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Cedric Gray saves multiple jobs with game-clinching interception as UNC holds off Miami

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Cedric Gray was the hero we needed.

Miami v North Carolina Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

This game was a disaster.

UNC won by the skin of their teeth when Cedric Gray hauled in a tipped ball in the closing seconds of the game against Miami with the Hurricanes driving to either tie the game or pull off a game-ending touchdown. There was no reason in the world it should have come down to that, but here we are.

It looked, for a beautiful moment in time, that the Tar Heels might beat the brakes off the Canes and make it a laugher. It was not to be in a 45-42 nail-biter. The third quarter was particularly brutal as Miami scored 17 points to make it a game. For all of the progress made in the second quarter by the Heels, they gave it away just as freely.

Sam Howell threw for just 154 yards but two touchdowns and a pick six, but he chipped in over 100 yards and two more scores on the ground before some sacks dragged him down to 98 for his final tally. Josh Downs was once again the only real effective target for Howell with 96 yards and a touchdown.

The offense did get a boost from Ty Chandler, who ran for two touchdowns and 104 yards. With the lack of production in the air, Chandler’s contributions were absolutely essential in a game that felt for most of the second half like it was sand slipping through the Heels’ fingers.

Penalties were a major factor once again, as the Heels were penalized for 102 yards. There were some quibbles with a few calls but a lot of them were self-inflicted nonsense that has been a common theme as of the last few games particularly. Teams better than Miami will not let you get away with that, and Miami very nearly didn’t with how things ended up.

I would be remiss to not mention the absolute chicanery that led us to the heart-stopping final drive. The Tar Heels needed a first down in the worst way on their final offensive possession to chew up the final few minutes. The play-calling was...inexplicable, is probably the nicest way I can put it. Short run after short run after short run got the Heels nowhere, unsurprisingly, and it gave the hot Miami offense a chance to march down the field and nearly send the game to overtime before Gray came up with the pick.

Gray probably saved a coach or two their job for the time being, and he should be rewarded with a very nice steak dinner for his efforts. A lot of soul searching probably needs to be done for why a 45-point effort by the offense needed to be saved by an interception, but also the decisions with THIS offense on the final drive were just completely baffling.

UNC has a week for meditation and sage burning before traveling to South Bend for a date with Notre Dame on October 30.