CHAPEL HILL – As the losses kept piling up for North Carolina, defensive end Kareem Martin started to worry.
“I didn’t want my senior year to be remembered as the team to only win one game,” Martin said.
The Tar Heels not only earned victory No. 2 on Saturday, they showed they might be capable of winning a few more in the season’s final month.
They snapped a four-game losing streak by routing Boston College, 34-10.
In his most accurate performance since his first career start in 2011, Bryn Renner finished 18 of 21 for 227 yards.
He had two touchdowns, a 13-yard score to Ryan Switzer and a 10-yarder to Bug Howard, for the Tar Heels (2-5, 1-3 Atlantic Coast Conference).
Howard also caught a backbreaking 17-yard touchdown pass from change-of-pace quarterback Marquise Williams late in the third quarter. Williams and A.J. Blue had short scoring runs for the Tar Heels.
Andre Williams, the ACC’s leading rusher, ran for 172 yards in his fifth 100-yard performance of the season and had a 56-yard touchdown run.
But facing a defense that allows an ACC-worst 456 yards per game, the Eagles (3-4, 1-3) managed just 261 total yards and converted just 5 of 16 third downs – a total first-year coach Steve Addazio called “woeful.”
Until the final five meaningless minutes, they took only five offensive snaps in North Carolina territory.
“We always knew we had a good defense, but in every game, we allowed big plays,” Martin said. “This is what happens when we limit those big plays.”
Chase Rettig was 10-for-20 for 57 yards and was sacked four times for Boston College.
The Eagles lost their sixth straight ACC road game, have yet to beat North Carolina since joining the ACC in 2005 and have never won in Chapel Hill.
“It wasn’t a lack of effort,” Addazio said. “We actually played pretty darn hard and physical. But we didn’t play well.”
For the Tar Heels, it only felt like that long since their last win in Chapel Hill– or anywhere, for that matter.
A rough stretch – including consecutive games against nationally ranked Coastal Division rivals Miami and Virginia Tech – left them with the worst record in the ACC.
But this started a stretch of navigable games: The second half of the schedule includes a game against FCS member Old Dominion and five league opponents who entered the weekend a combined 17-15.
“I think we have a lot of football to play and my goal is to get this team to a bowl game,” Renner said. “We’re 2-5 ... and we can do it.”
North Carolina’s maligned defense, which entered last in the league in all four major stat categories, kept the Eagles in check for much of this one.
Boston College had 59 yards passing – the fewest allowed by North Carolina since 1997 when Clemson had just 37 – and coach Larry Fedora called the pass defense’s performance “pretty danged good.”
The only real mistake came on the Boston College tailback’s long touchdown run, in which Williams was barely touched on his way up the middle and down the right side.
“Other than that, they got after it,” Fedora said. “We knew we would not hold them to 50 yards rushing because they’ve got a good running back.”
Blue put the Tar Heels back up on the fifth play of the second when he burrowed in off left tackle. Renner then extended North Carolina’s lead to 20-7 with his scoring pass to Howard with 52 seconds remaining in the half.
Howard’s second score came with 19 seconds left in the third and after the Tar Heels moved into the red zone on two Renner-to-Eric Ebron completions.
Cornerback Bryce Jones slipped near the back line, leaving Howard wide open for the easy strike from UNC’s Williams to stretch the lead to 27-7.
Marquise Williams’ 4-yard touchdown run midway through the fourth then pushed it to 34-7.
Switzer, a freshman who had two touchdowns called back due to penalties earlier this season, finally got his first scoring catch on North Carolina’s first drive to put the Tar Heels up 6-0. That came after Williams fumbled at the BC 35 on the Eagles’ second offensive play.
Nate Freese kicked a 38-yard field goal with 2:04 left for BC.
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