In what was essentially a Coastal Division elimination game on Saturday, the Tar Heels defense came up big in their 20-13 victory over the Miami Hurricanes.
As the offense stalled out in the second half, the UNC defense came up with a huge sack and fumble recovery late in the fourth quarter to secure the victory.
The Hurricanes came in averaging over 40 points a game, but the Heels were able to clamp down when they needed to and keep the Hurricanes off the scoreboard. A run defense that gave up an average of 228 yards rushing coming into Saturday’s game, limited the Hurricanes to only 139 rushing yards. The Hurricanes also were not able to stretch the field with their receivers, as the Heels’ corners effectively shut down any throws outside the hashmarks.
Coming into the game a lot of talk was made of the strong Miami third down defense; however, it was the UNC defense that limited the Hurricanes to 4-15 on 3rd downs, and came up with huge stops at important points of the game.
We have heard from the coaching staff how the defense had begun to show improvement and they played well last week against Virginia Tech, despite the outcome. They certainly took a giant leap forward in this game.
On the first drive of the game, UNC was able to move down the field and get into the red zone, but stalled out because of back-to-back false start penalties. The Heels came away with three points on a Nick Weiler field goal. These would be the first points scored on the Miami defense in the first quarter all season. It was also important for the Heels, coming off a disastrous performance in the previous week, to get some points on the board early.
After Jalen Dalton blocked the Miami field goal attempt, the UNC offense was able to establish a rhythm by mixing up the run and pass. T.J. Logan would have a big 30-yard run on the drive, and Bug Howard would pick up a first down on a third down screen pass that would take the Heels down to the 2-yard line. On 3rd and goal, Trubisky would find Proehl in the back of the end zone to put the Heels up 10-0.
Larry Fedora and the Heels tried to go for the dagger early with the onside kick, but unfortunately another onside kick would not go the Heels way by a mere inches. UNC did rack up 128 yards of total offense in the first quarter, which was just as many as they had in the Virginia Tech game last week.
Miami was able to find some success in the middle of the field on some short passes in the second quarter, but the Tar Heels defense held strong and came up with big stop after big stop when they needed to do so.
Both teams traded field goals to make the score 13-3. UNC would get the ball back with a couple minutes to go before the half, and the Heels would quickly march down the field. Mitch Trubisky would find Mack Hollins on a long 49-yard pass play to get the Heels in scoring position at the 5-yard line. On 3rd and goal, Trubisky would roll to his left and find Ryan Switzer in the end zone for the touchdown and the 20-3 lead going in to the half.
The UNC defense did give up 208 total yards of offense in the first half to Miami, but Miami was only 2-8 on third downs. The UNC defense bent but didn’t break in giving up only the three points in the first half. On the other side of the ball, the UNC offense had 265 total yards of offense and was 7-10 on third downs. Trubisky was 14-19 for 162 yards and two touchdowns.
UNC’s offense seemed to stall out in the second half, as they were unable to really get much going. The blocked Weiler field goal to start the half got the crowd back into the game and gave Miami some momentum. However, to the credit of the defense, they would not allow Miami to score on their first two drives.
The Hurricanes would score on their third drive of the half on a 2-yard touchdown run from Joe Yearby that cut the lead to 20-10.
On the Heels next drive, it looked like they were going to be able to put the game out of reach as they moved the ball inside Miami’s five yard line. Howard picked up three first downs on the drive, and the Heels moved into scoring position. However, Trubisky was stopped on 4th-and-1 on a quarterback sneak, and the Tar Heels came away with no points.
With the offense struggling in the 2nd half, the UNC defense came up big in the 4th quarter and didn’t allow any long sustaining drives for the Hurricanes. They gave up a field goal midway through the quarter, but that would be all the Hurricanes would get, as the Tar Heels would come away with the 20-13 victory.
With the victory and the shocking Virginia Tech loss to Syracuse, UNC (5-2, 3-1) moved back into first place in the Coastal Division. The Tar Heels will travel to Charlottesville next Saturday for a 3:00 game against the Cavaliers.
- Throughout much of the game, UNC’s offense was able to get in more of a rhythm than they had the previous week. The coaching staff did a better job of mixing the run and pass in the offensive game plan. There were 46 pass plays, 43 run plays, and the Heels won the time of possession battle (32:59).
- Switzer was bottled up throughout much of the game, as he only had 17 total receiving yards. However, Howard came up big for UNC with 156 yards receiving on 10 catches.
- Switzer is now UNC’s all-time leading receiver with 206 career receptions. He passed Quinshad Davis with that diving catch late in the 4th quarter.
- Weiler just continues to amaze, as he nailed a 52-yard field goal. It is hard to believe that just a couple of years ago the Heels would not attempt a field goal outside 30 yards.
- The Tar Heels will need to fix the penalties, especially the number of pre-snap penalties. UNC ended up with 11 penalties for 70 yards.
- Thomas Jackson continues to come up with big catches in big moments. Walk On U!