Sports

Tar Heels' defense steadies itself during 3-game winning streak heading into Pitt game

North Carolina's Tre Boston (10) and his teammates celebrate their 45-14 victory over Virginia in an NCAA college football game on Saturday Nov. 9, 2013 at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill, N.C. (AP Photo/The News & Observer, Robert Willett)  MANDATORY CREDIT

North Carolina's Tre Boston (10) and his teammates celebrate their 45-14 victory over Virginia in an NCAA college football game on Saturday Nov. 9, 2013 at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill, N.C. (AP Photo/The News & Observer, Robert Willett) MANDATORY CREDIT  (The Associated Press)

North Carolina's defense is showing some signs of growth, just in time for the Tar Heels' late bowl push.

The Tar Heels (4-5, 3-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) have cut down on their mistakes, forced more turnovers and taken down quarterbacks more often. Those are all welcome signs after the struggles from the first half of the schedule.

That improved defensive play has been a factor in North Carolina's three-game winning streak heading into Saturday's game at Pittsburgh, which has restored some optimism here after a 1-5 start.

After allowing an average 30.7 points in the first six games, UNC has allowed 19 or fewer in wins against Boston College, North Carolina State and Virginia.

The Tar Heels have allowed one passing touchdown and picked off eight passes in the past four games.