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UNC 28 Miami 24

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Got the one from last week back.

A friend of mine text messaged me after the game to say that UNC got lucky.  That might be true but considering the spate of misfortune including six losses last season by close margins and the loss last week which also took out TJ Yates, I would say the Heels were due.  In fact, when Miami was on the 20 with a shot to win the game I was certain I was looking at yet another close loss for the Heels.  Then Trimane Goddard happened upon a ball tipped off the receiver's hands in the end zone securing what might be the biggest win for the program since 2001.

There are several storylines working from this game.  The biggest, only because it has so shocked everyone, is the play of Cam Sexton.  The junior QB until this past week had been on the side of a milk carton having gone from part time starter in 2006 to backup in 2007 to 3rd on the depth chart this season behind TJ Yates and Mike Paulus.  With the injury to Yates and the unflattering way Paulus played against Virginia Tech, Butch Davis decided to give equal time to both QBs.  Having let opportunities slide by in the past Sexton did not make the same mistake again.  Sexton came into the game on the 3rd offensive possession after Paulus had been largely ineffective and Miami up 14-0.  And faced with that situation Sexton did nothing but go out and played the best possible game he could leading the Heels on four touchdown drives including one in the two minute offense to ultimately win the game.  Sexton's line: 11-19, 242 yards, 2 TDs and ZERO interceptions.

The most important improvement in Sexton witnessed in this game is his composure in the pocket.  Sexton made good decisions and was very accurate with his passes.  It helps a great deal to have Hakeem Nicks, Brooks Foster and Brandon Tate as receivers who turned in big yardage after the catch.  Sexton did a great job delivering the football to the talented receivers and also managed the offense which did not turn the ball over despite facing a tough defense.

As for the UNC defense, they were rocked back on their heels(no pun intended) in the 1st half.  Miami came out on the first drive and rammed it down the field for a TD.  MIami then took advantage of a fumble punt snap to get a drive started at the 11 and scored again to go up 14-0.  From there UNC struggled to stop Miami.  A running into the kicker penalty revived a Hurricane drive that ended with a FG to put UNC back down 10 points at half time.  The 2nd half was a completely different story for the defense.  Miami had two decent drives after halftime, one for 44 yards resulting in a TD and the final one of the game which ended with Trimane Goddard's 2nd interception.  Here is a summary if Miami's 2nd half drives.

Started 9:38 3rd: 3 plays -7 yards-PUNT
Started 4:57 3rd: 6 plays 13 yards-PUNT
Started 13:59 4th: 8 plays 37 yards-TOUCHDOWN
Started 9:00 4th: 5 plays, 11 yards-INTERCEPTION
Started 3:50 4th: 3 plays -3 yards-PUNT
Started 0:46 4th: 5 plays 49 yards-INTERCEPTION

Total: 28 plays, 100 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs, 3 PUNTS

Given what happened in the first half, this is an incredible turnaround.  Even the touchdown drive was setup by a big punt return by the Hurricanes giving them the short field.  Trimane Goddard was all over the place, snagging the two INTs and leading the team in tackles.  Tydreke Powell registered three tackes for a loss and a sack.  It was Powell and Goddard who made the tackles on two of the three plays in the crucial stop the Heels got with 3:04 left in the game.  Since Butch Davis was using all three timeouts to stop the clock keeping Miami from getting a first down and the Heels deliverd dropping Miami for a net loss of three yards and getting a hand on the punt which left the Heels with a shorter field for Sexton to lead the game winning drive.  This Tar Heel defense continues to impress, even more so this week.

It should be noted the running game was non-existent in terms of the stat sheet.  The final net yards for the Heels was a paltry 35 yards out of 81 total gained.  However, the running game made plays when it needed to make plays.  Two of the touchdowns came from the rushing attack and in other clutch moments UNC came up with positive rushing plays.  So what appears to be another bad effort on paper running the football actually included some hidden jewels that contributed overall to the win.

Other notes:

  • Brandon Tate broke the NCAA record for most return yards in a career.
  • There was a potential for the Heels to drop to 0-2 in the ACC.  That would have dashed any hopes the Heels had of winning the Coastal Division since two losses would have been a nearly impossible position to work from.  Instead the Heels are still in the mix, though they will need help where VT is concerned at some point down the line.
  • UNC can build confidence on a 2nd straight road win outside NC which soundly sets aside the futility of the program's past.
  • The Heels are 3-1 for the first time since 2000 under Carl Torbush.
  • If Sexton continues to play well you can take it to the bank that the media will begin talking "QB Controversy" in Chapel Hill.
  • Butch Davis owns his former assistants to the tune of 2-0 this season alone and 3-0 since returning to UNC.