Dallas Crawford, in the first extensive action of his career, put the tenth-ranked and undefeated Miami Hurricanes on his back Thursday night and willed the Canes to a 27-23 victory over North Carolina at Kenan Stadium. Crawford rushed for 137 yards on 33 carries and two scores to lead the Hurricanes. Crawford also blocked a punt on special teams.
Crawford got the call early as Duke Johnson left the game in the first quarter with what is being reported as a concussion. Johnson took a knee to the helmet and did not return. He was off to a good start as he amassed 83 yards on only eight carries and it looked like he was off to the races.
It was up to Crawford to lead Miami (6-0, 2-0) against UNC (1-5, 0-4), a team not known for its ability to stop the run with success.
"I am thankful that Coach Golden gave me the opportunity and that the offensive line had confidence in me," Crawford said. "I was ready for this opportunity. This is what I was taught to do."
Miami was staring defeat in the face as they were trailing 23-20 with only a few minutes to play. They had the ball on their own ten-yard line and were 90 yards away from victory or defeat. Crawford said that he took it upon himself to win the game for his teammates that had shown such confidence in him. Crawford capped a 90-yard drive that took 13 plays with a three-yard run to give Miami the victory.
"I would not be denied," Crawford said. "I am in awe right now. I wanted the ball. I was hoping that it came to me and it did."
Miami coach Al Golden knew that his big back had it in him.
"He wanted it and he got it," Golden said of Crawford getting the carries. "He never got cautious. I am real proud of him."
Golden said that he was proud of his team for coming back and winning despite losing the turnover battle 4-1.
"To do that on the road you have to have something in your bowels," Golden said. "We'll fix the turnovers and the mistakes when we get back to Coral Gables. But make no mistake about it. This was a huge win for the University of Miami."
Golden pointed to the fact that the usually stifling Hurricane defense, despite giving up 500 yards to the Tar Heel offense, only allowed 23 points in 80 plays and after the offense turned the ball over four times.
"What does this say about our defense? They kept us in the game. They chose to stand their ground and fight," Golden said. "We knew that this was a circle the wagons game for North Carolina and to do what we did, here...it was a big win."
Crawford leads UM with 10 touchdowns, nine of which have come on the ground. Prior to tonight's action he had 25 carries total to his name.
Miami's offense was shorthanded as Johnson left with a concussion and wide receiver Phillip Dorsett was sidelined with a lower extremity (knee) injury. He made a huge catch that led to a UM field goal in the first quarter, but spent the rest of the game on crutches on the sideline. They will be evaluated when the team gets back to Miami, as will senior safety Kacy Rodgers II who also sustained an injury to his right knee.
This was a night that there would be no magic from the right arm of Stephen Morris. The senior quarterback had 322 yards pasing on the night, but was only 19-of-35 passing and was picked off four times. This was his second consecutive below-par game against UNC. Last year's game against UNC in Miami was a nightmare as well.
It did not appear, however, that Morris completely recovered from the ankle injury that he has been battling since the Savannah State game. Morris looked like he was having a tough time planting on the ankle and the ball was floating on him which led to the interceptions.
On Miami's final, game-winning drive, Eduardo Clement, who has been battling injuries over the last two weeks, spelled Crawford for two plays to give the Fort Myers native a breather. Clement ripped off runs of 13 and 14 yards on consecutive plays to put Miami in scoring position.
UNC tight end Eric Ebron, whom many scouts have as the premier pass catching tight end in the country, did not disappoint the scouts that came out to see him. Ebron victimized the UM secondary in the first half for six receptions and 132 yards and a 71-yard touchdown. He finished the game with 199 yards on eight receptions, a UNC record for tight ends.
Miami's Ladarius Gunter scored another non-offensive touchdown for the Hurricanes, his second in two games. In the first quarter Artie Burns, a freshman, blocked a 47-yard field goal attempt and Gunter scooped it up and returned it 67 yards for the touchdown. That game UM some brief momentum, but it did not last long.Highlights (ACC Digital):