Chapel Hill, NC - As expected, the Tarheels, fresh off a win over South Carolina, came out firing on all cylinders, while the 0-1 Hurricanes struggled in all phases after suffering their first loss in more than a decade to the hated Gators.
On the verge of getting out of hand early, Bubba Baxa drilled a 50-yard field goal, then the defense made its first stop of the night, allowing Miami to eventually pull within four at halftime, 17-13. Getting that first stop was huge for Miami. The defense seemed to settle in nicely after that. Or at least until the 4th-and-17 debacle.
With momentum on their side entering (and exiting) the intermission, the Canes were denied on fourth-and-short on the opening drive of the third, reigniting a stagnant Tarheels squad and a home crowd that was silent for much of the second quarter, seemingly living in fear of a Miami outburst to open the second half.
A Tarheel field goal stretched the margin to 20-13, but the Canes’ offense, behind Jarren Williams and Deejay Dallas, continued to have its way with the UNC defense. Following a Cam’Ron Harris score, Bubba Baxa’s point-after was blocked (the second of three missed kicks on the night), preserving the lead and keeping hope alive for the home crowd.
When you’ve dropped as many heartbreakers as UNC has in recent years, a few of the pessimistic Tarheel fans were looking for a reason to lose hope, and a small percentage of the sellout crowd actually began filing out after Williams hooked up with Will Mallory for the go-ahead score.
After ending up in 4th-and-17 with 2:55 to play, Mack Brown originally sent his punt team onto the field before changing his mind. At the time, I was hoping he would rethink his decision and attempt fourth-and-forever. Now I hate myself for that terrible wish.
And the rest is history.
As soon as they connected on that 18-yard completion on fourth down, it was just a matter of when North Carolina would score and how much time Miami would have left.
I have yet to watch the full game replay. I’m not ready to put myself through that. But the only thing that stood out on that final drive was why didn’t Miami call timeout after Jeff Thomas’ near-fumble? It wasn’t a first down and a good 8-10 seconds ran off the clock following that play.
I was unable to see any of the replays in the stadium with the exception of Mallory’s touchdown. There was no in-stadium replay of Howell’s fumble prior to the 4th-and-17 completion. The Miami players seemed confident it was a fumble, but for some reason, the replay kept freezing on the stadium’s big-screen.
From my angle, Howell’s game-winning touchdown throw looked out-of-bounds, but when they eventually showed the replay, it was obvious the receiver dragged a foot. The worst call of the night, IMO, was actually a no-call, coming on the Dallas horse-collar right before Mallory’s touchdown. If player safety is paramount, why was that a no-call, yet Carter was ejected for whiffing on a tackle?
- In conclusion, Williams is still running for his life way too much.
- The 1-2 punch of Dallas and Harris looks like it will be a force. The run-blocking is improved, although UNC was better prepared than Florida for the Wildcat formations. That was actually okay, in my opinion, since Miami didn’t need gimmicks to run the ball effectively.
- It’s obvious why KJ Osborn is the leader of the receiving corps. That guy gives 100% every snap. Speaking of the receivers, I’m still waiting for Thomas’ breakout game.
- Finally, the loss of Redwine and Johnson (combined with the Smith transfer and the Bubba Bolden delay) is going to be extremely tough to absorb. Esepcially from a depth perspective. On a side note: The targeting call was B.S., in my opinion, since there was no contact, but the quarterback was sliding and the refs are looking for a reason to throw a flag in that situation. You have to be smarter than that. Especially when you’re the University of Miami and you’re visiting one of the ACC’s darlings on Tobacco Road.
Anyway, those were a few of my painful takeaways from the game. Here is the photo gallery below. For my complete photo album with tons of crowd pics (if you were there behind the Miami bench, you’re probably pictured), warm-up photos, in-game action/celebration shots and more, you can visit my own personal album right here: https://adobe.ly/306gv0o
Here are some of the better player/coach photos from Saturday night. Feel free to download/share any of these photos. I don’t mind...as long as you’re a Cane. :- ) Just make sure to give your CanesFam photographer a shout out.