CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Standing at the crossroads of its season, the Boston College football team took a definite step backward Saturday with a sobering 34-10 setback against the North Carolina Tar Heels before a Kenan Stadium crowd of 43,000.
The Eagles seemed as listless in the second half against UNC as they did in their first road loss of the season, at Southern Cal Sept. 14. BC dropped to 0-3 on the road, extending its road misery to nine consecutive losses, dating to the start of last season.
Not even the presence of former All-America linebacker Luke Kuechly, who was the architect of BC’s last road victory (Miami in the 2011 season finale), seemed to inspire the Eagles, who fell below .500 for the first time this season (3-4, 1-3 ACC).
The loss overshadowed the brilliant performance of senior running back Andre Williams, the league’s leading rusher who entered the game needing 162 yards to reach 1,000 for the season.
Williams reached the milestone when he converted a third-and-1 attempt from the BC 41 with a gritty 5-yard carry. He finished with 26 carries for 172 yards and accounted for BC’s first score, a 56-yard run in the first quarter.
Nate Freese tallied BC’s only other points, a 38-yard field goal with 2:04 left in the game.
After opening the game with a 15-yard pass to tight end Mike Naples, BC’s promising start took an unfortunate turn when Williams fumbled a handoff from quarterback Chase Rettig on the second play from scrimmage.
Jeff Schoettmer pounced on the ball to give the Tar Heels possession at the BC 35. Five plays later, quarterback Bryn Renner found Ryan Switzer on a 13-yard touchdown pass. The Tar Heels failed to convert the extra point when holder Tommy Hibbard couldn’t field the snap and was tackled by Steele Divitto. That broke UNC’s streak of 191 successful PATs.
Williams atoned for his miscue when he went off right tackle on a counter run and went 56 yards for the TD with 7:04 left in the first quarter. It was BC’s longest run from scrimmage this year and Williams’s fourth rushing TD of his senior campaign.
With mercurial sophomore quarterback Marquise Williams in for Renner, UNC used its hurry-up, no-huddle “NASCAR’’ offense and moved from its 19 to the BC 25 in 10 plays, the biggest of which was a 15-yard reception by Quinshad Davis that ended the first quarter.
The Eagles took a moment to gather themselves, but it the break was only a pit stop for UNC, which continued to mash the gas with Williams running for 23 yards to the 2.
A.J. Blue gained a yard on a pair of carries before the UNC running back finally scored off left tackle. The play was upheld after a video review, enabling the Tar Heels to lead, 13-7, after a 15-play, 81-yard drive that consumed 4 minutes 47 seconds.
The Eagles, who were held to 169 total yards in the half, were unable to mount a threat on their next possession and punted. The Tar Heels took over at their 22 and four plays later Renner found T.J. Thorpe on a 33-yard pass to the BC 30. But on third and 6 from the 26, freshman linebacker Marquis Little sacked Renner for a 17-yard loss.
On BC’s next possession, Williams ripped off a 21-yard run to midfield to put him over 100 yards for the game. A 15-yard roughing the passer penalty brought the Eagles to the UNC 35.
Travis Hughes sacked Rettig for a 6-yard loss, and a third-and-14 incompletion forced BC to punt from the 39.
The Tar Heels then went on an 11-play, 90-yard march, highlighted by T.J. Logan’s 35-yard gain on a perfectly executed screen to the BC 10. Junior free safety Sean Sylvia was ejected for targeting the head of UNC wideout Bug Howard on his 10-yard TD catch.
The Tar Heels converted the PAT to control a 20-7 lead at intermission.
The Eagles’ offense went punt, punt, punt to start the second half, giving BC little hope of mounting a comeback.
BC’s defense provided the only glimmer when Kasim Edebali sacked Renner for a 6-yard loss on the first play of UNC’s opening possession of the second half. Seven plays later, Kevin Pierre-Louis forced the Tar Heels to punt by sacking Renner for a 14-yard loss on third and 5.
After recording a pair of three and outs, BC’s defense unraveled when the Tar Heels leaned on tight end Eric Ebron, who made a pair of catches, for 33 and 17 yards, to bring UNC to the BC 17. On the next play, Renner completed the three-play, 67-yard drive with a TD strike to Howard, who capitalized when BC defender Bryce Jones slipped and fell in the end zone.
That gave the Tar Heels an insurmountable 27-7 lead with 19 seconds left in the third. It grew to 34-7 in the fourth when Marquis Williams capped a six-play, 46-yard drive with a 4-yard TD scamper that sealed the verdict.
Michael Vega can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.