CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Ryan Houston rushed for three touchdowns and Quan Sturdivant returned a fumble 49 yards for a score, one of six turnovers forced by North Carolina during a 42-12 rout of Georgia Southern on Saturday.
Bruce Carter brought back an interception 41 yards for a TD and the defense set up two quick scoring drives with takeaways for North Carolina (4-2).
Houston scored on rushes of 1, 1 and 7 yards. Shaun Draughn added a 16-yard touchdown run for the Tar Heels, who held the Eagles to 170 total yards and 75 through the air.
Adam Urbano had a 45-yard TD rush -- the longest allowed this season by North Carolina's stingy defense -- for the Eagles (3-3).
The Tar Heels managed only a combined 10 points in consecutive losses to Georgia Tech and Virginia that dropped them out of the national rankings and into last place in the ACC's Coastal Division.
Turned out, a timely visit from another outmanned Football Championship Subdivision opponent was just what they needed, building a 42-7 halftime lead -- their highest-scoring first half in nine years.
The game had no impact on North Carolina's postseason eligibility because teams may count only one victory per season over an FCS team toward the six necessary to qualify for a bowl, and the Tar Heels routed Citadel 40-6 in the opener.
The Tar Heels' defense, which entered with national rankings of No. 8 overall and No. 4 against the pass, spoke openly during game week about feeling the need to give their struggling offense a jolt. Defensive end Robert Quinn promising to "put it on our shoulders."
Did they ever.
Quinn jarred the ball loose from Lee Chapple as he passed late in the first quarter. E.J. Wilson returned it to the 16 and Draughn scored on the next play to make it 14-0.
Sturdivant pushed the lead to 21-7 midway through the second when he ripped the ball out of Urbano's hands and returned it down the right sideline for his second career score. Zach Brown's interception moments later gave the Tar Heels the ball at the 22 and three plays later, Houston barreled in from 7 yards out.
Carter then snuffed out the Eagles' next possession with his second career interception return for a TD.
North Carolina, held to nine first downs in last week's loss to the previously winless Cavaliers, nearly matched that on an opening drive that ended with Houston's first 1-yard plunge. He powered in with 6 seconds before the break to give the Tar Heels their most points in a first half since they scored 52 against Duke in 2000.
Urbano finished with a career-high 93 yards rushing for Georgia Southern, which fell to 1-17 against Bowl Subdivision teams.