CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) - Now that North Carolina’s long losing streak is history, it wants to end a tough season on a roll in the opposite direction.
The Tar Heels play host to Western Carolina on Saturday hoping to string consecutive wins together for the first time in more than a year.
North Carolina (2-8) is a heavy favorite against the Catamounts (7-4) of the FCS to win its second straight game - something the Tar Heels haven’t done since they beat Miami, Virginia and Georgia Tech in October and November 2016.
The Tar Heels have lost six in a row during an injury-riddled season before upsetting Pittsburgh 34-31 last week behind a breakout performance from receiver Anthony Ratliff-Williams.
“The win was more important for our team than anybody,” coach Larry Fedora said. “Those are the guys that are putting in the work each and every day. . They’re the ones doing it, and that’s who it was for. . For them to see that if they kept doing the things that they were doing, that they could have success.”
The unquestioned brightest spot in a rough season, Ratliff-Williams became the third FBS player in more than two decades to account for touchdowns passing, receiving and on a kickoff return in the same game.
Fedora says Ratliff-Williams is “not searching around for something, he hits it full-speed” when returning kicks, and that he originally brought him to campus as a quarterback before moving him to receiver.
“He’s too productive to move him back,” Fedora added.
Some other things to know about the Western Carolina-UNC game:
MORE ON ARW: Ratliff-Williams joined Penn State’s Saquon Barkley as the only players this season to throw for a touchdown and return a kickoff for one in the same game. Ratliff-Williams leads the nation in kickoff return yardage with 836 on 30 returns.
NATHAN’S FAMOUS: Fedora says QB Nathan Elliott has played well enough lately to earn his second career start. Elliott was 20 of 31 for 235 yards and two touchdowns against Pitt, a week after he was 16 of 39 against a Miami team that has climbed to No. 2. Fedora says Elliott “could be” the long-term solution at the position but hasn’t looked too far ahead because “right now he’s got to be the guy this week.”
CATAMOUNT NOTES: Western Carolina has won at least seven games for just the seventh time since 1976, with three of those coming since 2014 under coach Mark Spier. The Catamounts have lost two of three, and this is their second FBS matchup of the season. They opened the season with a 41-18 loss at Hawaii.
THE SERIES: This is the first meeting between the schools, but they will play again on Nov. 17, 2018.
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