North Carolina poured it on early and often against Cincinnati in the Belk Bowl from Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.
The Tar Heels — the No. 5 seed out of the ACC Coastal Division – produced an 11-play, 68-yard drive on their second possession of the 1st quarter and went up 7-0 after a 2-yard Romar Morris touchdown run.
UNC and Cincinnati exchanged 3-and-outs, but a 59-yard punt from Tar Heels’ punter Tommy Hibbard – downed at the Bearcats’ 6-yard line – set up the next score.
On 3rd and 10, Cincinnati quarterback Brendon Kay was sacked in the end zone by Kareem Martin and Brandon Ellerbe for a safety, putting the Tar Heels up 9-0.
The ensuing kickoff resulted in another North Carolina score. T.J. Logan returned the Tony Miliano kick 78 yards for a touchdown and the Tar Heels had the Bearcats on, well, their heels – up 16-0.
Cincinnati – who came into the game ranked 12th in the nation in points-against (19.5) – responded with a 10-play, 48-yard drive capped by a Miliano 34-yard field goal to get them on the board early in the second quarter.
Tar Heels’ quarterback Marquise Williams helped engineer a 12-play, 76-yard drive that culminated in a 3-yard TD pass to tight end Jack Tabb and the Bearcats found themselves down by 20.
Cincinnati drove down to the North Carolina 19, but Kay was sacked for the 4th time – this one by Norkeithus Otis — at the 29-yard-line. Miliano missed the subsequent 46-yard field goal attempt and the Bearcats’ 9-play, 46-yard drive was all for naught.
North Carolina took a 23-3 lead into the locker room at the break.
Cincinnati received the kickoff after halftime but were forced to punt after a 9-play, 29-yard drive stalled. Tar Heels’ wide receiver Ryan Swtizer took the 38-yard kick 86 yards to pay dirt, and North Carolina went up 29-3.
The Bearcats finally managed a trip into the end zone after a 9-play, 75-yard drive that culminated in a Ralph Abernathy 15-yard touchdown run.
North Carolina answered with a 13-play, 65-yard drive of their own that resulted in another Morris TD scamper, this time from 1-yard out. The Tar Heels found themselves up by 26 points once again at 36-10 and any Cincinnati comeback hopes appeared to be dashed.
The Bearcats got a nice drive on their ensuing possession, courtesy of wide receiver/quarterback/running back extraordinaire Shaq Washington. The sophomore broke a 52-yard run and scored two plays later on a 10-yard QB keeper to bring Cincinnati to within 36-17.
North Carolina wide receiver T.J. Thorpe was hammered on the ensuing kickoff by Bearcats’ special teamer Tshumbi Johnson. The ball popped loose and Cincinnati seemed to be in business at the Tar Heels’ 6.
Washington returned as the QB but North Carolina thwarted the shifty back and the Wildcat package this time. On 4th and goal from the UNC 3, a Kay pass rolled off of Washington’s finger tips in the corner of the end zone and the Tar Heels took over on downs with 12:11 remaining.
North Carolina put together a clock draining 14-play, 74-yard drive that capped off the scoring with a 40-yard Thomas Moore field goal. Tar Heels’ defensive back Tre Boston picked off a last-ditch effort throw from Kay and the Belk Bowl was in the books.
Final score: North Carolina 39, Cincinnati 17.
With the win, North Carolina broke the .500 mark finishing the 2013 season at 7-6, 4-4 in the ACC. Cincinnati fell to 9-4, and went 6-2 in the American Athletic Conference.
Notable Individual Stats
Williams finished with 177 yards and a TD on 19-of-33 passing. Running back T.J. Logan finished with 77 yards on 15 carries. Morris had just 16 yards on 10 carries, but scored 2 TDs. Eric Ebron led all receivers with 78 yards and 7 receptions.
Kay finished with 181 yards on 15-of-35 passing with a pick. All-purpose back Washington had 4 carries for 67 yards and a TD and 3 catches for 36 yards. Abernathy finished with 67 yards on 13 carries and a TD.