Wow, what a game for the true freshman Ryan Switzer of the North Carolina Tar Heels. His performance on the field today was the difference in the game, as North Carolina dominated the Cincinnati Bearcats in the Belk Bowl.
You could tell it was about to be a special day for the freshman when in the first quarter, he almost took his first punt return back for a touchdown. That return was just a precursor for what was about to hit the Bearcats on special teams. After the North Carolina defense forced a safety, the Bearcats had to kick the ball right back to the Tar Heels. T.J. Logan made Cincinnati pay for kicking to him and returned the post-safety free kick 78 yards to the house to give the Heels a 16-0 lead in the first quarter. The amazing day on special teams did not stop there either.
Before the game, North Carolina coach Larry Fedora said he wanted Switzer to have a chance to tie the NCAA record for the most punt returns for touchdowns in a season with five. Well, Switzer got his chance in the third quarter after the Tar Heel defense forced the Bearcats to punt once again to the true freshman. Cincinnati, having witnessed Switzer make mutliple plays already on special teams, made the dumb decision to punt to the speedy returner and man, did he make them pay. He caught the punt in traffic, made one move and was gone to the house for a 86-yard punt return for a touchdown to tie the NCAA record with five in a season. After Switzer’s second return for a touchdown made the score 29-3, North Carolina never looked back and went on to dominate the Bearcats in all three phases of the game — offense, defense and special teams.
North Carolina, who fought just to get to 6-6 and become bowl eligible, were clearly the better team today. Cincinnati had a good record coming in at 9-3, but the level of competition the Bearcats faced in the American Athletic Conference comes nowhere close to the teams North Carolina faced this season in the ACC. After today’s 39-17 win, UNC goes to 7-6 and looks to build on today’s impressive performance for next season. If you’re a Tar Heel fan, you have to be excited for what the future holds with players such as Switzer coming back. The future is definitely bright in Chapel Hill under coach Fedora.