CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina's offense alternated between sputtering and potent, its defense between porous and opportunistic.
When things finally came together in one dramatic flurry, the No. 23 Tar Heels were finally on their way to a season-opening win.
Marquise Williams accounted for four touchdowns while Jeff Schoettmer returned an interception for a score during their game-turning spurt, helping the Tar Heels beat Liberty 56-29 on Saturday night.
Schoettmer's 19-yard return came during a run of four touchdowns in fewer than 4 minutes, which jolted the Tar Heels out of a sluggish and mistake-prone performance in the season opener.
"When we're rolling, man, we're a scary football team as you can see," Williams said. "As a football team, there's always going to be adversity in the game. It's how you're going to overcome it."
Liberty led 22-21 with about 6 minutes left in the third quarter before Williams found Mack Hollins for a 33-yard scoring pass. Williams later scored on a 15-yard keeper and backup Mitch Trubisky followed with his first career TD pass for a 49-22 lead with 2:06 left in the quarter.
That stunning turnaround couldn't have happened without the maligned defense — perhaps UNC's biggest question mark coming into the season — forcing three turnovers in the third and setting up the offense with short scoring drives against the Flames.
"I don't want you to think we changed the scheme and that was what created (turnovers)," coach Larry Fedora said. "It wasn't that. It was just the energy level of the guys. You get one guy that's real positive and excited, and it's contagious and it goes to the next guy. And the next thing you know, good things start to happen."
The win capped a bumpy game week for UNC, which is ranked to enter a season for the first time since 2010. Fedora suspended four defensive players Wednesday, including starting cornerbacks Des Lawrence and Brian Walker, for a violation of team policy without specifying what rules were broken.