Shaun Draughn scored three second-half touchdowns while Da'Norris Searcy returned an interception for a touchdown in his first game back to help North Carolina beat East Carolina 42-17 on Saturday.
Draughn ran for 137 yards for the Tar Heels (2-2), who have won two straight games despite continuing to be short-handed due to an ongoing NCAA investigation. Johnny White also ran for a career-high 140 yards while T.J. Yates threw two TD passes, giving North Carolina a win against its instate rival here for the second straight season.
Dominique Davis threw for a touchdown for the Pirates (2-2), who got off a solid start only to see the game slip steadily away from there. East Carolina has now lost two straight games after opening Ruffin McNeill's tenure at his alma mater with a pair of wins against Conference USA opponents.
North Carolina had plenty to feel good about with this win. Draughn fell a yard short of his career high and got stronger against the Pirates' struggling defense, while White overcame an ankle injury that had him questionable for the game with a strong performance of his own.
It marked the first time in six years that the Tar Heels had a pair of 100-yard rushers in the same game, and the first time in five years that the Pirates had allowed two 100-yard rushers.
Draughn scored on a 1-yard run late in the third quarter to make it a two-possession game, then bulled over defenders at the pylon for a 4-yard score midway through the fourth. He scored on a 13-yard run in the final minute, capping an eight-play drive in which he carried the ball on every play.
North Carolina was without 11 players due to the NCAA review into agent-related benefits and possible academic misconduct involving a tutor. The school had held Searcy — a safety who started every game last season — out of the first three games to determine his eligibility before he was cleared to return Thursday.
The announcement came so late in the week that coach Butch Davis said it was unclear exactly how much Searcy could contribute. But Searcy made a huge play, grabbing an overthrown pass from Davis then cutting back inside of Dwayne Harris' attempted tackle on the way to the end zone to tie it at 14 heading into halftime.
That was the highlight of a defensive effort that steadily improved as the game went on, with the Pirates' spread offense rolling to 131 yards in the first quarter but managing fewer yards with each period. And it was enough help for an offense that didn't look particularly sharp, yet avoided committing any turnovers for the first time this season.