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November 9, 2013

Tar Heels break down Cavs

CHAPEL HILL--- North Carolina made short work of visiting Virginia Saturday afternoon in Kenan Stadium, scoring two touchdowns in the first quarter and building a 21-0 halftime advantage on its way to a 45-14 triumph over the Cavaliers.

It's the third straight win for the Tar Heels (4-5, 3-3 ACC), who now harbor legitimate postseason hopes with three remaining regular season games at Pittsburgh and back home against Old Dominion and Duke, needing two wins to become bowl-eligible.

Virginia falls to 0-6 in Atlantic Coast Conference play this fall, and 2-8 overall.

Marquise Williams made his second start of the season at quarterback for the Tar Heels, and it was his first as the undisputed leader of the UNC offense, wearing the No. 2 jersey previously worn by three-year Tar Heel starting signal-caller Bryn Renner. Renner's UNC career ended last week with a shoulder injury at N.C. State.

Williams honored his fallen teammate well, throwing for two scores and running another one in as the Tar Heels won its fourth straight game over Virginia in the South's longest running football rivalry. Saturday was the 118th football meeting between the bordering schools.

Williams opened the game's scoring with an eight-yard touchdown pass to Quinshad Davis to give UNC a 7-0 lead at the 4:39 mark of the first quarter.

Davis and Williams later switched roles, as Davis took a pitch and subsequently threw a pass along the right sideline to a wide-open Williams, who strolled into the end zone from 29 yards out for a 14-0 UNC advantage at the end of the first quarter.

"Just for me, watching his pregame, watching him in the locker room, watching how he interacted with the guys, he was as comfortable as he ever is," Fedora said after the game.

"Nothing was changed about him, and he got out there and he managed the game very well. He took care of the football really well, which is, in your first start or second start, I should say, you want to watch a quarterback who doesn't have that type of experience as to how he's taking care of the football."

"But I thought he really did a great job of taking care of the football and then moving the chains for us, which means he's managing the game really well."

Virginia's defense settled down a little in the second quarter but the Tar Heels finally got a touchdown that stuck from Ryan Switzer. The rookie had previously scored at Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech but had both scores called back due to penalties, but this time around Switzer was both lucky and good.

Initially dropping the punt, Switzer abruptly scooped it up and broke multiple tackles going left before finally dropping behind an umbrella of UNC blockers and coasting in for an 85-yard touchdown, making good head coach Larry Fedora's promise earlier in the week that Switzer would score a touchdown on a punt return before the season's end.

"It's good," Switzer said about how he felt about his punt return touchdown. "It's my second one but my first one that counted and it almost didn't turn out too good. Thankfully the ball dropped into my lap and I was able to make a couple guys miss and some guys had some great blocks, so it was nice."

UNC added an insurance touchdown on a three-yard keeper by Williams early in the third quarter, taking a 28-0 lead before Virginia finally got into the end zone on an eight-yard run by leading rusher Kevin Parks.

Dominique Green added to his recent interception frenzy by picking off David Watford and returning it 62 yards for a UNC touchdown with under three minutes left in the third quarter, making the score 35-7, and then freshman running back Khris Francis tallied UNC's sixth and final touchdown in the early minutes of the final quarter, catching a pass from Williams and racing to the end zone from 15 yards out.

"On defense, this is the best game we've played this year. We finally got a score on defense, something we go in every weekend trying to get and we finally got it accomplished today," Martin said about his teams defense.

"We had a lot of three-and-outs, and I thought that was a big thing, getting them off the field."

North Carolina native and former UNC recruit Keeon Johnson recorded Virginia's final touchdown on a 23-yard pass from UVa backup quarterback Greyson Lambert with 11:38 to go, and UNC place kicker Thomas Moore scored the game's final points with 10:11 to go on a 24-yard field goal.

Twelve different Tar Heels caught passes as the UNC offense rolled up over 400 yards, while the Carolina defense forced two turnovers and held the Cavaliers below three yards a carry on the afternoon.

"I do believe this team is getting a little bit better each week," Fedora said. "As a coach, that's what you ask for in your players. You ask them to keep doing things that we do, keep working hard, and hopefully we get better each week. I do feel like we're getting that done."

The Tar Heels return to action next Saturday afternoon with a 12:30 pm kickoff at Pittsburgh's Heinz Field, as Carolina looks to win its fourth straight game and continue pushing towards a postseason bowl berth.


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