UNC Looking to Pull Upset at Pitt

Sharon Thorsland
November 09, 2017 - 7:40 am

USA Today Images

North Carolina will be in the prime time spotlight Thursday night when the Tar Heels travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Panthers. Kick-off is set for 7:30, WBT's coverage starts at 6:30 with the pregame show. The Tar Heels (1-8) are coming off a surprisingly good effort against #8 Miami, losing 24-19 to the unbeaten Hurricanes. Pitt beat Virginia 31-14 to improve to 4-5 on the season.

While the Tar Heels have been suffering through a nightmarish season that now includes 18 players out with season ending injuries, it's been more of an up and down kind of year for the Panthers. They've bounced back from a 2-5 start to win their last two games and really look like an entirely different team, particularly on offense.

The Panthers like to run the ball first, and they seem to have found their rhythm the last two weeks. With former star running back James Conner now in the NFL, Qadree Ollison and Darrin Hall team to form a pretty good 1-2 punch. Hall has been the hot hand recently – he's rushed for 365 yards and four touchdowns in the last two games. Ollison has 330 yards and five touchdowns on the season. While stopping the run has been a never ending problem for the Heels, they actually held Miami to just 59 rushing yards, so maybe they can continue that momentum against the Panthers.

The Panthers start Ben DiNucci at quarterback. It's his first season as a starter and he's been serviceable. Rafael Araujo-Lopes is his favorite target with 37 catches and a score. Senior Jester Weah is a big play threat, he's averaging nearly 17 yards a catch and has four touchdowns. And look out for Quadree Henderson – he can catch and run and is a dangerous kick returner with a pair of punt return touchdowns. 

The Panthers have a young defense, with just one senior on the defensive line, but they've grown up as the season has progressed, holding Virginia to just 102 rushing yards. Oluwaseun Idowu leads the team in tackles. Avonte Maddox has two sacks and a pair of forced fumbles. The Panthers have forced five fumbles and have eight interceptions, so the Tar Heels are going to have to find a way to hold on to the football. They've coughed up 14 interceptions and six lost fumbles and rank 113th in the nation in turnovers. 

While things seem stacked in Pitt's favor for this one, there are a few things that give a Tar Heel fan hope! First off, Pitt has never beaten UNC since joining the ACC. The Heels have won four in a row in this rivalry, including last season's 37-36 thriller in Chapel Hill. UNC is playing better of late – who would have thought they'd give Miami a run for their money? And they've certainly got nothing to lose going into this one, while Pitt has to win in order to stay in the hunt for a bowl game. So you never know – maybe this is the game UNC finds a way to get it done on the prime time stage. Go Tar Heels!​


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