With Miami’s 30-24 victory over North Carolina on the road, disaster has been avoided – for now.
The score would end up closer than their riotous start would entail, with the Canes (3-3, 1-2) at one point up 27-10 on the Tar Heels (5-2, 1-2) 27-3 late in the second quarter. But the game ended with Miami’s first win in Chapel Hill, first conference win of the season and head coach Al Golden’s first ACC win of his career.
Quarterback Jacory Harris led the offense to five-straight scoring drives to start the game, finishing with three touchdowns and 267 yards passing on the day. But after scoring 27 points in the first half, the Canes recorded only two first downs in the second half.
Most notable for his absence from production was Lamar Miller. The sophomore running back gained just 29 yards, the first time all season Miller failed to eclipse the 100-yard rushing mark.
“I’d like to get [Miller] 100 yards every game, but if we can get 27 points in the first half I’d rather get 27 points,” Golden said. “We were executing, we were taking what they were giving us early on, and we were converting on it. It’s hard to look back and second guess on it.”
While Miller’s streak of 100-yard rushing efforts ended, another offensive streak lives on.
Harris again threw no interceptions, his third-straight game. During that span Harris passed for more than 700 yards and eight touchdowns, with the offense scoring at least 30 points in each contest.
Now emphatically indifferent to the swirl of opinion around him, from fans and media alike, Harris continues to lead an offensive attack that, with the exception of the second half against the Tar Heels, remains largely unstoppable. Rises in production from the usual suspects, such as Miller and wide receiver Travis Benjamin, have been matched by breakout performances from junior Tommy Streeter and Allen Hurns, both factoring into the successes of Harris and the Hurricanes offense as a whole.
Golden and offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch have lately been able to rely on the arm and decision-making of Harris, but last Saturday’s absence of production from the running back position was a surprise, but possibly not a shock. With many of their early play calling based on stretching out the UNC defensive front laterally, rather than take on players such as 6-foot-6-inch, 290-pound defensive end Quinton Coples, Miami instead tried to create space through screen passes and Wildcat formations to catch the Tar Heels off guard.
“It was by design early in the game that we went to the pass as much as we did, and to [North Carolina’s] credit, when we tried to go back to the run we couldn’t,” Golden said. “And by virtue of not being able to do that we elongated the game. To me it was just a couple of plays where a guy was getting beat, because the individual matchups where difficult for some guys.”
With their win coupled with a loss from their current week’s opponent, Georgia Tech, the slimmest of hopes still remain for Miami to reach the program’s first ACC Championship Game, which pending possible NCAA violations, may be the Hurricane’s last opportunity for some time. Golden has refused to think about the future beyond the Yellow Jackets as of now, but from what the recent past has shown; those aspirations may not quite be farfetched – but certainly far from known.
“We have to get better, we’re not a finished product yet as of right now. But that’s the good news; as a team we’re still evolving, still growing, still getting better.”
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