Five turnovers send Cavaliers to their fifth loss of the season
chapel hill, n.c. — North Carolina didn’t need too much from its offense — not with new defensive coordinator Gene Chizik’s group playing takeaway like this.
The Tar Heels forced a seasonbest five turnovers in the second half of its 26-13 win over Virginia on Saturday, their sixth straight victory.
“Coach Chizik and the rest of our coaching staff, they do a great job of letting us know our halftime adjustments,” said defensive back Malik Simmons, who had two interceptions. “They clear things up at halftime, and we just go from there.”
Elijah Hood rushed for 101 yards with two three-yard scoring runs, T.J. Logan added a 16-yard touchdown and Nick Weiler kicked two field goals.
North Carolina (6-1, 3-0 ACC) broke a 13-all halftime tie by scoring on its first three possessions of the second half and pitched its second straight second-half shutout.
For Virginia (2-5, 1-2), Taquan Mizzell rushed for 117 yards and Matt Johns was 17 for 30 for 148 yards with a one-yard touchdown pass to Charlie Hopkins.
Johns had one fumble and four interceptions in the second half and was picked off in the end zone on a fourth-and-goal with less than six minutes left.
“You have that many turnovers and then you shorten the field like that, that makes it tough as well,” Virginia Coach Mike London said. “There are some things that are working for us, but we have to get everything working in the right direction.”
Virginia’s first four losses were to teams that either are or have been ranked in the top 25. The Tar Heels, the nation’s only unranked one-loss team from a power conference, hope to join that group when the new poll is released Sunday.
Marquise Williams was 21 for 26 for 226 yards for the Tar Heels, who overcame two turnovers and a season-worst 13 penalties for 135 yards and set up a game with huge Coastal Division implications Thursday night when they visit No. 25 Pittsburgh.
“It’s a win. We’ll make it good,” North Carolina Coach Larry Fedora said.
This was North Carolina’s lowest-scoring win of the season. The Tar Heels — who have the ACC’s most productive offense, averaging 482 total yards and 40.5 points — had scored at least 38 points in each of their victories.
Not that anybody’s complaining, not with the vastly improved defense playing like this. Chizik’s crew has held every opponent except Georgia Tech (31) to either 13 or 14 points.
Hood capped North Carolina’s longest drive of the season — by yardage and time elapsed — with the touchdown that finally gave the Tar Heels some breathing room.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, he plowed up the middle and fell as he extended his arm toward the goal line, and when the ball popped out, Virginia’s Zach Bradshaw scooped it up in the end zone. The officials discussed the play and called it a touchdown, and the decision stood after a review.