A slow first half, a few big offensive plays and the victory. It seems this has been the Miami Hurricanes’ blue print all season long.
The undefeated, No. 8-ranked Canes played sloppy on both sides of the field but benefitted from the deep pass on offense to defeat the North Carolina Tar Heels 24-19 Saturday afternoon at Kenan Memorial Stadium.
UNC had more offensive yards, a better third-down conversion rate and an advantage in time of possession, but Miami had senior tight end Christopher Herndon IV and freshmen receivers Jeff Thomas and DeeJay Dallas.
Herndon broke out for a 51-yard touchdown in the second quarter, Thomas blew past his defender for a 78-yard score on the first play of the second half and Dallas made a 49-yard catch down the middle to set up a five-yard score for senior receiver Braxton Berrios.
That was all the Canes (7-0, 5-0 ACC) needed to take the lead, and even though the Tar Heels (1-8, 0-6 ACC) had an opportunity to take it back with just over two minutes left, Miami’s defense forced a fumble to secure the win.
UM redshirt junior quarterback Malik Rosier finished with a career-high 356 yards, three touchdowns and an interception, despite struggling to pin point his throws all afternoon. He completed just 16 of his 38 passes – a 42 percent completion rate.
The Tar Heels had four turnovers but still gave the Hurricanes all it could handle. They moved the ball down the field in a variety of creative ways – screen passes, runs off a pitch and wide receiver throws. One of UNC’s two touchdowns came off a pass from top receiver Anthony Ratliff-Williams.
North Carolina originally started redshirt freshman quarterback Chazz Surratt, but after he got hit hard on a roughing-the-passer penalty, the team went with third- stringer Nathan Elliot. He completed less than 50 percent of his passes but led his team with consistent movement on offense.
Coming into the matchup, UNC hadn’t passed for more than 179 yards in each of its last four games. Miami allowed 252 passing yards.
The Tar Heels, who rank third-to-last in the ACC in rushing yards, outran the Hurricanes 176-59 on the ground. This was a season low for Miami.
UM lead running back Travis Homer rushed for just 40 yards on 16 carries and coughed up a fumble late in the fourth quarter that put the Canes in danger of giving up the lead.
Miami’s defense was led by defensive tackle RJ McIntosh and safety Jaquan Johnson, who combined for 22 total tackles. Sophomore defensive end Joe Jackson recorded eight tackles, 1.5 sacks and 1.5 tackles for loss.
UM was 20-point favorites coming into the game and played a UNC team that is without six day-one starters for the year, including lead running back Michael Carter.
The Hurricanes have now won their last four games by a combined total of 18 points.
Miami will start the toughest part of its schedule starting with Virginia Tech at home Nov. 4. Kickoff time is to be decided.
– The Canes stretched their winning streak to 12 games.
– Now at 7-0, Miami has its best start to a season since 2002.
– Berrios led all UM receivers with seven receptions for 78 yards and a touchdown.
– Herndon and Thomas have each scored in back-to-back games.
– Thomas finished with his first career 100-plus yard receiving game and his 78-yard reception is the longest of the season for Miami.
– The Hurricanes were just 4-17 on third downs.