Game Six : Miami 30, North Carolina 24

A quick score on the opening drive with tremendous offensive playcalling. A bone-jarring special teams hit, turnover and quick connection between quarterback and wideout.

In the span of three plays a scoreless game was a fourteen-point UM lead Saturday afternoon at Kenan Stadium, but in the end, another down to the wire thriller between the Miami Hurricanes and North Carolina Tar Heels, marking the fourth straight Chapel Hill nail-biter between these two ACC foes.

The difference today; the good guys finally won.

Miami seems to have invented ways to lose this season. Down two against Maryland and driving, a pick-six resulted in a 32-24 loss. Weeks later, one yard proved to be the difference against Kansas State, with the Miami offense stopped on the goal like in a 28-24 heartbreaker.

Last week a monster comeback was trumped when Virginia Tech scored from nineteen yards out on a 4th-and-1 with under a minute remaining.

The Canes took a 27-10 halftime lead into the locker room and in the end, escaped with a 30-24 win.

After a scoreless third quarter, the Tar Heels won the field position battle early in the fourth. After Miami stopped North Carolina on a 4th-and-2 from the UM nine-yard line, the Canes took over and gained no yards on first or second down. A brilliant pick-up on 3rd-and-10 was wiped out due to a holding penalty and UM was unable to convert on 3rd-and-14.

A forty-one yard punt by Dalton Botts was returned eighteen yards, setting UNC up at the UM twenty-seven and four plays later Giovani Bernard plunged into the end zone for the three-yard score, making it a 27-17 game with over eight minutes remaining.

The Canes and Heels traded back-to-back defensive stands, with Miami again bowing up and making another fourth down stop. With 4:38 remaining, the Canes turned to Lamar Miller, who carried five straight times. On 4th-and-8, Jake Wieclaw booted his third field goal of the day and Miami was up 30-17 with just over two to play.

North Carolina answered with a seven play, 70-yard drive, ending when quarterback Bryn Renner threw to a wide open Reggie Wilkins for a 20-yard touchdown. With under a minute to play, the Heels attempted and recovered an onside kick and down six, too over on their forty-four yard line, looking to complete the miracle comeback.

Renner found Dwight Jones for fifteen yards on first down and went to Bernard for eleven the following play. Facing a 1st-and-10 from the UM thirty and without any time outs remaining, senior linebacker Sean Spence made the defensive play of the game, sacking Renner for a seven-yard loss.

The clocked ticked, the Heels spiked the ball on 2nd-and-17 and with the clock rolling on third down, it was gimmick time. Renner to Bernard and two laterals later, this one was in the books and Miami earned its first-ever win at Kenan Stadium.

It proved to be another tale of two halves for the Canes, this time starting with their best and fading late. Against Kansas State, Miami trailed 14-3 after two and in Blacksburg last weekend the halftime deficit was 21-7.

This time around, 27-10 as North Carolina scored in the final moments of the second quarter. The Hurricanes’ defense held strong for the majority of the second half, but the Tar Heels buckled down, as well, forcing back-to-back three and outs to start the second half.

Entering the final offensive possession for Miami, the Canes only had one second half first down, coming on a late third quarter 1st-and-10 when Jacory Harris hooked up with Travis Benjamin for a 17-yard connection, picking up where they started.

Early on Harris was masterful. Back-to-back connections with Benjamin on the opening drive went for 13 and 21 yards. Harris then found Phillip Dorsett for eight, Miller for four, Benjamin for three and James for a four-yard touchdown on 3rd-and-4.

Peppered between Harris’ passes, some runs with Miller and brilliant playcalling by offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch, including different Wildcat looks with James and Benjamin, as well. Benjamin finished the day with eight receptions for 99 yards, one touchdown, while rushing three times for thirteen yards.

A huge hit by Denzel Perryman on special teams gave Miami the ball at the North Carolina twenty-seven on the Tar Heels’ would-be ensuing drive and a play later a double-fake reverse allowed Harris to find a wide open Tommy Streeter for a 27-yard touchdown, putting the Canes ahead, 14-0.

After forcing a punt on 4th-and-4, holding the Tar Heels to forty yards on eight plays, the Canes again moved the ball with ease, though penalties put Miami in a hole. Facing a 2nd-and-22, Harris threw a strike to Streeter for a twenty five-yard pick up. On the ensuing 3rd-and-6 from the UNC twenty-four, Allen Hurns had his second drop of the drive, forcing UM to settle for three.

Hurns bounced back with two receptions on the day, but leaving points on the field when the offense was humming proved frustrating as the Canes only found the end zone once more.

Harris turned in a 20-of-30, 267-yard, three-touchdown performance and was against interception-free. Harris’ last pick came early in the second quarter against Kansas State in game three, marking fourteen quarters of football without an interception.

On the ground, Miami was ineffective for the first time in a long time. The Canes rushed for forty-four total yards, with Miller only getting twenty-nine. Miller was looking for his sixth straight 100-yard game, but was shut out. North Carolina played the run, putting the game on Harris’ arm and the quarterback delivered where the running backs couldn’t.

Defensively Miami was solid early and sputtered late, but had some key stops along the way which kept North Carolina in check. Two huge fourth down stops kept points off the board and in the end, with the game on the line, the Canes found a way – which will help psychologically. Especially after a handful of heartbreaking losses to start the season.

Another notable stat. Miami was penalized three times for 19 yards on the day. Much better than last week where the Canes were dinged nine times for 84 yards at Blacksburg.

Miami now sits at 3-3 and 1-2 in ACC play, but could just as easily be 6-0, or more realistically, 5-1. Losses against Kansas State and Virginia Tech truly came down to one game-changing play in the end and hopefully that’s something head coach Al Golden can build on, without turning it into an excuse.

This season will be all about the Hurricanes’ offense setting the tone so that the defense doesn’t have to go blow-for-blow all game. An offensive cushion takes the pressure off, though today it killed that second half sense of urgency which propelled Miami’s O against Kansas State and Virginia Tech.

The Canes outscored the Wildcats 21-14 in the second half and got all over the Hokies to the tune of 28-17 the final two quarters. Against the Tar Heels, the Canes were outscored 14-3 the final thirty.

As the season reaches the halfway mark, Miami’s first-year coaches sit at .500 and truly know what they have and what they lack. Offensively the Canes have firepower. Defensively this team has holes. On special teams, there are some hitters, while the kicking game has been reliable and consistent.

Miami has also proven it’s a first- or second-half team, depending on the game, but hasn’t put together four quarters of football all season. The Canes also haven’t shown that they can manage prosperity, proving today that they couldn’t build on an impressive lead, while in other cases, starting sluggish and needing a second half wake-up call before inevitably falling short.

Wins over Ohio State and now North Carolina have shown Miami coaches what needs to be done as the second half of the season kicks off. Score first. Score fast. Run the ball. Protect the ball. Smart quarterback play. Smart football. Less penalties. Solid special teams.

Crushing losses cannot define a season and wins absolutely have to be built on. There is much to be taken from today and this can be a turning point and building block for a team looking for something good to rally around.

Every game remaining on the schedule is as winnable as it is losable, but if Miami can duplicate what it did in the first half today, there should be more W’s than L’s down the stretch. – C.B.



12 thoughts on “Game Six : Miami 30, North Carolina 24

  1. Hurricane defense showed relative improvement today, i.e., key 3rd down stops, a take away and holding Carolina to FG’s in the RZ.

    And yes every game is winnable for Miami the rest of the way. Because the Bumbling Wreck was upset by Virginia today ( Perhaps Groh’s squad was looking ahead to Miami. Eh. ).

    By the way, I hope U’all Jacory Harris HATERS will crawl back under the cold, cold, cold stone U’s came from!!! CANEZ1 + SIXER and their henchmen, for instance.

  2. Great win – and realistically, the play of the Canes (erratic) is probably what we’ll see this year. Asking this team to put together four full quarters of solid football is probably too much given the talent level. Coach Golden and his staff are going to have to find ways to steal wins.

    Defensively, it is more about stops with this unit – almost like Arena Football. Every opponent possession that ends in a punt or field goal is a win for the Canes.

    The key to wins will be whether the offense can score enough to provide enough coushin for the inevitable comeback by the other team. In this case, the 4th quarter FG by JW was huge. If UNC could juck kick a FG at the end to send it to OT, they probably win.

    Great victory that very few were expecting or predicting. J12 is really stepping up his game and may start getting some second looks from pro scouts if he keeps playing at this level for the rest of the year.

    I know you said that the penalty situation was better, but the 3 they did have were CRITICAL – especially the last holding call. Remember, that was a 3rd and 10 and Miller ran for 14 on the last holding penalty. If UM puts together some first downs then (I think about the 5 or 6 minute mark) then the game is iced. Instead, UM ends up having to punt and UNC scores on the next possession I believe.

    Overall, they’re getting a little better given the talent they have. Not much more can be expected of them but 7 or 8 wins is not out of reach.

  3. I don’t mean to brag…… ok maybe i do a little. I told you guys that harris would bounce back this season even though all of you wanted morris to be the guy. I told he you he would thrive in an offense that ran the ball and was using play action. I also said that streeter would become a go to guy in this offense and once again i am correct. Ok i’m done bragging but i do want to give props to the guys at allcanes in the fact that even though they both thought morris should be the guy they said they would back harris is he was given the keys to the car and they have done exactly that. So nice job boys.

    Now the first half of that game was miami football for the most part. Offense making plays when they should and the defense played pretty well. I still don’t get coach d’s lay back and dont give up the homerun ball approach because if you coach scared you will be beaten but he did use a little more pressure this game. Lets hope with vernon back next week that the pressure picks up. Offense looked good with the fact that carolina sold out to stop the run and put it all on harris’s arm and he answered. Great play calling in the first half and i was happy with it
    Second half is another story. You cannot i repeat cannot stop anyone when your lbs are seven yards off the ball and dbs are ten to 12 off the ball when it is snapped. Miami is and always has been a press man coverage school with high amounts of pressure via the blitz or the front four. Never have i seen miami lbs that far off the ball. They cant help but give up 4 to 5 yards a play based off scheme alone. Thats not “freelancing” like the coaches have said and i have never bought that excuse because it is exactly that an excuse. Free lancing is just another way of saying we are scared to let our dbs cover on islands. Do we have the greatest secondary to ever play at miami? HELL NO! but we do have guys who can get to the qb and make it so those dbs are not on islands for very lone. Stop coaching scared coach d or i will end up being one of those guys calling for your head at the end of the season.
    Solid win guys
    C A N E S CANES!

    1. … for the record, DSCOTT, I always said I supported whoever the coaches went with, feeling they were more qualified to make a decision, as opposed to a knee-jerk fan base who wants to swap guys every other drive.

      Go back and read the piece I wrote on August 12th — — where it was made very clear that I backed whoever could get it done. The caveat I also gave was IF the competition was as close as being reported, then you invest in the younger guy. Obviously the competition wasn’t close, with J12 named starter a day after the Maryland loss.

      The article wrapped with the line, “A true quarterback competition. It’s the reason head coaches earn seven figures a year while the rest of us spew theories and scratch our heads. Game on and may the best Cane win.”

      If you want to boast that you were / are a Harris supporter, go right a head — but don’t paint others with a different brush to legitimize your argument. At day’s end, fans want more WINS and could care less WHO is under center, as long as the Canes started putting points on the board. – C.B.

  4. Game of the season this week vs GT. Steal this one, and UM is looking at 4 straight wins going into the toss up with FSU in Tally. Then two very winnable games vs USF and BC. Steal one this week, and Miami is looking at a very impressive 8-4 at the worst, relative to the circumstances and start of this season. Grab a bowl win, finish 9-4 in Golden’s first year, with all the suspensions, distractions, etc? I’ll take that as a building block for the upcoming sanction years.

  5. Eating my words never felt so good. I thought for sure we would get spanked. Hope I’m wrong about next week to.

    1. part of swag is having confidence in you and yours when no one else does……it’s attitudes like that that allow people to divide our fan base because you let outsiders dictate what you like…..two middle fingers up ftw. and back your squad thru hell and highwater……i think you just can’t stand the haters pointing at you, you ought to love it i love it when people point out my flaws that means they are paying really close attention more to me then themselves..we will always be the pitbull underdog just love it…..|||__||| know

  6. Very nice road win! This team will finish strong!! #52 continues to make plays every single game, dude reminds me of Vilma!!! Speaking of frosh Chikillo is our best d-lineman! I am getting excited about the future under Al Golden! 8-4 is realistic! Win the mediocre bowl and set up for 2012!!!!

  7. Good win. The second half was ugly, but they had done enough in the first to win and that is what counts.

  8. Nice win against a dangerous UNC team. I was at the game and UM fans showed up in large numbers and were LOUD. It was great. I really hope fans show up strong v. GT to watch some great football and support our team! Fan support is crucial during this AG transition period. Go ‘Canes!

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