, turning his head all the way, searching for space – was among the most memorable plays of the game. The next play, Williams scored on a 14-yard touchdown run.

Elijah Hood: He finished with 132 rushing yards – second-most this season – on 17 carries and a touchdown that gave UNC a 14-0 lead in the second quarter.

Three key numbers

7 Switzer has now returned seven punts for touchdowns in his three seasons at UNC, and he’s one short of tying the NCAA career record for punt returns for touchdowns.

298 UNC’s rushing total on Saturday, a season high. With 8½ minutes to play UNC was averaging 7 yards per carry.

125 Points the Tar Heels scored the past two weeks, in victories against Duke and Miami. That breaks a school record for points in back-to-back games that had stood since 1914.

Highlight reel

Switzer’s punt return for a touchdown and Schoettmer’s interception return provided UNC with its two most memorable plays. There were some others, though.

Williams ran for 46 yards, his longest run of the season, early in the second quarter. That set up a touchdown. Hood, meanwhile, had two runs that went longer than 20 yards, including a 34-yard gain midway through the third quarter.

Andrew Carter: 919-829-8944, @_andrewcarter

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