Miami vs. North Carolina: 10 Things We Learned in Hurricanes' Win
Miami escaped Chapel Hill with a 27-23 victory that bumped the team to 6-0 on the season. But the game didn't come as easy as most expected. It took timely turnovers and two late touchdowns for the Hurricanes to come storming back and earn the key win on the road.
North Carolina played well on both sides of the ball and was just a play away from earning the biggest win under new head coach Larry Fedora. However, Miami dug deep and found a way to win when it mattered most.
So, what did we learn?
Miami may not be back just yet, North Carolina isn't as bad as you once thought and a couple of key players are injured.
Miami Had One of the Best Plays of the Year
This was the only Miami touchdown until the fourth quarter.
Artie Burns gets a nasty jump and blocks the field goal just how you would in a game of Madden. It is then recovered by Ladarius Gunter, who returns it 67 yards for the touchdown. Notice how the ball never touched the ground.
It must have been planned!
This play won't get nearly the same attention as the Clowney hit, but it was just as sexy.
Miami's Special Teams Were Special
The blocked kick needed its own slide, but give it up to Miami's special teams as a whole. Matt Goudis came through on two of his three kicks and punter Pat O'Donnell averaged 41 yards on four punts, including a monster kick that traveled 51 yards.
Speaking of O'Donnell, how in the world is he so fast and strong? He's a punter! You know, the guys who rarely ever get attention and are never drafted on fantasy football teams. It's safe to say he's going to break some combine records.
In all seriousness, Miami's special teams played well Thursday night and contributed in pulling out this big victory.
Eric Ebron Is a Lock for the First Round
Is there any question about Eric Ebron being the best tight end in the country?
The guy is a flat out stud, who torched Miami with eight receptions, 199 yards and a touchdown. Those statistics broke a single-game school record for tight ends.
Ebron couldn't be stopped no matter how hard the Hurricanes tried. He consistently found holes in the defense, made a sick one-handed catch to move the chains and showed his athleticism by breaking free for a 71-yard touchdown.
NFL scouts were in the building and you can bet the junior just made a few million dollars.
North Carolina Isn't That Bad
Teams that are 1-5 are usually picked on and marked as an easy victory when opponents show up. That's not North Carolina.
Never mind just this performance that was inspired by the crowd, a black-out and a fast start by both sides of the ball, the Tar Heels are a talented team. They have an experienced quarterback, an All-ACC tight end and a defense that can obviously get after it when inspired.
The trick now is getting everybody to wake up like they did tonight and play every game with a chip on their shoulders. That may take some time under first-year head coach Larry Fedora, but this program gained the attention of everybody in this losing effort.
Questions Linger with Stephen Morris
Stephen Morris threw four interceptions.
He was so rattled that the coaching staff decided to call nearly all running plays on the final drive. Out of the 13 plays on the game-winning drive, only three were passing plays by Morris. Yes, the ground game was on fire, but you got the feeling that Miami was fine playing it safe and willing to go into overtime if that's what it took.
Uh, this is a quarterback who has a high NFL ceiling and should be taken in the early rounds in next year's draft. Now, he's thrown six interceptions in the last two games and has shaken confidence?
The Hurricanes still have one of the better quarterbacks in college football, but this showing would scare me a little bit.
Marquise Williams Needs More Time at QB
With North Carolina's struggles offensively, Marquise Williams needs to see more action. The dual-threat quarterback completed four of seven passes for 98 yards and a touchdown, but it was his running ability that created issues for Miami.
His 27 rushing yards weren't mind blowing, but just him being on the field forced Miami defenders to play cautiously, which allowed receivers to get open. He's a playmaker who has the ability to drive defenses nuts.
Bryn Renner is an experienced quarterback who was even getting attention from NFL draft scouts. However, the Tar Heels need a shot in the arm and Williams could be just what the doctor ordered.
Dallas Crawford Is a Stud
Dallas Crawford saved Miami's season by rushing for 137 yards and two touchdowns, including the game winner in the final seconds. When everybody else was either getting hurt or failing to show up, Crawford decided to put the team on his back and thump his way to victory.
He doesn't go down on initial contact and always keeps his legs turning. This physical style of running wore down the North Carolina defense late in the game and allowed Miami to score a late touchdown.
He set a new career high with 33 carries and showed the coaching staff that he deserves more playing time behind Duke Johnson. Without Crawford, Miami would have lost this game.
Miami's Star Players Are Hurt
It seemed like a Miami player would get injured on every other play in this game. The two key injuries happened to running back Duke Johnson and wide receiver Phillip Dorsett.
Johnson left the game with a concussion and likely won't be out for very long. However, Dorsett took a helmet to the knee and it didn't look good. The star receiver later returned to the field with crutches and the way his knee bended during the play makes me fear the worst for the young man.
Hopefully both are able to make speedy recoveries and return to the field sooner than later. Until then, Miami fans will continue to hold their breath with big conference matchups on deck.
The Hurricanes Aren't There Yet...
Miami is still an ACC contender, but ask around and the fans will tell you they want national championships. A conference championship is cute and all, but top tier players join The U in hopes of holding up that crystal football.
They're not there just yet.
Elite programs don't have a hard time against a 1-4 opponent. And while North Carolina is a lot better than its record indicates, it couldn't match the talent level of this Miami squad. Still, the Tar Heels found a way to hang around. Turnovers, lackluster play and sleepwalking through the first half must stop.
The Hurricanes need to play with more consistency, especially with Florida State and Virginia Tech around the corner.
But It Was Another Step in the Right Direction
Some are going to look at the score and laugh. Some will watch the game over and come to the conclusion that the Hurricanes still have work to do before they are what they used to be.
Get in all the giggles while you can.
Yes, the game wasn't the prettiest and both sides of the ball could have played better. However, a win is a win. Also, great teams find a way to leave the field victorious regardless of the situation. Duke Johnson hurt? Next guy up. Morris struggling? Let's count on the running game and defense. This team never panicked and simply dug deep when it mattered most and won the game.
This win will pay dividends moving forward and inches Miami that much closer to the ultimate goal.