CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) – Antonio Williams ran for two scores while Nathan Elliott threw for two more to help North Carolina beat Pittsburgh 38-35 on Saturday in its Atlantic Coast Conference opener.
Williams finished with a career-best 114 yards rushing for the Tar Heels (1-2, 1-0 ACC), who put together a solid all-around showing after road losses at California and East Carolina. Elliott also had a big day, shaking off two games worth of accuracy issues to throw for a career-best 313 yards while completing 71 percent of his passes.
Perhaps more importantly, UNC’s frequently shaky defense contributed big plays of its own, coming up with three sacks and holding Pitt to minus-5 yards in the third quarter as the Tar Heels erased a 28-21 halftime deficit.
Kenny Pickett threw for two scores and ran for another for Pitt (2-2, 1-1), which fell to 0-6 against its Coastal Division foe since joining the ACC in 2013.
Pitt: The Panthers’ second-half offensive struggles resurfaced again. Pitt had managed only a field goal after halftime in its first three games this season, then couldn’t sustain drives to keep up with the Tar Heels after halftime in this one. Pitt finally snapped its second-half TD drought with Pickett’s 16-yard pass to Maurice Ffrench with 3:12 left to make it a one-possession game but couldn’t get a stop on UNC’s ensuing clock-killing drive.
UNC: Facing the possibility of their first 0-3 start since 2003, the Tar Heels responded well after an unusual gap in the schedule. Hurricane Florence forced the cancellation of last week’s home opener against No. 16 UCF, and the Tar Heels didn’t practice for four days. But the offense easily had its most efficient showing of the season, while a defense that struggled for a stop before halftime came up with some negative-yardage plays in the third quarter as the Tar Heels made their move to lead 38-28 entering the final 15 minutes.
Pitt: The Panthers visit No. 16 UCF next Saturday.
UNC: The Tar Heels travel to No. 21 Miami on Thursday.
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