Blog: UNC dominates Cincinnati in 39-17 Belk Bowl win
Posted December 28, 2013
Charlotte, N.C. — FINAL UNC 39, Cincy 17: North Carolina got two special teams touchdowns and the defense recorded a safety as part of a five-sack afternoon as the Tar Heels dominated Cincinnati in the Belk Bowl Saturday, 39-17. The win was UNC’s first at the Belk Bowl in four tries.
UNC's Ryan Switzer was named the game MVP.
2:52 4th: UNC 39, Cincy 17: UNC just iced the game with a 15-play, 9:19 drive that ended in a 40-yard Thomas Moore field goal as this game is just awaiting a final whistle.
12:11 4th: UNC 36, Cincy 17: The UNC defense came up with a 4-down stop after the fumbled kick return and will take over at their own 3, still leading 36-17.
14:17 4th: UNC 36, Cincy 17: TJ Logan was hit hard and fumbled the kickoff return, setting Cincy up at the 6. It was UNC's first turnover of the game.
14:26 4th: UNC 36, Cincy 17: On the second play of the fourth quarter, Shaq Washington made a juke on a UNC defender and took a Wildcat run left for a 10-yard TD.
End of 3: UNC 36, Cincy 10: On the final play of the 3rd quarter, Cincy busted a big run down to the nine yard line and will have a first and goal as the fourth starts.
:10 3rd: UNC 36, Cincy 10: UNC elected to go for it on 4th and 2 on the plus-40 and failed on an incompletion.
2:02 3rd: UNC 36, Cincy 10: UNC defense forced their 4th 3-and-out of the game and will take over at their own 42 after a Ryan Switzer fair catch.
3:32 3rd: UNC 36, Cincy 10: UNC converted a 4th and 3 to extend their drive and ended up scoring again on a 1-yard Romar Morris run as they have extended their lead to 36-10 late in the 3rd.
8:08 3rd: UNC 29, Cincy 10: Cincy responded to the Ryan Switzer punt return in quick fashion as Ralph David Abernathy finished off a 9-play, 75 yard drive with a 15-yard TD run.
Note on Switzer's punt return: It was his 5th of the season, tying the FBS record for most punt return TDs in a season and also tied the all-time UNC career mark.
10:41 3rd: UNC 29, Cincy 3: Ryan Switzer went 86 yards up the middle on a punt return for a TD and UNC has their second special teams TD of the game as they lead 29-3.
Cincy flirted with a drive to open the third quarter and crossed midfield, but UNC recorded their fifth sack of the game and third on third down as they forced the punt.
HALF: UNC 23, Cincy 3: At half, UNC is out-gaining Cincy 189-118 but has a special teams score and a safety as they lead, 23-3.
At half, Cincy has 5 negative plays for a total loss of 43 yards (4 sacks). UNC has 3 negative plays for a total loss of 9 yards (1 sack)
1:45 2nd: UNC 23, Cincy 3: UNC marched into Cincy territory with a little help from a personal foul, but stalled out leaving Tommy Hibbard to punt where he pinned the Bearcats at the 6 yard line.
5:34 2nd: UNC 23, Cincy 3: UNC defense forced a Cincy 3-and-out right back and will take over at their own 27 after a 46 yard punt.
6:31 2nd: UNC 23, Cincy 3: UNC went 3-and-out for the fourth time today but got yet another good punt from Tommy Hibbard as his 49-yarder bounced over the returner's head and was downed at the 19 yard line.
7:30 2nd: UNC 23, Cincy 3: On third down, Norkeithus Otis sacked Brendon Kay forcing a 46-yard Cincy field goal try that was missed wide right and the Tar Heels lead stays at 20.
10:16 2nd: UNC 23, Cincy 3: UNC marched down the field after the Cincy field goal and ended up in the end zone as Marquise Williams connected with Jack Tabb on a 3-yard score on a 3rd down play.
The drive was 12 plays, 76 yards taking just over 4 minutes.
14:22 2nd: UNC 16, Cincy 3: Cincy's long drive ends in a 34-yard field goal by Tony Milliano as the Bearcats are on the board early in the 2nd.
End of 1: UNC 16, Cincy 0: As the first quarter comes to a close, Cincy is mounting a drive and are down to the UNC 21 yard line.
UNC out-gained Cincy 85-44 in the first quarter in large part to minus-19 yards rushing for the Bearcats.
2:12 1st: UNC 16, Cincy 0: On the free kick following the safety, TJ Logan returned it 78 yards for a touchdown and the Tar Heels have seized full control early.
2:25 1st: UNC 9, Cincy 0: After Hibbard's excellent punt, the UNC defense rewarded him with a safety as Kareem Martin sacked Brendon Kay in the endzone.
2:42 1st: UNC 7, Cincy 0: UNC went quickly 3-and-out but got a 59-yard punt by Tommy Hibbard to back the Bearcats up at the 6 yard line. On the drive, UNC LT James Hurst injured his left ankle and was helped off the field without puttiny weight on it.
3:43 1st: UNC 7, Cincy 0: After a UNC score, Cincy went three and out and punted to Ryan Switzer who returned it to the 20 yard line before having it called back on a block in the back. The Heels will start at their own 35.
5:40 1st: UNC 7, Cincy 0: Romar Morris finished a long, up-tempo drive that saw 11 plays, in just 3:39 as he went up the middle from the two. The drive covered 68 yards, most of which came on the ground.
9:19 1st: UNC 0, Cincy 0: Cincy moved the ball to midfield on their first offensive possession but a sack put them in a third and long before being forced to punt. UNC will take possession at their own 33.
12:41 1st: UNC 0, Cincy 0: After recovering a fumble and getting good field position, UNC could do nothing with it as Thomas Moore's 40-yard field goal attempt sailed wide.
13:30 1st: UNC 0, Cincy 0: UNC got the first break of the game after a 3-and-out as the punt was fumbled by the Bearcats returner and the Tar Heels took over at the plus-32.
15:00 1st: UNC vs. Cincinnati: UNC, wearing all blue with black helmets, will return after Cincinnati won the toss and elected to defer.
Tar Heels running back AJ Blue will not play today with what UNC is calling a "lingering back injury."
In their first postseason bid under head coach Tommy Tuberville, the Cincinnati Bearcats will once again take part in the Belk Bowl, this time against the North Carolina Tar Heels at Bank of America Stadium.
Tuberville was hired after Butch Jones jettisoned off to Tennessee prior to the Bearcats' appearance in last year's Belk Bowl. The first campaign under the former Auburn and Texas Tech head coach was a strong one. Cincinnati flew under the radar while Louisville and UCF grabbed the attention in the American Athletic Conference. Yet at year's end Cincinnati had an outside shot at the league title. A 31-24 loss to the Cardinals in overtime in the regular season finale ended those hopes, but the Bearcats still wound up at 9-3 overall.
"I'm proud of our football team from this past year. We went through a very tough time in transition with a new coaching staff and system, but I'm proud of our seniors," Tuberville said of his first year on the sidelines in Cincinnati.
Against Duke in the Belk Bowl a year ago the Bearcats claimed a victory in a shootout with the Blue Devils. Brendon Kay threw for 332 yards and four scores in the winning effort for Cincinnati. A win in this Belk Bowl would give Cincinnati 10 victories for the sixth time in the last seven seasons.
It will be another team from the Tar Heel State that Cincinnati must contend with this time around. North Carolina started off the year a miserable 1-5, but adjustments were made and the Tar Heels managed to win five of their last six matchups to become bowl eligible after a one-year hiatus from the postseason.
"I'm excited for our team, especially our seniors, who fought through some early season adversity and won five of the last six games to become bowl eligible," North Carolina head coach Larry Fedora said of his team, which became just the sixth team since 2006 to start 1-5 and make a bowl. "This is a resilient bunch of guys that kept believing in one another throughout the year and I'm glad they were rewarded with a bowl game."
For the Tar Heels a win in this contest won't push them to double digit victories but it would get them to seven wins for the sixth straight season. A victory would also be just the second in the last six bowl appearances for North Carolina, which is 13-16 in its previous 29 bowl games.
This will be the third time the Tar Heels and Bearcats have clashed. North Carolina has won the two previous matchups with a 35-14 rout in 1979 and a 51-16 trampling in 1991.
Kay is back under center for the Bearcats this year, though it took an injury early in the season to Munchie Legaux for him to reclaim the starting role. Though he might not have been the first choice for Tuberville, Kay really came through for Cincinnati. He threw for 3,121 yards and 22 touchdowns on 68.6 percent passing. However, he was intercepted 11 times. That included four picks in the last two weeks of the season.
The 6-foot-4 quarterback holds the keys to the American Athletic Conference's most prolific offense. The Bearcats tallied a league best in total yards (482.3 ypg) this season, while ranking 20th nationally in yards gained.
Aiding Kay along the way was a talented receiving corps led by Anthony McClung. It was McClung that led the team in receiving yards (908) while he ranked second in receptions (68) and receiving touchdowns (five). McClung really turned it on down the stretch with at least seven catches and 97 yards in each of the last five games. Shaq Washington (75 receptions, 747 yards, TD), Chris Moore (43 receptions, 599 yards, nine TDs) and Mekale McKay (15 receptions, 462 yards, seven TDs) are also reliable targets.
A trio of backs do the heavy lifting in the running game. Ralph David Abernathy (451 yards, four TDs) was the leader in terms of carries (119) but Hosey Williams (609 yards, four TDs) proved to be the more dynamic back. Also providing depth in the backfield is Tion Green, who has rushed for 409 yards and a team-high seven touchdowns on 90 carries.
On the defensive end of the field the Bearcats are also rather strong, led by All-AAC defensive linemen Jordan Stepp and linebacker Greg Blair. Stepp racked up 43 tackles and six sacks this season and was aided in the pass rush by Silverberry Mouhon (10.5 TFL, 9.5 sacks). Blair (96 tackles) led the team in tackles. The trio of frontline defenders helped the Bearcats rank second in the AAC in total defense (313.2 ypg).
Bryn Renner injured his shoulder in early November and the Tar Heels's starting quarterback was lost for the season. Somehow the season was not lost for North Carolina as backup Marquise Williams stepped up to go 5-1 in his six games as the starter. On the season Williams threw for 14 touchdowns and 1,527 yards while completing 58.2 percent of his pass attempts and have six passes intercepted. Williams was especially effective because he was able to make plays with his legs. He rushed for a team-high 490 yards and six touchdowns, averaging 4.8 yards per carry.
The Tar Heels' issues were never with picking up yards though. They averaged the fifth most yards per game (432.4) in the ACC and also scored at an extremely healthy pace (32.2 ppg).
T.J. Logan and A.J. Blue powered the offense on the ground when Williams wasn't taking off with the ball. Logan finished the season as the leading running back, registering 468 yards and four scores on 78 carries. Blue had 312 yards on 74 carries but only scored a single rushing touchdown. In the season finale against Duke, Logan rushed for 92 yards while Blue had just a single carry. Blue is questionable for this contest for an issue undisclosed by the team.
Leading the receiving corps is Eric Ebron. As the top pass-catching threat for both Renner and Williams, Ebron recorded 895 yards and three scores on 55 receptions. Quinshad Davis (47 receptions, 724 yards) was a more lethal threat in the red zone as he recorded a team-high 10 receiving touchdowns. In fact Davis tied with Clemson's Sammy Watkins for second in the ACC in touchdowns through the air. Ryan Switzer (29 receptions, 319 yards, three TDs) was the third option but was more important as a punt returner. Switzer returned four punts for touchdowns and earned All-ACC honors and a handful of All-American selections for his work on special teams.
Where North Carolina never truly found much success was on the defensive side of the ball. The Tar Heels kept teams to 25.1 points per game but also allowed more than 400 yards of total offense each week. The Tar Heels were among the bottom half of the ACC in both categories. Kareem Martin (20 TFL, 11 sacks) was third in the ACC in sacks and second in tackles for loss this season as the anchor for the unit. Tre Boston (85 tackles, four INTs) also made a major impact as the team leader in tackles and interceptions.
The Tar Heels became a different team when Williams took over, consistently finding wins after failing to do so in the six games under Renner. Still the Tar Heels are facing a major challenge in Cincinnati's offense. The Bearcats have a bit more balance in their arsenal and a defense, anchored by a steady pass rush, that will keep Williams contained.