The Miami Hurricanes’ national championship aspirations have vanished into a sea of powder blue.
Freshman Connor Barth kicked a 42-yard field goal with no time left to give North Carolina (4-4, 3-2) a shocking 31-28 upset over Miami (6-1, 3-1) in Chapel Hill, N.C. on Saturday. The victory is the Tar Heels’ first against a top five team in school history.
Quarterback Darian Durant led UNC by going 21-for-29 for 266 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Third-string tailback Chad Scott gained a career-high 175 yards and scored a pair of touchdowns on 25 carries.
Miami quarterback Brock Berlin went 20-for-35 with 338 yards passing and two touchdowns and overcame a vicious hit early in the second half to lead the Hurricanes on a game-tying touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter.
The problem for the ‘Canes was the running game, as Frank Gore and Tyrone Moss combined for a mere 57 yards on 16 carries against one of the worst defenses in the country. Head Coach Larry Coker had no explanation for ESPN why his running attack was silenced.
“It’s mind boggling,” Coker said.
North Carolina wasted no time letting Miami know it was in for a dogfight, as Durant connected with Mike Mason on a 35-yard touchdown pass on the first possession of the game. The Hurricanes responded quickly thanks to a 27-yard touchdown pass from Berlin to freshman Lance Leggett, who finished with three catches for 72 yards, evening the score at 7-7.
The Tar Heels got the ball back and mounted a 13 play, 60-yard drive, but were unable to score as Barth missed a 39-yard field goal attempt wide left. Minutes later, Berlin hit Roscoe Parrish for a 26-yard touchdown one play after Sinorice Moss hauled in a 22-yard reception. The two receivers combined for six catches, 124 yards and a touchdown in the loss.
The teams traded three-and-outs before North Carolina embarked on an 11 play, 80-yard drive, including a 12-yard run by Madison Hedgecock on fourth-and-one, ending in a 15-yard touchdown run by Scott to make the score 14-14.
After a missed 51-yard field goal attempt by Jon Peattie, Durant completed an 18-yard touchdown pass to Scott Brumett to give the Tar Heels a 21-14 lead late in the first half. UNC had a chance to extend its advantage before halftime, but Durant’s third down pass from Miami’s two-yard line was picked off by Greg Threat as time expired.
Both squads stalemated for most of the third quarter until Moss scored an eight-yard touchdown with about three minutes left in the period to tie the score at 21.
North Carolina continued to not be fazed when Miami scored, as Scott gained 33 yards on the Tar Heels’ first drive of the fourth quarter with nine coming on a touchdown run, giving UNC a 28-21 lead.
With 5:25 left in the game and the Hurricanes still trailing, Berlin led the offense on its most impressive drive of the night, completing a 24-yard pass to Gore and 22-yard strikes to Leggett and Parrish. Devin Hester finished the nine play, 89-yard drive with an 11-yard touchdown run to make the score 28-28 with 2:25 remaining.
All Miami’s defense had to do was stop UNC to force overtime, but Durant would not let his team lose, hooking up with Scott for a 12-yard completion and finding Jon Hamlett for 22 yards. Barth atoned for his early miss by confidently drilling the 42-yard game winner.
The wild finish left the Hurricanes wondering what went wrong, and no one seemed to have a concrete explanation.
“There’s no rhyme or reason,” Antrel Rolle told ESPN. “It’s just a gut check. They wanted it more than we did. There’s really nothing technical to it.”
Eric Kalis can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.