Anatomy of a drive: The 17 incredible plays that lifted UNC past Pitt

Here is a play-by-play look back at UNCs game-winning 17-play drive Saturday, along with comments from the players and coaches that made it happen

Eamon Queeney—The North State Journal
North Carolina Tar Heels wide receiver Bug Howard (84) catches the game-deciding touchdown under pressure from Pittsburgh Panthers defensive back Ryan Lewis (38) in the fourth quarter of the college football game at Kenan Memorial Stadium in Chapel Hill

CHAPEL HILL — Trailing Pittsburgh 36-30 and needing a touchdown to win, the North Carolina football team began its final possession at its own 37-yard line after a Ryan Switzer fair catch with 3:35 remaining Saturday. Seventeen plays later, including three fourth down conversions, quarterback Mitch Trubisky hit wide receiver Bug Howard in the end zone for an incredibly improbable 37-36 victory the Tar Heels hope will be a springboard to a second straight ACC Coastal Division title. Here’s a look back at how it all happened: First-and-10, UNC 37 — Trubisky gets the drive started by completing a short pass across the middle to Austin Proehl for a five yard gain. “Everybody seemed pretty confident, silent confidence and verbal confidence,” Trubisky said. “Guys were talking … ‘We got this, we got this,’ and ‘One play at a time.’ It was just go down there, everybody do their job and execute.” Second-and-5, UNC 42 — Trubisky goes right back to Proehl, this time throwing it behind him, incomplete. Third-and-5, UNC 42 — UNC’s chances suffer a major hit when left tackle Bentley Spain is called for an illegal block in the back while Trubisky scrambles for a short gain. Officials compound the damage by walking off 11 yards on the penalty, instead of the prescribed 10. Third-and-16, UNC 31 — Instead of forcing the ball downfield, Trubisky throws underneath to Proehl, getting back the 10 yards lost by the penalty. Fourth-and-6, UNC 41 — With the game on the line, Trubisky converts the first of three fourth downs on the drive by hitting Switzer on a slant pattern across the middle for a gain of 15 and a new set of downs. “Once we got that first one, it felt like we were going to score,” Trubisky said. “It was just a matter of time.” First-and-10, Pitt 44 — Trubisky hooks up with Switzer again, this time for four yards over the middle. UNC timeout immediately after Switzer is taken down with 2:16 remaining. Second-and-6, Pitt 40 — Trubisky throws incomplete to Howard along the near sideline. Third-and-6, Pitt 40 — Trubisky throws incomplete to Proehl. Fourth-and-6, Pitt 40 — Trubisky gets rid of the ball just before he’s hit and finds Proehl along the sideline for a 13-yard gain and another first down. “If you watch our guys, Austin is probably our best route runner,” UNC coach Larry Fedora said of Proehl, whose father Ricky was also a receiver for several NFL teams, including the Carolina Panthers. “He’s got great hands, he can make all the catches. He made some crucial catches for us tonight.” First-and-10, Pitt 27 — Trubisky is sacked by Pitt’s Saleem Brightwell for an 11-yard loss. UNC calls its final timeout with 1:50 left. Second-and-21, Pitt 38 — Trubisky completes a screen pass to Switzer for a five-yard gain. Third-and-16, Pitt 33 — Just as he did earlier, Trubisky opts for the open receiver underneath instead of forcing the ball downfield, hitting Switzer across the middle for seven yards. Fourth-and-9, Pitt 26 — Switzer extends his 5-foot-10 body as far as it will go to bring in a high throw from Trubisky across the middle for a nine-yard gain that miraculously keeps the drive alive. “That was nuts,” Trubisky said. “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.” It was Switzer’s 16th catch of the day, tying a UNC and ACC single-game record. His 208 receiving yards were also a career high. “I don’t think I ran the route that was called,” Switzer said of his most important reception. “It was a crossing route. I kind of got knocked off my path by the backer and I started working my way back across the field. I saw Mitch make eye contact with me, so I knew it was coming. I tried to make a play for my quarterback.” First-and-10, Pitt 17 — Trubisky throws incomplete to Proehl. Second-and-10, Pitt 17 — Trubisky hits Howard in stride, who takes it down the near sideline for 13 yards. First-and-goal, Pitt 4 — Trubisky tries to hit Howard on the same fade pattern that produced a touchdown on UNC’s previous drive, but it’s broken up in the end zone by Pitt’s Ryan Lewis. Second-and-goal, Pitt 4 — Hoping to catch the Panthers by surprise, Trubisky hands off to Elijah Hood up the middle. He is stopped two yards short of the end zone, forcing the Tar Heels to scramble back to the line of scrimmage for another play as the clock ticked down the final seconds. “That’s a run-pass o