Despite what many believed, myself included, North Carolina had a chance to beat Miami on Homecoming in Chapel Hill. That being true may have felt like enough had the missed opportunities not piled up as the lead the Tar Heels had slipped away.
UNC got on the board first with a field goal with 4:52 left in the first quarter. They tacked on another Freeman Jones kick toward the end of the second quarter, and a 6-0 score somehow felt like a disappointment. Carolina got the ball into the red zone multiple times with little or nothing to show for it.
With just 1:58 remaining before halftime, Miami got on the board with a 51-yard touchdown pass that would put the Hurricanes on top for good. Although Carolina threatened to make it close multiple times, they could never get the momentum to fully swing back their way.
Beau Corrales caught his first touchdown as a Tar Heel in the third quarter on a pass from Anthony Ratliff-Williams, which was one of many trick plays Larry Fedora pulled out of his pocket in the game. UNC lost quarterback Chazz Surratt to an injury somewhat early in the game, and Brandon Harris was in street clothes on the sideline. That made it Nathan Elliott’s time to shine, and honestly, it could have gone worse. The offense was definitely moving with him at quarterback, but it eventually went stagnant and Elliott threw three back-breaking interceptions.
Jordon Brown also put on a show in the game, picking up huge gains multiple times. The Heels were without running back Michael Carter, but Brown did enough to make sure they didn’t miss Carter too terribly until he fumbled the ball away with the Heels driving in hopes of a game-winning touchdown. Elliott and Corrales connected on a touchdown late in the fourth quarter that gave UNC a chance to get the deficit to three points if they could complete a two-point conversion, but it sailed out of the end zone to keep Miami’s lead at five points with just over three minutes to go.
As they have so many times this season, UNC’s defensive unit really kept the Heels in the game. They routinely forced Miami into three-and-out situations and limited the Hurricanes to just XX yards on the ground. The defense did give up a couple crucial big plays that made the team pay, but they were much, much better than not as a whole. The defense forced a huge Miami fumble around midfield late in the game that gave their offense a chance to go on a game-winning drive until that chance was fumbled away with two minutes left.
Carolina had a real opportunity to make a statement against an unbeaten team, and they very nearly did, but too many of the chances they were given were wasted. Instead of a silver lining in an otherwise utterly forgettable year, it’s just another example of what if.
UNC is, mercifully, off next week for their bye.