The Miami Hurricanes cruised to a 47-10 victory over the North Carolina Tar Heels at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, on Thursday night.
Miami entered the game with a quarterback competition, and redshirt freshman N'Kosi Perry earned the start over senior Malik Rosier. Although Perry didn't have a flawless night, he showed Hurricanes head coach Mark Richt a glimpse of what he can do.
It didn't hurt that the Turnover Chain was out in full force, either.
Perry Shows Promise in First Career Start
Richt made it clear earlier this week he was looking for Perry, among others, to show he was ready for the No. 1 spot.
"I am not going to put you in position of leadership until you prove you can be a leader," Richt said Wednesday, according to the Miami Herald's Barry Jackson.
The freshman signal-caller came out looking like he was ready to end the competition.
Perry, rated as a 4-star recruit by 247Sports, did not have an incomplete pass until the final minute of the first quarter. He started the game 5-of-5 for 74 yards, which helped set the offensive tone.
There's no denying the Perry-led attack had juice, and he showed off his arm by squeezing a pass into a tight spot to Darrell Langham on a third down for a late second-quarter score.
The Hurricanes put up 33 first-half points, with 19 coming from the offense. But coming out of the break, Perry may have opened the door for Rosier to stay in the mix. Perry turned the ball over on back-to-back possessions (fumble and interception) to start the second half. Even though Miami had a 23-point lead at the time and the turnovers led to zero points, the turnovers showed growing pains.
Overall, though, Perry had a solid performance, completing eight of 12 pass attempts for 125 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He added 26 rushing yards on six carries.
Given the running attack (229 yards and two touchdowns) and the Miami defense were on top of their games, Perry wasn't asked to do too much. The freshman likely did enough to hold the job, but he will have to continue to show improvement.
Turnover Chain Key to Miami's Success
While all eyes were on Perry, the Hurricanes defense stole the spotlight.
Miami forced six turnovers, taking three to the house. A 42-yard pick-six by defensive lineman Joe Jackson early in the second quarter put Miami in full control.
The Hurricanes defense found the end zone more times than the Tar Heels offense (once):
Ironically, the turnover-generated touchdowns had the potential to wear down the defense, as the unit was constantly on the field. However, even though the Tar Heels held possession for 33 minutes and 12 seconds, the Hurricanes stayed strong and allowed just 10 points.
It was only fitting that North Carolina's final possession ended in a turnover.
North Carolina backup quarterback Chazz Surratt had an unusual stat line in extended action Thursday, "completing" seven of his 10 pass attempts—four to Tar Heels players and three to the Hurricanes.
Miami forced four turnovers in a 77-0 Week 2 victory over Savannah State, but in the other three contests combined, the defense had created two turnovers.
If Miami is to make noise in the ACC and reach the College Football Playoff, the defense will have to continue to make game-changing plays. That's the best way to support a young, inexperienced quarterback.
Miami Establishes Itself as ACC Coastal Favorite to Start Conference Play
Miami was ranked in the preseason AP Top 10, but an ugly blowout loss to the LSU Tigers in the season opener dealt damage to the Hurricanes' CFP hopes. They responded by rattling off three straight victories over non-Power Five teams.
North Carolina may not be the most talented squad, but it was important for Miami to get off to a strong start in conference play.
And that's exactly what it did.
The Tar Heels entered the contest as one of three teams in the Coastal Division with a 1-0 conference record. That meant a win would move the Hurricanes one step closer to controlling their destiny down the stretch.
Miami moved into a tie with Virginia and Virginia Tech atop the Coastal, and Duke is set to open ACC play this weekend. Four of the Hurricanes' final seven games may be on the road, but their toughest remaining contest will be played at home on Nov. 3 against the No. 22 Blue Devils.
Duke is the only ranked team on Miami's remaining schedule, although Virginia Tech—which suffered an upset loss to Old Dominion last week—received votes in this week's AP poll. The Hokies host the Hurricanes on Nov. 17 in a showdown that could go a long way in deciding the Coastal champ.
It'd be foolish for Miami to overlook any opponent, but its games against Duke and Virginia Tech have to be circled. It's clear the Hurricanes didn't look past the Tar Heels, and they can move on to their next opponent, Florida State, as they work their way toward a second consecutive Coastal title.