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Late score sends Pitt to another loss

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Pitt quarterback Chad Voytik fumbles after a hit by North Carolina's Malik Simmons in the fourth quarter Saturday, Nov. 15, 2014, in Chapel Hill, N.C.
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Pitt's James Conner (24) rushes for a 16-yard touchdown ahead of North Carolina's Des Lawrence (2) in the second quarter Saturday, Nov. 15, 2014, in Chapel Hill, N.C.
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North Carolina's Mack Hollins (13) spins away from Pitt's Matt Galambos (47) after a reception in the first quarter Saturday, Nov. 15, 2014, in Chapel Hill, N.C.
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North Carolina's Quinshad Davis (14) picks up 23 yards on a completion from quarterback Marquise Williams before being stopped by Pitt's Lafayette Pitts (6) on the 1-yard line, setting up the winning touchdown in the fourth quarter Saturday, Nov. 15, 2014, in Chapel Hill, N.C.
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North Carolina quarterback Marquise Williams (12) races ahead of Pitt's Reggie Mitchell (15) for a 45-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter Saturday, Nov. 15, 2014, in Chapel Hill, N.C.
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North Carolina's T.J. Logan (center) celebrates the winning touchdown after a 1-yard run with teammates Landon Turner (78) and John Ferranto against Pitt on Saturday, Nov. 15, 2014, in Chapel Hill, N.C.
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North Carolina coach Larry Fedora acknowledges fans following the Tar Heels' 40-35 victory over Pitt on Saturday, Nov. 15, 2014, in Chapel Hill, N.C.
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Pitt's James Conner (24) rushes ahead of the North Carolina defense in the third quarter of their game Saturday, Nov. 15, 2014, in Chapel Hill, N.C.
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North Carolina's Mack Hollins spins away from Pitt's Matt Galambos after a reception in the first quarter Saturday, Nov. 15, 2014, in Chapel Hill, N.C.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Tyler Boyd turned 21 on Saturday, breaking down the door to adulthood.

As they often do for young people, the lessons learned on that trip reached a painful crescendo for Boyd in Pitt’s 40-35 loss to North Carolina at Kenan Stadium.

His face without expression, his voice sad and subdued, Boyd tried to explain Pitt’s sixth loss in the past seven games. Words didn’t come easy for a player who knew nothing but victory through 48 high school games.

“Every week, we are toe to toe with our opponent,” Boyd said after Pitt lost in the final seconds for the second game in a row. “I don’t know what it is. I just don’t like it.”

Boyd, running back James Conner, quarterback Chad Voytik and the offensive line could do no more than they did. Boyd made himself accountable, however, insisting he ran a poor route on a third-down incomplete pass in the fourth quarter.

Conner carried 30 times for 220 yards and four touchdowns, including a 22-yarder with 3:33 left in which he broke four tackles before reaching the end zone.

But North Carolina running back T.J. Logan scored the decisive touchdown on a 1-yard run with 50 seconds left.

“It’s rough for me. It’s rough for James,” said Boyd, who had five receptions for 160 yards and a touchdown. However, he was one of only three Pitt players to make a catch.

Voytik ended the game tumbling head over heels at the Pitt 48, losing a fumble on his last snap of the game. But he completed 11 of 16 passes for 218 yards and a touchdown and ran for 41 more yards.

It was the defense that failed its teammates miserably for the third consecutive game, robbing Pitt of any hope of an ACC Coastal championship and, possibly, a bowl bid.

Pitt (4-6, 2-4) has allowed 147 points, 1,552 yards and 20 touchdowns against Georgia Tech, Duke and North Carolina. It hasn’t intercepted a pass since the Virginia game Oct. 4.

There were no answers for North Carolina quarterback Marquise Williams, who slipped through poor tackle attempts, outran defenders and threw for 276 yards and a touchdown. Walk-on running back Charles Brunson, who hadn’t been handed the ball since the opener, scored on a 17-yard run in the third quarter, only 86 seconds after Conner’s third touchdown gave Pitt a 28-19 lead.

North Carolina’s six touchdown drives covered 72, 80, 75, 92, 81 and 75 yards. After a scoreless first quarter in which Pitt built a 14-0 lead, the Tar Heels (5-5, 3-3) scored almost at will on six of eight possessions.

“We had some missed tackles, overran a couple things, and they executed a little bit better,” coach Paul Chryst said.

There was more to it, however.

In the second quarter, Pitt had North Carolina stopped on a third-down incompletion from its 22. But freshman Patrick Amara was called for pass interference. Given new life, the Tar Heels moved down the field and scored their first touchdown.

In the third quarter, a roughing-the-passer penalty against defensive tackle Darryl Render on a second-down incompletion set up Brunson’s score.

What hurts the team more than anything is that it is losing on so many fronts.

There were fumbles, poor clock management the past two weeks and the common theme: bad defense.

The result is the worst seven-game stretch (1-6) since Walt Harris’ second team ended the 1998 season on a seven-game losing streak.

“No question, they have been hard losses,” Chryst said.

“It stings, and there is a sting right now.”

Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at [email protected] or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

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