Switzers record performance another thorn in Pitts side

In his four career games against Pitt, UNCs Ryan Switzer caught 26 passes for 423 yards and three touchdowns, including a UNC and ACC record 16 receptions on Saturday.

Eamon Queeney—The North State Journal
North Carolina Tar Heels wide receiver Ryan Switzer (3) gets forced out of bounds by Pittsburgh Panthers defensive back Avonte Maddox (14) in the second quarter of the college football game at Kenan Memorial Stadium in Chapel Hill

CHAPEL HILL — Ryan Switzer is a native of Charleston, W.Va. who made several trips across the state line to Pennsylvania as a youth to watch the University of Pittsburgh play football. If the folks currently associated with the Panthers have their way, Switzer won’t be welcomed back anytime soon. “Is he a senior yet?” coach Pat Narduzzi asked Saturday after Switzer, now a star receiver at North Carolina, played a major role in beating Pitt. Again. Narduzzi and the rest of the Panthers can rest easy. Switzer is a senior, which means he’s terrorized them for the last time. In his four career games against Pitt, the Tar Heels star caught 26 passes for 423 yards and three touchdowns. He also returned two punts for scores and never lost to his team’s ACC Coastal Division rival. Switzer put an exclamation point on that personal dominance Saturday by tying a school and conference record with 16 catches, including two key fourth down grabs on the game’s final drive. He finished with a personal best 208 receiving yards and a touchdown to help UNC rally for a dramatic 37-36 victory at Kenan Stadium. “I was in a zone tonight,” he said. “I just tried to make some plays for my guys.” Although no one could have predicted the kind of numbers Switzer ultimately put up, his coach had an inkling he was due for a prime time performance because of the defensive scheme Narduzzi and the Panthers employ. “In the game plan this week, from what we saw, he was going to have an opportunity to have a big game,” UNC’s Larry Fedora. “Because they’re so run dominant, they get those backers in there and their safeties involved. So basically, it was going to have him one-on-one against a safety the majority of the game. “We felt we could take advantage of that. And he did. He made some great plays and some clutch plays.” Switzer got the Tar Heels’ first touchdown drive off the ground by turning a bubble screen into a 58-yard gain. He then scored UNC’s second touchdown on a 19-yard pass from quarterback Mitch Trubisky just before halftime. His two most important catches, however, came in the final three minutes to help the Tar Heels drive 63 yards on 17 plays for the winning score. On a fourth-and-six play from UNC’s own 41, Switzer came across the middle on a slant pattern and caught a pass from Trubisky for 15 yards and a new set of downs. Then, with his team’s chances again teetering on the brink at fourth-and-nine from the Pitt 26, the 5-foot-10, 185-pound receiver made the perhaps the best catch of his stellar career to keep the drive alive. Switzer stretched his body as far as it could reach to haul in a high throw and held onto it as he crashed to the turf with exactly the nine yards he and UNC needed. Teammate Bug Howard caught the winning two-yard touchdown pass five plays later. “That was nuts,” Trubisky said of Switzer’s game-saving fourth down conversion.. “Me and him have that chemistry. We’re on the same page. He ran his route, saw his zone, sat in the hole and made a great catch to convert. That’s exactly what we needed. We had to have it. “I know I can rely on him in any situation, especially on third or fourth down when we’ve got to have it. I know he’s going to give me everything he’s got, and I’ve got to do the same for him.” As happy as Switzer was about the outcome, he was ambivalent about the individual record he tied Saturday. In fact, he was more fired up about the mark he thought he’d tied, but was taken away by a penalty. It happened early in the game when it appeared that Switzer had broken an 89-yard punt return for a touchdown. Had it stood, he would have tied the NCAA career record of seven punt return touchdowns held by Texas Tech’s Wes Welker and Oklahoma’s Antonio Perkins. Instead, it became just a frustrating footnote — the third touchdown return Switzer has had called back because of penalties. “I’m a little pissed they called that punt return back, but it is what it is.” he said. “I’m just tired of seeing flags on the ground.”