Preview: For UNC, Sun Bowl Win Would Cap Historic Season

Led by standout quarterback Mitch Trubisky and his arsenal of offensive play makers headlined by wide out Ryan Switzer, the University of North Carolina will try to pick up a statement win against No. 16 Stanford in the 2016 Hyundai Sun Bowl.

Trubisky, one of the nation’s most efficient passers and, who at one point during the season, was named the No. 1 quarterback in the 2017 NFL draft by ESPN’s Mel Kiper, will look to cap off an already historic season with a win over the 9-3 Cardinal. The 8-4 Tar Heels quarterback will have some help from first-team All ACC play maker Switzer, who finished the season with 91 grabs for 1,027 yards and five touchdowns.

The Hyundai Sun Bowl, featuring the East coast vs. West coast matchup, is scheduled for a noon (MST) kickoff on Dec. 30 at Sun Bowl Stadium in El Paso.

“We’re excited to represent the University of North Carolina and the Atlantic Coast Conference in the Sun Bowl, a game with so much history going back more than 80 years,” said UNC head coach Larry Fedora. “Our team is looking forward to a terrific experience in El Paso with the opportunity to finish the season with positive momentum. Stanford consistently competes for the PAC-12 championship and this will be a tremendous challenge for our team.”

Fedora enters the game having made a bowl appearance in eight of his last nine seasons. This will be the 33rd all-time bowl game for the Heels, who are 2-2 in Sun Bowl history. Their last appearance in the bowl was 1994, where they were handed a 35-31 loss by Texas.

UNC is entering the contest coming off a one score loss to North Carolina State, 28-21. Carolina has been up and down this season, racking up two-to-three wins at a time in between losses. The season was highlighted with ACC wins over Florida State (37-35), Miami (20-13) and Pittsburgh (37-36).

Fedora said of the season and the team’s latest loss, “We weren’t able to overcome all the emotions we created for ourselves. There were a few games down the stretch that we didn’t play up to our capability. We didn’t make the ordinary plays that we needed to make, and it wasn’t anything that we had to do out of the ordinary, we just couldn’t make the ordinary plays; we didn’t do that for whatever reason so I can tell you that the state of mind for this football team”

Trubisky and company run a pass heavy offense, ranking 22nd in the country in passing offense with a 294 yards per game average. A key to their success through the air has been the quarterback’s accuracy with the ball, throwing 28 touchdowns to only four interceptions to go along with his 3,468 yards.

Behind center, Trubisky set single-season records for UNC in both yardage and touchdowns. The team ranks ninth in the nation in passing efficiency, recording a 159.76 rating. Individually, the slinger ranks in the top 15 in the nation in passing yards, touchdowns, efficiency and yards per game.

In the ground game, UNC’s Elijah Hood leads with a team-high 858 yards and eight touchdowns during the regular season. Also a threat in the pass-attack, Hood caught 25 passes for 142 yards.

On defense the Tar Heels are led by Nazir Jones, recording a team-high 7.5 tackles for a loss and 62 total tackles on the year. Emerging as a veteran leader amongst a young defense, Nazir announced Friday that he will be entering the 2017 NFL draft.

“He has overcome great physical adversity and improved tremendously since he came into the program in 2013.  This season he was the leader of our defensive line and someone everyone on the team respected. I believe he has a bright future in professional football if he continues to work hard and focus on being the best he can be,” Fedora said.

Other defensive standouts include defensive end Malik Carney and linebacker Andre Smith. Smith led the team with 110 tackles while Carney was the team’s best pass rusher, recording 4.5 sacks.

As a team, UNC ranked No. 14 in the nation in pass defense, allowing only 183 yards per game. On the opposite side of the ball, the Tar Heels allowed 235 rush yards per game and 28 rushing touchdowns.

Tickets for the 83rd Annual Hyundai Sun Bowl are on sale through Ticketmaster and the Sun Bowl Association office. The 2016 Hyundai Sun Bowl is set for Friday, Dec. 30 in Sun Bowl Stadium with kick-off scheduled for noon.

Tickets for the game can be purchased online through the link available at Customers can call the Sun Bowl Association office (915-533-4416) and are also invited to stop by the Sun Bowl Association office that is located at 4150 Pinnacle Street (Suite 100) in El Paso to purchase tickets.