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Williams leads North Carolina past No. 23 Pitt, 26-19

Williams leads North Carolina past No. 23 Pitt, 26-19

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Marquise Williams threw two long touchdown passes and North Carolina beat No. 23 Pittsburgh 26-19 on Thursday night in a matchup of Atlantic Coast Conference upstarts.

The unexpected ACC Coastal showdown was the first of a three-week round-robin that will likely determine the division title.

The Tar Heels (7-1, 4-0) face No. 22 Duke next at home with a chance to put a vice grip on the program's first trip to the ACC title game.

North Carolina has won seven straight since a sloppy opening loss to South Carolina and is off to its best start since 1997 under Mack Brown.

For the third straight season, Williams came up huge against Pitt (6-2, 3-1).

The senior was 14 for 23 for 270 yards and ran for 52. He has 1,020 total yards in three career victories against the Panthers.

Pitt had its four-game winning streak snapped after moving into the rankings for the first time since 2010 behind new coach Pat Narduzzi. The Panthers had won four one-score games with a grinding, low-risk offense and pressure defense, but they looked outclassed by the best offense in the ACC in the first half, falling behind 20-3.

The Tar Heels strong start has been as much about its defensive improvement under new coordinator and former Auburn coach Gene Chizik as its strong offense. The worst defense in the ACC last season has been among the best this season.

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