Another Saturday, another close game for the Miami Hurricanes.
The Hurricanes just don’t know how to win comfortably it seems.
The UM defense did it’s job again, holding the North Carolina Tar Heels to 19 points, the fifth straight game Miami has held its opponent to 24 points or less. The inconsistent Canes’ offense was less impressive, but did just enough to scrape by to stay undefeated and leave Chapel Hill with a 24-19 win.
The starting quarterbacks were knocked out of the game early: UNC’s Chazz Surratt would not return. Malik Rosier would only miss one series, though, and came back to throw for a career high 356 yards and 3 touchdowns, with way too many three-and-outs in between.
Miami’s early offensive turbulence continued for yet another game and they were kept off the scoreboard almost the entire first half by a UNC defense that was previously ranked 111th in the nation. However, a late second quarter dart by Rosier bailed the offense out and found Chris Herndon across the middle, and he rumbled 51 yards to the endzone to wipe out what was a 6-0 UNC lead. The big plays kept on coming right out of halftime, this time with Jeff Thomas getting behind the defense and taking a 78 yard bomb to the house.
UNC backup QB Nathan Elliott would not go quietly though. Elliott (173 yards passing, 79 yards rushing) effectively moved the offense all day after coming in for Surratt, and he threw a 9 yard TD late in the fourth to Beau Corrales to bring the Canes lead down to 24-19.
With the game now under 3 minutes remaining and Miami trying to bleed the clock, disaster struck for the Canes: UNC forced a Travis Homer fumble to re-take possession, giving Elliott a chance to win the game for the Tar Heels.
That’s when Miami’s defense stood up. A unit that had already forced 3 turnovers on the day would bring out the Turnover Chain for the cameras one more time, when Joe Jackson hit UNC running back Jordon Brown from behind, knocking the ball free. Jaquan Johnson pounced on the live ball and that was all she wrote.
Carolina received the ball and, after trading punts to start the game, Zach McCloud vacated his gap and Sheldrick Redwine took a poor angle, giving North Carolina RB Jordon Brown plenty of room to scamper 56 yards down the left sideline. Then, WR Dazz Newsome was left free in zone coverage and Surratt found him for a 23 yard gain down to the Miami 1 yard line.
Brown looked to have punched it in from the 1 on the next play, but, in what ending up being a huge reversal, replay review ruled him down at the inch yard line. After a Brown run went nowhere and a Surratt pass fell incomplete, the Tar Heels elected to go for it on 4th and inches on the goal line. Surratt went play action and rolled out to his left, but the Canes snuffed the play out perfectly and Shaq Quarterman broke through to sack Surratt back at the 10 yard line.
The Canes took over on downs, and on the very first play, Homer took a pass out of the backfield running right, then cutback left and found room for a 35 yard pick-up. Miami wasn’t able to do much with it though, and on 3rd down, a poor blitz pickup by Homer forced Rosier out of the pocket early, and UNC dropped him for a short gain. Rosier hurt his shoulder on this play and went to get checked out in the locker room. Richt opted to bring out Michael Badgley to attempt a long field goal, but the 53 yard kick was well short and far right.
UNC took over around their own 35, and a Brown run picked up a first down near midfield. An extremely questionable roughing the passer call on McCloud moved UNC into Miami territory. Surratt would leave the game on this play, however.
UNC head coach Larry Fedora reached his bag of tricks on the next play. Nathan Elliott, in for Surratt, threw a screen to the left to WR Anthony Ratliff-Williams, a converted quarterback. Ratliff-Williams then rolled back right and threw back to Elliott, who was running completely free on the right. Redwine rushed over to bring Elliott down at the 3 yard line, saving a touchdown. Miami’s goal line defense would hold strong yet again, with the help of McCloud dropping Brown for a loss on second down, but this time, Fedora brought on the field goal team and Freeman Jones knocked in a 24 yard field goal. 3-0 UNC.
With Rosier in the locker room, Evan Shirreffs took over the Miami offense. A quick screen to Braxton Berrios picked up nothing, and 2 incompletions later, it was Zach Feagles on for a punt. After a first down run by Brown, 3 plays from UNC brought up a 4th and 1 near the UM 40. Fedora decided to go for it, and Elliott picked up the first on a read option run. Elliott kept again on the ensuing third down and picked up just enough for the first down.
Then, a Miami blitz on second down got home to Elliott, and he was gang sacked for an 8 yard loss. A 3rd down screen was stuffed for a loss of one, and UNC set up for a 42 yard field goal. The ever-aggressive Fedora faked it though, with the holder rolling out and finding TE Brandon Fritts in the flat. He turned and ran right into Shaq Quarterman, who played it perfectly and stopped him well short of the chains. First down Canes.
Rosier returned to the game, but picked right up where he left off, throwing balls too low, too high, or behind receivers. A few Braxton Berrios diving catches picked up first downs and, on 4th and 1 from around the UNC 45, Rosier kept up the middle for a first. The drive stalled from there though, and a Feagles punt went out of the endzone.
On UNC’s next drive, UM looked to have forced a 3-and-out, but Robert Knowles held the Tar Heel receiver on third down to give UNC a first down. On the next play, Elliott lofted a jumpball for Beau Corrales, and Corrales went up and over Michael Jackson to make the 26 yard catch. The Canes defense stiffened again deep in their own territory, though, and Jones kicked a 45 yarder. 6-0 UNC.
The Canes finally broke through on their next drive. Ever dependent on big plays, Rosier threaded a ball to his big tight end Chris Herndon up the seam. Herndon bounced off two tacklers and was off to the races for a 51 yards TD to wake the Canes out of their slump. 7-6 Miami.
Finally. Christopher Herndon gives Miami the lead. #Canes pic.twitter.com/r3BAEuy91o— Miami DieHards (@MiamiDieHards) October 28, 2017
A quick UNC 3 and out got UM the ball back on their own 25 with a minute and a half to go. Homer picked up 15 on a screen, but a bungled snap would kill the drive and the Hurricanes were punting again.
With the clock under a minute, Elliott had the UNC offense on the move past midfield, but a taunting penalty on WR Roscoe Johnson killed the drive and brought the game into the half. Total yards at halftime: 248 UNC 167 UM. Not a good look for the Canes.
The Canes came out of half and BOOM. In what is becoming a weekly occurrence, Jeff Thomas got behind the defense, and Rosier hit him with a bomb. 78 yards to the house. 14-7 Canes.
Jeff Thomas does Jeff Thomas things. Miami leads 14-7. #Canes pic.twitter.com/KhrpnJYXLk— Miami DieHards (@MiamiDieHards) October 28, 2017
On UNC’s next possession, Miami had great coverage on third down, allowing Demetrius Jackson and Joe Jackson to bring down Elliott for a sack. After a Miami 3-and-out and punt, Demetrius Jackson broke free again to bring down Elliott on an option play. On the UNC punt, Jonathan Garvin beat his man and got a hand on the ball, blocking the kick. The Tar Heels’ punter fell on the ball, but the Canes were set up on the UNC 15 yard line. The Canes couldn’t do much with the amazing field position, and Badgley knocked through a chip shot. 17-6 UM.
UNC wouldn’t stay silent for long, though. Ratliff-Williams had a great kick return out to midfield, and a Brown screen pass caught Miami off guard, going for 28 deep in UM territory. Soon after, UNC’s second double pass of the day turned into points, as Ratliff-Williams found Corrales in the endzone for an 18 yard TD. 17-13 Miami.
Thomas made a bad decision bringing the ball out on the kickoff, and he was dropped inside the Canes’ 10. Rosier flicked a pass out to Ahmmon Richards for 12 yards, his first catch of the day. A Homer 6 yard run followed, but 2 Rosier misfires led to a UM punt.
The Tar Heels moved the ball well and into Miami territory on their next drive, but Elliott overthrew his receiver and Michael Jackson was there to pick it off, falling down at Miami’s own 5. Turnover Chain time!
Rosier then dropped back and found Berrios streaking down the right sideline. A full extension diving catch by Berrios went for a 42 yard gain. Soon after, Rosier pulled down the ball on a keeper and picked up 18 near the UNC 35. But Miami’s O-Line fell apart on the next down and distance, as the Tar Heels got back-to-back sacks to push Miami out of FG range. Rosier’s pass on 4th-and-13 was tipped at the line incomplete and UNC took over on downs.
The very next play? TURNOVER CHAIN. Charles Perry read a slant across the middle and jumped Elliott’s pass for an interception. Miami was set up at UNC’s 45. The Canes again wasted great field position, and Miami’s went 3-and-out on 3 straight incompletions from Rosier.
After a Tar Heels punt, the Canes took over on their own 15. A Rosier interception was called back on offensive PI and DeeJay Dallas took a quick slant, made a man miss, and sprinted down the middle of the field for a 49 yard gain down to the UNC 5 yard line. 2 plays later, Berrios beat his man to the inside and Rosier hit him for a touchdown. 24-13 Canes.
Braxton Berrios gives Miami some much-needed breathing room. #Canes lead 24-13. pic.twitter.com/dR2evdReZA— Miami DieHards (@MiamiDieHards) October 28, 2017
Elliott threw another first play interception, this time to Redwine breaking on a hitch to the sidelines. Redwine returned the ball down to the UNC 15. Again, the offense would do nothing when the defense set them up on a silver platter. Fumble on the handoff exchange, chop block on Trevor Darling were back-to-back plays to start the drive. Then, Rosier stared down a receiver into the middle of the field and UNC’s J.K. Britt picked him off. First down Carolina.
Still, the UM defense wasn’t giving much up. Shaq Quarterman sacked Elliott to help force a UNC 3-and-out. Another Miami punt, gave Carolina the ball with the game clock running down under 4 minutes. Elliott led a drive down the field, drilling a 17 yard dart to Anthony Ratliff-Williams on 4th and 7. Then, Elliott found Corrales again on a crossing route. Corrales slipped a Perry tackle attempt and was into the endzone for a 9 yard touchdown. A 2 point conversion try saw Elliott roll out left, but there was nothing there, and his pass sailed out of the back of the endzone. 24-19 UM.
With 3 minutes to go, UNC tried an onside kick, but Berrios was there for a clean recovery. All Miami needed was a first down to ice the game, however, disaster struck on the first play, as Homer had the ball knocked free and fumbled for a UNC recovery. But after a late hit out of bounds by McCloud, UNC gave it right back, as Joe Jackson forced a Brown fumble and Jaquan Johnson recovered. This time the Canes were able to pick up a first down, when Rosier pulled down a read option on 3rd-and-5 and took of to the left for a pickup of seven. Miami kneeled out the clock from there. Ballgame. Final: Miami 24 UNC 19
**The inconsistencies on offense were on steroids today. Big plays by Herndon, Thomas, and Dallas saved Miami. Without even one of those plays, they lose this game. Coming within one play of a loss to a 1-8 UNC squad? Do better guys.
**Rosier. Just all over the place. No other way to say it. A career high 356 yards and 3 TD’s doesn’t make up for a 42% completion rate and one horrible pick where he starred down his receiver all the way in the middle of the field. Poor decisions and off-target throws are way too prevalent in his game and I think we really saw that boil over today. Hopefully, this ends up being #12’s one hiccup game, and he can focus on getting better for Virginia Tech and Notre Dame.
**The defense was on the field all day but came up with clutch play after clutch play. 10 TFL, 4 sacks and another 4 turnovers a week after getting 4 against Syracuse. The offense couldn’t do anything with them, but they were all huge for stopping any UNC momentum.
**I loved seeing DeeJay Dallas shine in his moment and make a big play. He’s been patiently biding his time and absolutely SHOOK that UNC defensive back on his 49 yard catch and run.
Miami is 7-0 and heads back home to take on the #13 Virginia Tech Hokies for all the marbles in the ACC Coastal.
An ugly, ugly performance from Miami today, but 7-0 and 5-0 in conference look mighty fine to me. Hopefully, this will eventually seen as a mulligan game at the end of the year, something that was needed to keep this team pushing towards their goals. And those goals, an ACC Championship, are still alive, and at the end of the day, that’s all you can ask for. Looking forward to putting it all on the line at the Rock against VT next week.