LOUISVILLE, Ky. --- North Carolina mounted a furious second-half rally to pull within five points late but came up four yards short, as No. 19 Louisville held on for a 39-34 win Saturday at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. Bryn Renner threw for 363 yards and a school-record five touchdowns and Carolina outscored the Cardinals 27-3 after halftime, but fell to 1-2 on the year.
Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater connected on 23 of 28 passes for 279 yards and three scores for the Cardinals, who improved to 4-3 all-time against Carolina.
UL sprinted out of the gate, scoring on its first six possessions to take a 36-7 lead into the break. The Cardinals amassed 19 first downs and 360 total yards in the opening half, with the lone bright spot for Carolina coming on Romar Morris' 44-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter.
The Tar Heels came out of the locker room a changed team and earned their first defensive stop of the game when Tommy Heffernan stopped Senorise Perry on 4th-and-1 at the UNC 20.
Renner then marched the visitors 79 yards on 11 plays, culminating in a 2-yard strike to Eric Ebron with 5:09 left in the third.
After a U of L field goal early in the fourth quarter made it 39-14, Carolina scored on back-to-back possessions in a span of just five minutes to pull within 11.
Renner hit Erik Highsmith for a 9-yard score to cap a 7-play, 65-yard drive that took just 1:36. After forcing a quick three-and-out, Morris leapt through the pile to block the Louisville punt. Kendrick Singleton recovered the loose ball and UNC took over on the Cardinal 5.
It would take just one play for the Tar Heels to convert the big play into points as Renner again found Ebron for a 5-yard touchdown to make it a two-possession game.
The Carolina defense got another stop and this time it was Renner to Morris, as the redshirt freshman broke a screen pass for 50 yards and a touchdown to make it 39-34.
UNC was unable to convert the two-point conversion and still trailed by five when Alex Dixon recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff to give Carolina the ball at the Louisville 23 and an improbable chance to take the lead.
After a pass interference made it 1st-and-goal at the 9, the Tar Heels would get as close as the 3, before a false start pushed it back to 3rd-and-goal at the 8. Morris rushed for four yards on third down to set up a dramatic 4th-and-goal at the 4, but Carolina was unable to convert and the Cardinals were able to run out the clock.
Renner's five scoring throws matched a school record established by Darian Durant in 2002. Morris rushed just four times for 23 yards but collected 149 yards on five catches, two of which went for touchdowns.