Switzer returned a punt 64 yards for a touchdown to help North Carolina beat Old Dominion 80-20 on Saturday at Kenan Stadium.
“They weren’t giving me a lot of opportunities early in the game,” Switzer said. “I wouldn’t have given myself those opportunities either. But all it takes is one, and guys blocked it great. I saw a lane and fortunately was able to hit it. The rest was history.”
Indeed, it was.
It was Switzer’s third consecutive game with a punt return for a score, tying the NCAA record set by Kansas State’s David Allen in 1998. Allen returned one punt for a touchdown in each game of his streak, but Switzer has a total of four punt-return TDs during his three-game streak.
The record-tying return was a nice addition to the day Switzer enjoyed on offense. He had five catches for 118 yards and two touchdowns, second-quarter scoring strikes of 43 and 57 yards from Marquise Williams.
Switzer was shut out on returns in the first half - by design. Old Dominion kept its offense on the field on fourth down, preferring to let quarterback Taylor Heinicke kick out of the shotgun formation rather than bring on its regular punt team.
UNC countered by leaving its defense on the field - and Switzer on the sideline - as Heinicke booted the ball with no one back deep to receive it. Safety Tre Boston tried to pick up one of the rolling punts, but he muffed it. The resulting turnover led to a touchdown that gave the Monarchs a 10-7 lead.
UNC coach Larry Fedora said he expected Old Dominion to try to keep Switzer off the field.
“I thought that was smart on their part,” Fedora said. “They got a fumble from us because we made a bonehead mistake, and we didn’t have a return guy back on any of those others because you can’t. You’re worried about them going for it on fourth down. That was smart on their part. Keep him off the field, and he can’t hurt you.”
Switzer, who returned two punts for touchdowns last week at Pittsburgh, inflicted his special kind of pain in the second half.
Tired of letting Old Dominion punt with no threat of a return, UNC made an adjustment at halftime. The Monarchs had to punt on their second possession of the third quarter, and Switzer was back deep to receive it even though the Old Dominion offense was on the field.
The Monarchs reacted by calling timeout and sent out their regular punt team.
The kick was high and short, forcing Switzer to call for a fair catch. He pounded his helmet with his hands out of frustration when he didn’t get a chance to return it.
“I threw a little temper tantrum on the field,” Switzer said. “I shouldn’t have done that.”
Switzer finally got a chance for a return after Old Dominion’s next possession, and he picked up 19 yards.
When the Monarchs punted again on their next possession, Switzer struck. He caught the punt, turned his back to the defense while spinning toward the left sideline and then cut back to the right. He made one tackler miss at the UNC 40, weaving through the pursuit on his way to the end zone.
After a day of waiting, he finally got what he wanted most.
“I was really antsy,” Switzer said. “Coach Fedora and [Eric] Ebron had to calm me down a little bit. I just like competing. Any time I get out there, I don’t like fair-catching the ball.
“Overall, I’m glad I got that one.”