Switzers Senior Day ends in disappointment, but no regrets

Ryan Switzer caught 13 passes in a determined effort against rival NC State on Friday while breaking the Tar Heels single-season receptions record, but because his team lost to its rival on Senior Day, he didnt feel much like celebrating

Rob Kinnan—USA Today Sports
Nov 25

CHAPEL HILL — Ryan Switzer closed out his regular season career with the North Carolina football team Friday by playing one of his best games ever. It was also perhaps his most disappointing. The senior wide receiver caught 13 passes for 171 yards in a determined effort against rival NC State. In the process, he broke the Tar Heels’ single-season receptions record — surpassing the old mark of 85 set in 2011 by Dwight Jones. But because his team couldn’t dig itself out of a deep early hole on its way to a 28-21 Senior Day loss to the Wolfpack, Switzer didn’t feel much like celebrating his accomplishment. “It’s tough,” Switzer said, fighting back tears. “Regardless of how you play individually, you want to win and go out on the right note. I played my heart out. I know the guys in the locker room have done that for four years. “I think I can look back and be proud of what I’ve done. I’m just proud of giving Carolina football everything I have. I have no regrets, it’s just tough to swallow.” Switzer has always been a demonstrative player who makes up for his lack of size by playing with extreme passion and he was especially engaged Friday in his final game at Kenan Stadium. Several times, he limped off the field with an apparent leg injury only to come back in a few plays later. His 13 catches against the Wolfpack were three more than the rest of his teammates combined. On this day, however, even that great individual effort wasn’t enough. “We just didn’t make the plays as a team that we usually make,” quarterback Mitch Trubisky said afterward. “It takes all 11 guys. It’s not just one or two guys making plays. It takes all 11 to move the ball down the field and score.” Not that Switzer didn’t try to do what he could on his own. For all the passes he caught — increasing his season total to 91 and school-record career haul to 239 for 2,822 yards and 18 touchdowns — the one ball he’d like to have back is the one pass he threw. It came on a fourth-and-two play from the State 9-yard line late in the third quarter, with UNC trying to make a dent in a 28-7 deficit. Switzer took a handoff on a reverse and looked to throw the ball back to his quarterback for the first down or a touchdown, but Trubisky was well covered and Switzer’s pass fell incomplete. “We just didn’t connect,” Switzer said of the trick play that didn’t work. “Give them credit, they didn’t see that from us. We haven’t run that play and the guy stuck with Mitch. I just tried to put it where (the defender) couldn’t get it and it was just out of his reach. That would have been a big turn of events if we could have scored down there.” Switzer had two big catches on UNC’s next drive, which resulted in a touchdown, then had one final opportunity to make a game-saving play on a State punt. Needing one more return for a touchdown to tie the FBS career record of eight, Switzer appeared to find a seam after cutting back to the middle of the field from the near sideline. But the hole closed quickly and he was tackled after a 14-yard return. On the Wolfpack’s final punt, with visions of Giovani Bernard’s game-winning return in 2012 dancing in his head — along with everyone else in the stadium — Switzer was forced to call for a fair catch. “I just wanted to make a play so bad. I just didn’t want to lose,” he said. “I made some mistakes on some third downs, trying to make a little too much happen. Sometimes it goes your way when you try to make plays and sometimes it doesn’t. Everytime I step on the field that’s been my mindset, just score.”Tar Heel coach Larry Fedora said he feels bad for Switzer and a senior class he said has changed the culture of football at UNC, but added that one loss in their final game to a heated rival shouldn’t overshadow what they’ve accomplished over the course of their careers.”Does it taint their legacy? No,” Fedora said. “I hate it for them, because I hate them to have this feeling for the rest of their life. But that’s just the way life is.”