North Carolina wide receiver Anthony Ratliff-Williams returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown, threw a touchdown pass and caught the game-winning score as the Tar Heels finally earned their first conference victory of the season, beating host Pittsburgh 34-31 on Thursday.
Tar Heels quarterback Nate Elliott found Ratliff-Williams on a 3-yard touchdown with 6:18 to go to put the Tar Heels back in front.
Ratliff-Williams caught five passes for 75 yards, and Elliott was 20 of 31 for 235 yards and two touchdowns.
The Tar Heels (2-8, 1-6 Atlantic Coast Conference) snapped a six-game losing streak. They overcame four touchdowns by Pittsburgh running back Darrin Hall.
Hall gained 121 yards on 23 carries as the Panthers (4-6, 2-4) piled up 267 yards on the ground.
After struggling for most of the second and third quarters, the North Carolina defense stiffened in the fourth quarter.
Malik Carney sacked Pitt quarterback Ben DiNucci, putting the Panthers in a second-and-19 hole. After back-to-back incompletions, the Panthers were forced to punt with 2:54 remaining.
Tar Heels running back Jordon Brown picked up 22 yards on second-and-18 to seal the win.
DiNucci completed 11 of 17 passes for 142 yards.
Pittsburgh was driving to take the lead late in the first half when Quadree Henderson took an end-around toward for the corner of the end zone, then fumbled. Tar Heels linebacker Cayson Collins picked up the ball in the end zone and returned it to the Panthers’ 34 with a minute left in the half.
That was the only time during a five-drive sequence that Pittsburgh didn’t score a touchdown.
Tar Heels kicker Freeman Jones kicked a career-long field goal for the second straight game — this one from 51 yards out — to give North Carolina a 24-17 halftime lead.
Pitt turned good field position into two second-quarter touchdowns.
The Panthers stopped North Carolina at the Tar Heels‘ 8-yard line late in the first quarter.
Pitt drove 49 yards on four plays, capped by a 7-yard Hall touchdown rush that cut the Tar Heels‘ lead to 14-10.
After forcing the Tar Heels to punt again — this one went just 14 yards — the Panthers again had a short field, starting at the North Carolina 38.
Hall scored for the second time in the quarter to give Pitt its first lead at 17-14.