It seemed like Miami was finally going to get the upper hand on the North Carolina Tar Heels. After relinquishing a fourth-quarter double-digit lead, a pass from redshirt freshman Robert Marve seemed right on target for wide receiver Kayne Farquherson.
But close wasn’t enough, as the pass deflected right to safety Trimane Goddard, and Miami lost to North Carolina 28-24 for the second year in a row and the first time at Miami since 1957.
Tar Heels quarterback Cameron Sexton capped a fourth quarter comeback with a 14-yard touchdown strike to Brooks Foster in the corner of the end zone with less than a minute remaining, stunning the crowd of 35,830 at Dolphin Stadium.
Miami quarterback Robert Marve nearly orchestrated a game-winning drive after he connected with receiver Kayne Farquharson for a 29-yard completion to put the Hurricanes at the Tar Heels 20 yard line.
But with 10 seconds remaining, Marve‘s throw came off the fingertips of Farquharson and into the hands of Goddard, resulting in Marve’s second interception of the game and sealing a UNC victory.
“It was a bad pass,” a dejected Marve said after the game. “The ball was too high for him to catch. If I put it in his chest, it probably would have been a touchdown.”
The Hurricanes appeared to be in position to put the Tar Heels away when Marve found Aldarius Johnson in the end zone to give the Canes a 24-14 lead early in the fourth quarter.
Miami’s defense faltered and allowed the Tar Heels to rally from a 10-point fourth quarter deficit. The Canes were also unable to protect a 14-0 lead after the first quarter and a 17-7 advantage at halftime.
Sexton, who relieved an ineffective Mike Paulus in the second quarter, sparked the comeback when he found wide receiver Hakeem Nicks down the middle of the field for a 74-yard score, to cut the lead to 24-21.
“We just did not make the big plays on defense,” head coach Randy Shannon said. “There were too many deep balls that got us in trouble and guys just blowing responsibilities. We have to get those things fixed.”
The Tar Heels were in position to tie or take the lead late in the fourth quarter, but freshman cornerback Brandon Harris stepped up with a critical sack on third down to stall the drive.
After kicker Jay Wooten missed from 53 yards, Miami was unable to get a first down and were forced to punt.
Punter Matt Bosher, who earlier missed a 43-yard field goal, had his punt partially blocked to set up the winning drive from the Tar Heels 44 yard line.
The Hurricanes started the game fast and looked like they were going to be on their way to avenge their 33-27 loss to the Tar Heels last season.
Running back Graig Cooper had a strong performance, rushing for 110 yards, while also hauling in an 11-yard touchdown catch. Cooper’s 31-yard run keyed an eight play, 89-yard drive on the opening series of the game which resulted in a Farquharson nine-yard touchdown reception.
Miami also set the tone in the first quarter on special teams with bone-crushing hits from Chavez Grant and Colin McCarthy on a Travis Benjamin punt return.
Marve finished the game 18-for-27, tossing three touchdowns and two interceptions.
Freshman Jacory Harris finished 4-for-6 for 38 yards in his two series in the second quarter.
Despite some positives on offense, Miami’s disappointing loss spoiled its first-ever ACC game at Dolphin Stadium.
“It’s hard, knowing you had a chance to win the game, but those guys executed and we didn’t,” Shannon said. “Hats off to them, and now we have to get ready for next week against Florida State and move forward.”