Miami holds off UNC’s upset bid to remain undefeated

Written by Manuel DeLeon
​Chapel Hill, NC – A cool crisp day was the setting inside of Kenan Stadium as North Carolina welcomed #8 Miami to Chapel Hill. UNC gave the Canes all they could handle, however, in the end it would be Miami with the 24-19 wIn to keep their Playoff hopes alive.

Miami entered the game as a 20 point favorite, but it was North Carolina that took control of this game in the opening moments. After a huge 53-yard run by sophomore running back Jordan Brown, North Carolina found themselves in scoring position. The Tar Heels looked to have taken the lead after a Brown score from the one, but was later overturned.

North Carolina came out with something to prove. Losing 88% of their offensive production, everyone had all but written the Tar Heels off. It would have been easy to fold to the ‘Canes, but the Tar Heel offense proved the game is played on the field; not on paper. The Tar Heels took the lead 3-0 after a Freedom Jones field goal.

A defense that ranks 109th in the country held the Hurricanes to just 43 total yards in the first quarter. Offensively, the Tar Heels outgained the Hurricanes 167 to 248 in the first half.

“We weren’t consistent, once again, in doing the little things.” Said Miami head coach Mark Richt on his team’s slow starts.

North Carolina found moving the ball between the 20-yard lines quite easy, but Miami’s bend but don’t break defense held the Tar Heels to only two Freedom Jones field goals. Down 6-0, Miami found its spark late in the second quarter when quarterback Malik Rosier found tight end Chris Herndon on a 51-yard scoring strike to give Miami its first lead of the game.

Early on, it looked like Miami was confused with the North Carolina offensive game plan. The speed in which the Tar Heels play made getting lined up correctly a daunting task. Many times in the game the Hurricanes were caught out of position.

Struggling on both side of the ball in the first half, Miami came out in the second ready to make a statement. 11 seconds into the 3rd quarter, Rosier dropped back and found a wide-open receiver in Jeff Thomas, who took the reception and raced 78 yards for the score putting Miami up 14-6. The reception put Thomas over the 100-yard mark, the first 100 yard game of his career.

“ It felt good; I didn’t know it was 100 yards until after the game.I just wanted to help make plays.” Said Thomas on his performance.

After a Miami field goal, and trying to keep the game close, North Carolina answered with a scoring drive of their own. Operating inside the Hurricane red zone, Tar Heel receiver Anthony Ratliff-Williams took an end-around only to drop back and loft a pass over the defender to receiver Beau Corrales. The reception was the first touchdown catch of his career, making the score 17-13.

The Miami defense came alive towards the end of the third. Michael Jackson and Charles Perry picked off Nathan Elliott on his final two drives of the third quarter.

I don’t know what coach Mark Richt told his players in the locker room, but whatever it was, it worked.

After a slow start, Miami started to pull away in the fourth quarter. Driving his team down the field, Rosier found freshman receiver DeeJay Dallas on a 41-yard strike that would set up a five-yard Braxton Berrios touchdown.

“That’s why you play sixty minutes,”said Richt

On the Tar Heels ensuing drive, Hurricane safety Sheldrick Redwine intercepted UNC quarterback Nathan Elliott, who stepped in for starter Chazz Surratt who was knocked out of the game early on.

Miami failed to do anything with the turnover as Rosier was picked off by North Carolina safety J.K. Britt on the Hurricanes next drive.

After exchanging punts, North Carolina pulled within five after Elliott found Corrales for his second touchdown grab of the day. The teams exchanged fumbles as well. Trying to milk the clock, Miami running back Travis Homer, was met by linebacker Cayson Collins who forced the fumble, giving UNC new life. The jubilation was short live by the Tar Heels as running back Jordan Brown fumbled on the next drive, essentially icing the game for his team.

After a slow start, Malik Rosier finished with a career night, passing for 356 yards and three touchdowns. The ‘Canes must work on starting fast and remaining consistent throughout the game.

Miami plays host to Virginia Tech next Saturday; kickoff is TBD.

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