Posted October 18, 2013

Three and Out: No. 10 Miami escapes North Carolina to remain unbeaten

Miami Hurricanes, North Carolina Tar Heels
Dallas Crawford came off Miami's bench to score two late touchdowns to help Miami rally past North Carolina 27-23. (AP)

Dallas Crawford came off Miami’s bench to score two late TD to help Miami rally past North Carolina 27-23. (AP)

On a night when nothing seemed to go right for Miami — injuries mounted early as both sides of the ball struggled to find a groove — all the 10th-ranked Hurricanes cared about in the end was getting out of Chapel Hill with a victory. Miami had unpleasant memories of the last time it ventured to take on North Carolina as a Top-10 team: in 2004, the Tar Heels upended the No. 4 Hurricanes 31-28, an upset that stands as UNC’s last victory over a Top-10 opponent. But this Miami team, which came in boasting an unblemished 5-0 record, might not have expected such a test from the host Tar Heels, who sported a 1-4 record and an 0-2 mark against ACC foes.

If that were the case, the Hurricanes were blindsided. After UNC built a 23-13 lead by early in the fourth quarter, Miami finally found the end zone to move within three points. After a defensive stand, it took a 13-play, 90-yard touchdown drive engineered by mistake-prone Stephen Morris and backup running back Dallas Crawford to punch in a three-yard score with 16 second left and lift Miami over upset-minded North Carolina 27-23 on Thursday night. With the win, Miami starts the season 6-0 for the first time since 2004.

Here are three thoughts from the Hurricanes’ wild win over the Tar Heels.

Playing down: Despite the number next to its name, Miami hardly looked the part of a Top-10 team on either side of the ball against UNC. The offensive deficiencies were perhaps most glaring. The ‘Canes came into the night averaging just over 45 points per game, and their 488.6 yards of total offense per game ranked 28th in the country. Yet Morris and the offense shot themselves in the foot with miscues on several occasions, including four interceptions from the senior quarterback. Prior to Thursday night, Morris had thrown four picks all season and ranked ninth in the FBS with a 169.7 passing efficiency. Meanwhile, North Carolina had claimed a mere five takeaways this season prior to playing Miami.

Morris did complete three key passes on the team’s go-ahead drive in the final period, but his overall 54.3 completion percentage was a season-low, and he failed to find the end zone even once.

But the Miami offense suffered a couple of unexpected blows along the way, as well. Starting tailback Duke Johnson left in the first quarter after taking a knee to the head, and receiver Phillip Dorsett likewise left the game with an apparent knee injury. Neither would return, and though Crawford would eventually step up big in reserve duty at tailback, the absence of Johnson and Dorsett was felt as the Hurricanes failed to score an offensive touchdown until the 11:29 mark in the fourth quarter. Coming in, Miami had scored 28 offensive touchdowns this year.

The Hurricanes’ struggles were not relegated to the offense, of course. Miami’s defense surrendered a season-high 500 yards against Larry Fedora’s no-huddle attack, including 395 yards through the air from quarterbacks Bryn Renner and Marquise Williams. The ‘Canes came with the country’s best defense against the pass, allowing only 141.4 and two touchdowns, but Renner and Williams each found the end zone once through the air and completed 74 percent of their passes.

Miami has now managed to squeak by its only two ACC opponents thus far; it also had to overcome a 17-7 first-quarter deficit and four turnovers to slug out a 45-30 win over Georgia Tech on Oct. 5. Six of Morris’ eight picks have come in the last two games, and with a penchant for playing down to lesser opponents in the ACC, it’s hard to imagine these Hurricanes truly making a run at the Coastal Division crown without a more disciplined approach on both sides of the ball. This kind of performance won’t bode well against division-leading Virginia Tech in two weeks.

Stepping up: One bright spot for the Hurricanes was the emergence of Crawford, who ran in Miami’s only two offensive touchdowns of the night, including the go-ahead score with 16 seconds left. When Johnson went down early in the first quarter, Morris had already thrown his first interception as the offense began to stall against the Tar Heels. Crawford managed 137 yards on 33 carries, surpassing his season totals in both categories. Prior to Thursday night, Crawford held season-highs of only 13 carries and 48 yards.

The Hurricanes called Crawford’s number on eight occasions on the go-ahead 13-play drive, including on the winning run. It’s unclear how severe Johnson’s injury is, but if the star tailback is forced to miss a significant amount of time, Crawford proved he has the mentality and talent to handle the job at running back if necessary.

Building block: North Carolina’s record doesn’t show it, but the Tar Heels should have plenty to build on after this loss. Fedora is only one season removed from breaking several offensive records in his first stint in Chapel Hill, and that offense showed sights of life again on Thursday. In his first game back from injury, Renner was productive against a solid pass defense, and one of his favorite targets, tight end Eric Ebron, was sensational. Ebron hauled in 199 yards — a program record for a tight end — on only eight catches alongside a touchdown. The offense just needs to limit mistakes of its own; Renner and Williams each tossed an interception.

The defense, however, might have been the reason North Carolina held a 10-point, fourth-quarter lead. The unit’s four takeaways were easily a season-high as it pressured Morris into several mistakes. There’s certainly disappointment in Chapel Hill given the program’s 1-5 start, but the Tar Heels exhibited promise on both sides of the ball against a Top-10 conference foe. That’s a teaching experience for a program that lacked seasoned veterans coming into the season.

12 comments
MikeSchultz
MikeSchultz

My MIAMI CANES stole one last night but it's about time an I count 3 Picks for MORRIS since 1 bounced off SEANTRAL's Back but MORRIS needs to play Better Short plays of 5-10 but it is nice having a GREAT D & Backup's especially at RB plus the O-LINE. They Won it in the 4th which is the MIAMI WAY! But Show why your a Top 10 Team next Week Vs. WAKE FORREST. That EBRON guy is a Stud.

MarkCleary
MarkCleary

And not a word, not a single solitary syllable, about how the UNC players who took out Duke and Dorsett went unflagged, or how different the game would've been without two blatant, intentional injuries.  It's Will Allen all over again, right down to the celebration after the hit.  It's perfectly okay to go after a knee, as long as it's a Miami knee.

MarkCleary
MarkCleary

"When Johnson went down early in the fourth quarter,"

 "Duke Johnson left in the first quarter after taking a knee to the head,"

So, did we lose two players named Johnson to injury, or are you just illiterate?  How does the Virginia Tech game matter at all if we don't beat FSU, and therefore, why shouldn't we look past the Hokies and straight at the route to the ACC and national championship games?

Since either FSU or Clemson will have a loss on Sunday morning. we will still BE a top 10 team, despite this embarrassment.  Does it truly matter, then, if you think we LOOKED like one?


Oh, that's right, you're an SI writer.  It's your job to insult Miami, who "squeaked by Georgia Tech."  Most teams are more than happy to win by 15 points, but in SI speak, 15 points is "squeaking."

Prejudiced moron.



RTRinNC
RTRinNC

@MarkCleary no one "took out" dorsett's knee. he made a risky cut, got hit HIGH and landed oddly while reversing the field. unfortunately he got mangled in the process.

h8theloonyleft
h8theloonyleft

@MarkCleary You hit the nail on the head. Sportswriters, especially SI sportswriters, hate Miami and it always shows. It's actually getting amusing to witness.

MarkCleary
MarkCleary

@RTRinNC @MarkCleary And from espn.com, which bashed us quite enthusiastically this morning, a QUOTE:


Dorsett suffered an apparent left knee injury when he was hit low on a tackle by Jabari Price on a reverse. He was helped off the field and eventually to the locker room before returning to the sideline on crutches late in the second quarter.


JoeCabot
JoeCabot

@h8theloonyleft Even more amusing is watching you paranoid types continue to ramble on about this phantom bias that SI has against Miami.   While the UM program has always tried to have an edgy, rough attitude, some of you fans have gone in the completely opposite direction with your whiny, sniveling complaints about how unfair life is in your corner of the world.

JoeCabot
JoeCabot

@MarkCleary Thanks for continuing to post your bizarre theories.  These forums have often become more entertaining than the articles, simply based on the conspiracies, biases, and diabolical plots that you deep thinkers conjure up.   All of this nonsense of a simple game of football.  Again, thanks for your post, and please do not stop.

MarkCleary
MarkCleary

@JoeCabot @MarkCleary If he doesn't speak for SI, why did SI put his rant on the cover, both times?  Why does SI continue to bash us, week after week?  "Hardly looked the part of a top 10 team" meets your definition of objectivity?

JoeCabot
JoeCabot

@MarkCleary One guy speaks for an entire company?   That is your fact?   By all means, please keep posting.   This diabolical plot to destroy the UM football program has got you all twisted in knots and it is fun to watch.   Seems to me like you might be taking this stuff a bit too seriously.  It's only football.

MarkCleary
MarkCleary

@JoeCabot @h8theloonyleft http://si.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1006688/index.htm

http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/sports/college/sports-illustrated-advises-miami-hurricanes-to-dro/nLxMj/

Sorry to confound you with the facts again.  It's not paranoia if they really are out to get you.  Here's the proof.

And I just realized Alex Wolff is even more of a moron than you.  The zip code for the admin building at UM is 33124.  The dorms are 33146.  Edward Thaddeus Foote II never slept in a dorm at UM.

The greatest college football team of the last thirty years did.  And does.