Now that was something resembling a football team.

After two weeks of embarrassing efforts, the Carolina Tar Heels put together far and away their best game of the young season this Saturday in beating Pitt—for the sixth consecutive time—38–35.

The running attack was firing, as the Heels’ trio of backs—Antonio Williams, Jordon Brown, and the now-healthy Michael Carter—accounted for 178 yards and three touchdowns on the ground.

The passing game was quick and efficient, as junior quarterback Nathan Elliott threw for 313 yards and two touchdowns. The coaching staff played to Elliott’s strengths or, more accurately, played against his weaknesses, piling up dink and dunk throws with a few shot plays peppered in to keep Pitt’s secondary honest. Relying on their skill players’ athleticism rather than Elliott’s arm proved effective against Pitt’s defense, though whether that’ll help him keep the starting job now that Chazz Surratt is back in the locker room remains to be seen.

Sophomore Dazz Newsome had a breakout game, piling up 110 yards on six catches, giving fans and his coaches a sense of relief that maybe this offense has a playmaker not named Anthony Ratliff-Williams.

And while it is impossible to look past the fact that they allowed thirty-five points to a very bad Pitt team, the defense only allowed seven second-half points, making what appeared to be their first set of halftime adjustments this season and keeping Pitt mostly out of the end zone in the game’s later stages.

Of course, it wasn’t all good.

The defense has yet to find its identity. The unit, who was bright week one and blight week two, showed something in between against Pitt. The defensive front kept Pitt QB Kenny Pickett uncomfortable in the pocket but repeatedly bit on a high school-style waggle play-action pass, allowing plenty of completions in a wide-open flat. They allowed 265 yards on the ground and had trouble getting off the field on third down all day.

And in the day’s most disheartening news, Ratliff-Williams limped off the field late in the game with what appeared to be a lower leg injury and did not return.

With the Heels on a short week and a looming Thursday night game against Miami, there is little time to revel in the year’s first victory, but Saturday provided a few glimmers of hope that this team might be able to, if not win four or five games, at least notch a major upset before season’s end.

The Score: UNC 38–35

The Hero: The running back committee

The Highlight: This ARW catch

The Stat: 200 of Nathan Elliott’s 313 yards came after his receivers caught the ball

The Goat: The rushing defense

The Record: 1–2