Nine Wins and Counting: UNC Mauls Miami 59-21

Earlier in the week, UNC junior wide receiver Mack Hollins rode his bike around campus yelling, “History week!” to all that passed by–in an effort to get fans to come out to Kenan Stadium and watch the Tar Heel football team attempt to make history against Miami.

On Saturday afternoon, history was indeed made–as UNC stomped the Hurricanes 59-21 for its school record ninth win in a row. It was also the seventh win at home this year for the Tar Heels, which matches the record set by the 1980 team, the last group from Chapel Hill to win a league title.

Now, at 9-1 overall and 6-0 in conference play, the Tar Heels are in complete control of the ACC Coastal Division. To clinch it and reach the ACC Championship Game, they’ll need only one more win, or a loss from Pittsburgh.

Dajaun Drennon and the UNC defense held strong against the Miami starters, shutting them out in the first half. (UNC Athletics)

Dajaun Drennon and the UNC defense held strong against the Miami starters, shutting them out in the first half. (UNC Athletics)

The loss drops Miami to 6-4 in all games, and 3-3 within the ACC.

“We talked all week, this was history week,” UNC head coach Larry Fedora said after the game. “They had an opportunity to make some history today, and be one of only two teams in 125 years to win seven games on that field.

“It was special, and there was a tremendous burden of responsibility to make sure that happened,” he added.

After trading the ball back-and-forth without scoring on the game’s first four drives, the Tar Heels broke through on their third opportunity when senior quarterback Marquise Williams’ scored on a 10-yard touchdown run near the end of the first quarter.

From there, the floodgates were opened–as the Tar Heels continually capitalized on Miami mistakes, including three turnovers and a handful of untimely penalties.

In his final home game, Williams put together a solid two-way performance–completing 11-of-16 throws for 105 yards, while running for another 101. All-in-all the playmaker accounted for four touchdowns in the game, one through the air to tight end Brandon Fritts, and the other three all on the ground.

“This is an incredible place that I’ll never forget” the quarterback said when he reflected on his time in Chapel Hill afterwards. “It’s emotional for me, and bittersweet at the same time. This place made me who I am.

“I came in as a young child that didn’t know anything, and I’ve matured a lot,” he continued. “I’ve grown and I’ve met a lot of great people–and they’ve changed me. This is the best place ever, man.”

On the drive following Williams’ initial score, sophomore tailback Elijah Hood broke through from the goal line for his 12th touchdown of the year. Just a couple minutes later, UNC fell on a botched snap deep in Miami territory to set up a 25-yard Nick Weiler field goal–a kick that put the home team ahead 17-0.

Hood finished the game with 132 yards on 17 carries, including his one-yard touchdown run.

“We don’t take a backseat to no one,” Hood said. “We don’t fear anybody. We know we can make plays, we’re gonna do what we’re gonna do and you’re gonna have to stop us. I think we can play with anybody, for sure.”

After driving the ball close to the red zone following the three-point try, Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya threw a back-breaking interception to senior linebacker Jeff Schoettmer–who ran it all the way down to the opposing 14-yard line.

Williams ran the ball in for a score on the very next play.

Not wanting to be forgotten, junior Tar Heel receiver Ryan Switzer returned a punt 78 yards to the end zone with under a minute left before the break–giving UNC a commanding 31-0 lead.

This came despite the fact that UNC had just 189 total yards of offense in the first half, or three more than Miami had.

In the second half, the Tar Heels came out looking for the jugular–scoring touchdowns on their first four drives after coming out of the locker room.

Miami didn’t score its first points–a 9 yard passing touchdown from Kaaya to Lawrence Cager–until it was already trailing 45-0.

Kaaya finished the game with 326 yards on 24-of-43 passing, as the Tar Heels completely shut down the Hurricanes’ rushing attack–holding them to just 99 yards on 32 attempts.

The tradition all season long for UNC has been to have the backups play the fourth quarter to completion after the starters manhandle the opposition for the first three.

Fedora addresses his team after the game. (UNC Athletics)

Fedora addresses his team after the game. (UNC Athletics)

That was again the case in this game.

In the fourth quarter with the lead way out of reach, Miami added a pair of touchdowns–on a pair of one-yard touchdown runs–but that would be it for the visitors with the once proud football tradition.

Tar Heel backup quarterback Mitch Trubisky led a scoring drive of his own, capped off by a three-yard touchdown run from reserve tailback Charles Brunson. But with the game so far gone, the sophomore helped run out the last five minutes of the clock on the team’s final possession.

As the time reached triple zeroes, the UNC players cheered as they ran onto the field to congratulate their opponents–knowing they had just done something nearly unprecedented in their school’s long history.

“This team’s playing as a team,” Fedora said. “Everybody’s there to pick each other up, [saying] ‘I got your back.’ They’re doing the things that a team does.”

The coach paused for a second before adding, “This is a damn good football team.”

Up Next:

Only two games remain on UNC’s regular season schedule. Next week the team will travel to Blacksburg, Virginia to take on the Virginia Tech Hokies in what will be the final home game for the Hokies’ legendary head coach, Frank Beamer.

Game Notes:

  • UNC’s nine wins are the program’s most since 1997, Mack Brown’s final season as head coach.
  • Saturday marked the second straight week UNC scored at least 30 points in the first half.
  • Including last week’s 66 point outburst against Duke, the Tar Heels have scored 125 points in their past two games–the most in consecutive games in school history.
  • Kicker Nick Weiler has made 16 of his 18 field goal attempts for UNC this year. As a team, the Tar Heels had six all of last year.

Trading Places: UNC and Miami Find Roles Reversed in 2015

When the UNC football team takes the field at Kenan Stadium this Saturday against the Miami Hurricanes it will be a matchup of two teams who have each broken tradition in a big way recently.

An afterthought on the college football landscape for many years, the Tar Heels are 8-1 in 2015, and have won eight games in a row—including an undefeated 5-0 record against conference opponents.

At 17th in this week’s AP Top 25, and 23rd in the College Football Playoff rankings, this UNC team is heading toward uncharted waters.

Just don’t tell that to senior quarterback Marquise Williams.

“We’re still irrelevant,” Williams said after posting a school-record 524 yards of total offense last week against Duke. “We like that. We like being irrelevant. It keeps a chip on our shoulder, and we like to play hard.

Marquise Williams

Marquise Williams and the Tar Heels are just fine flying under the radar. (Photo: Smith Cameron Productions)

“If we continue to just win football games, eventually we’ll be known.”

Miami comes to Chapel Hill at 6-3 overall and 3-2 in the ACC. But the Hurricanes are no longer the perennial national championship contenders they once were.

Former head coach Al Golden was sent packing just under three weeks ago after a 58-0 loss to Clemson—the worst in the school’s history.

However, interim head coach Larry Scott has led the Canes to back-to-back victories over Duke and Virginia since taking over—leading UNC head coach Larry Fedora to hand out some praise at his weekly press conference.

“They definitely have a lot of talent, and they’re playing well,” Fedora said. “I think Larry [Scott]’s doing a good job with them. They’re gaining confidence as they go. I think they have the quarterback back I believe, and so they’re probably feeling pretty good right now.”

Brad Kaaya, Miami’s talented, 6-foot-4 sophomore quarterback, missed the Duke game with an injury. However, he’s thrown for over 2,000 passing yards and put together a touchdown to interception ratio of 12 to three–as he’s been unquestionably the most consistent offensive player for Miami this year.

Defensively, though, this is a group ranked 75th in the nation, giving up 410 yards per game. But looking at the film, Williams says they still have athletes good enough to run with anybody–including the explosive Tar Heels.

“Their defense has got a lot of life,” Williams said. “Big up front, very fast. This is a fast Miami team. You know those Florida boys have always been fast. And they come out and compete.”

The Charlotte native continued by recalling the stranglehold the brash, energetic Miami teams of the 80’s, 90’s and early 2000’s had over young football fans.

“Growing up I was a Hurricane myself,” he said. “It’s gonna be fun to have the opportunity to play against those guys.”

Anyone watching this year has noticed that UNC is the new team on the block making all kinds of noise with its athletic exploits.

Brad Kaaya will present the Tar Heel defense with a stiff challenge. (Getty Images)

Brad Kaaya will present the Tar Heel defense with a stiff challenge. (Getty Images)

As the seniors head into this, their final home game, fifth-year offensive guard Landon Turner reflected on what it’ll mean to play underneath the Kenan Pines one final time–knowing the ACC Coastal Division can be won on Saturday if the Tar Heels beat Miami and Duke beats Pittsburgh.

“I feel comfortable enough with my maturity that I’ll be able to handle that,” Turner said about the emotions surrounding this weekend. “If anything it’ll probably give me a little more motivation, or give me an extra edge—just because I do know after this it’s my last game here.

“It’s been five years, and it’s been a great ride,” he added. “So I wanna go out and leave a legacy.”

Whether they’re ready or not, the Tar Heels are relevant again on the national scene.

The Hurricanes are fighting to get back to that point, and can speed things up by winning out and stealing the Coastal for themselves.

So if Turner and company want to be remembered as the class that re-wrote the narrative on Carolina football, they can start by beating Miami on Saturday.

Broadcast Information:

The game will be carried live on WCHL’s airwaves, and will begin at 3:30 p.m.

Game Notes:

  • UNC is looking to go 7-0 at Kenan Stadium for the first time since 1980, which was also the last time the Tar Heels won the ACC Championship.
  • Miami has won the last two meetings between the schools–winning 27-23 in 2013 and 47-20 last season.
  • Sophomore cornerback MJ Stewart, who was suspended against Wake Forest and Virginia, leads the ACC in passes defended (13) for the UNC pass defense, which ranks third in the nation in yards allowed (158 per game).

UNC Refuses to Let Hurricanes Sweep Through Chapel Hill

If the UNC baseball team learned anything from its two heartbreaking losses to Miami on Friday and Saturday, it was that no lead can ever be called “safe” against top competition.

Unless that lead is stretched to eight runs, which is where the #22 Tar Heels had it at one point in the series finale Sunday, using a dominant offensive output to defeat the #21 Hurricanes by a score of 10-3 inside the friendly walls of Boshamer Stadium.

By avoiding the sweep, Carolina raises its record to 16-11 overall and reaches the .500 mark in the ACC, at 6-6. Miami remains in sole possession of first place in the ACC Coastal Division, but drops to 8-4 in league play (20-9 overall).

The scene in Sunday’s first inning seemed to be going the same as it went the day before–sunlight pouring down from the sky, UNC’s starting pitcher cruising, and the bases loaded for the Tar Heel batters with just a single out.

Senior Benton Moss continued the dominant run by Carolina’s starting pitching. (UNC Athletics)

This time, though, the boys in light blue would find a way to put some runs on the board.

“We were so close the last couple games,” Coach Fox says, “But we got off to a good start today, loaded the bases again in the first inning, and finally got more than one run, so that was huge for us. And having Benton on the mound, that was what we needed.”

A sacrifice fly from freshman Zack Gahagan and an RBI single from Tyler Ramirez, off Miami starter Enrique Sosa (3-3), put the Tar Heels ahead by two after a first inning where they banged out five hits.

After a perfect second inning on the mound from Benton Moss (4-0), the Carolina bats went right back to work in their half of the frame, tacking on two more runs in the same fashion. Juniors Skye Bolt and Landon Lassiter each had an RBI to give their head coach the type of lead he said the team should have built yesterday, when they had the same opportunity.

A throwing error by UNC shortstop Logan Warmoth allowed Miami’s Willie Abreu to reach first as the lead-off man in the third, giving the visiting team their first base-runner of the game. The play appeared to be costly, with the Hurricanes able to scrape across a pair of unearned runs against Moss to cut the lead in half.

However, the Tar Heel bats were not ready to cool down just yet.

First baseman Joe Dudek hit a sharp liner right down the third-base line to drive in two runs with two outs in the bottom of the third–ending the day on the mound for Enrique Sosa, and kicking off what would eventually turn into a huge five-run inning. Miami reliever Derik Beauprez came in and walked three batters in a row, including one to Landon Lassiter with the bases loaded, which set up Zack Gahagan, who drilled a two-run single to right-field, giving him his second and third RBI of the day.

“Joey Dudek and the big inning, with two outs, 1-2 [count], gets a double and starts that five run inning, I think that sealed the deal right there,” Benton Moss says about the game-changing moment.

The Tar Heel defense has been much improved since Eli Sutherland took over at second base. (UNC Athletics)

The Tar Heel defense has been much improved since Eli Sutherland took over at second base. (UNC Athletics)

Gahagan would later increase his RBI total to four with a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the fifth, bringing UNC’s score into double digits.

“We were just locked in,” says Gahagan about the difference between today’s game and the previous two losses, with the freshman adding that “We really had a good amount of focus this weekend, but just couldn’t get some balls to fall early on in the series, but today obviously we locked in and got those runs in.”

Leaving the game after allowing a single to begin the Hurricane half of the seventh, Moss was done with another fantastic outing in this just his second start back from injury. All throughout, Moss never let the Hurricanes get comfortable at the plate. The senior from Enfield, North Carolina worked six strong innings, surrendering just one earned run on six hits, and also struck out four on 96 pitches.

Miami was able to scratch across another run against a combination of three Tar Heel relievers in the seventh–with a sacrifice fly by yesterday’s hero, Zack Collins, but ultimately the early Carolina surge would prove to be too much for the Hurricanes to come back from, as they couldn’t muster anything else the rest of the way.

One of only two seniors on UNC’s roster, Moss says he’s not discouraged by losing the series, pointing to the talent level on the team as a big reason why he feels this is a squad to be reckoned with in the coming weeks.

“We’ve got so much talent in the locker room, and I’m not afraid to say it,” says Moss, “I think we’ve had a chance to win every single series that we’ve played, and that’s no BS. I think that’s the truth. We’ve got all the guys in there, they just know they’re one swing of the bat away, or one error, or one pitch away, they’re right there.”

Up Next:

A week on the road awaits the Tar Heels, as they’ll travel to face Elon on Tuesday at 6:30 P.M., before heading to Clemson for their ACC weekend series.

Game Notes:

  • Benton Moss now has 290 strikeouts for his career, moving him into fourth on the UNC all-time list.
  • All five runs scored by UNC in the third inning came with two outs on the board.
  • Miami third baseman David Thompson extended his hitting streak to 18 games with his single in the seventh inning off reliever Trevor Kelley.
  • All-time, Miami leads the series with North Carolina with a 34-26-1 record against the Tar Heels after this weekend.


Carolina Rides Brice Johnson To Big Road Victory

The No. 15 North Carolina men’s basketball team gutted out a 73-64 victory over Miami Saturday afternoon inside the BankUnited Center to improve to 20-9 overall and 10-6 in ACC play.

With the loss, the Hurricanes dropped to an 18-11 mark on the season and 8-8 tally in league action.

***Listen to the story***

Carolina rode a stellar 22-point outing from junior forward Brice Johnson to escape Miami with the critical ACC road win with only two games remaining on the regular season docket.

Both Johnson and junior forward J.P. Tokoto turned in double-doubles while junior guard Marcus Paige knocked down three shots from behind the arc to finish with 15 points.

With Miami junior guard Angel Rodriguez seeing limited action with a right wrist injury, the Hurricanes received standout performances from fellow classmates Sheldon McClellan and Ivan Cruzuceda, who both finished with 11 points.

The BankUnited Center (Miami Athletics)

The BankUnited Center (Miami Athletics)

But it was Carolina’s dominance on the boards – grabbing 42 rebounds to Miami’s 28 – that allowed the Tar Heels to maintain the lead for 37 minutes of the contest.

“I was really pleased with our guys. We had some mistakes, particularly late in the first half. Some of them got a negative look on their face. But they paid attention at halftime to what we talked about, and in the second half, I thought we were pretty doggone good,” UNC head coach Roy Williams says.

***Listen to Roy Williams’ postgame remarks***

The Tar Heels came out of the gates strong in Coral Gables, pushing out to a 10-4 lead less than five minutes into the contest. Getting Paige involved early was the most positive aspect of the early proceedings for Carolina.

The Hurricanes matched UNC’s scoring charge with solid production of their own, but with 9:56 to play in the opening 20 minutes, the visiting team held a 22-16 advantage.

But Carolina suffered a more than four-minute scoring drought that allowed Miami to go on an 8-0 run that trimmed UNC’s lead down to a mere 1 point at 22-21 with 6:01 remaining before halftime.

At intermission, though, the Tar Heels were clinging to a 32-30 edge on 12-29 shooting.

Out of the locker room, a couple quick scores in transition by Jackson and Johnson helped push Carolina’s lead out to 38-33 with 17:05 to play.

With 15:56 on the second half clock, Miami’s McClellan picked up his fourth foul and promptly took a seat on the bench.

Roy Williams all fired up on the sidelines (Todd Melet)

Roy Williams all fired up on the sidelines (Todd Melet)

It was Johnson who served as Carolina’s offensive sparkplug, while big man Kennedy Meeks continued to struggle to find his footing in the interior. But a flurry of threes from Miami’s Cruzuceda flipped the dynamic of the contest and gave the Hurricanes the 48-47 lead with 11:05 to play.

A big three-point make by freshman guard Joel Berry broke a 50-all deadlock. At the under-eight media timeout, UNC held on to a narrow 53-50 advantage.

Johnson’s emphatic play rolled on down the stretch and with contributions from Paige and Tokoto added in, Carolina was more than able to hold off a spirited effort from Miami.

Next up for the Tar Heels comes another road encounter – this time with the struggling Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in Atlanta Tuesday evening.


Scouting Report: Miami Coach Jim Larrañaga

WCHL’s Matt Oakes had the chance to chat with Miami men’s basketball coach Jim Larrañaga as his Hurricnaes get set to welcome the Tar Heels to the BankUnited Center Saturday afternoon.

The two discuss the do-or-die scenario facing  bubble teams like his own, the competitiveness of coaching in the ACC, the special challenges Carolina presents and the special atmosphere that will await UNC on Senior Day at Miami.

***Listen to the conversation***

Slumping Tar Heels Head To Miami In Hopes Of Recovery Effort

The No. 15 North Carolina men’s basketball team, 19-9 overall and 9-6 in ACC action, hits the road to sunny south Florida to take on the 18-10 Miami Hurricanes Saturday afternoon. The Tar Heels will desperately be looking to get back on track after dropping five of their last seven games.

***Listen to the story***

If there’s such a thing as a must-win game, Saturday’s tilt at the BankUnited Center is one of those.

The Hurricanes, winners of three of their last four contests, are fighting to secure their place on the right side of the NCAA Tournament bubble while the Tar Heels need to build up their shaken confidence here on the doorstep of the postseason.

Can Marcus Paige regain his form? (Todd Melet)

Can Marcus Paige regain his form? (Todd Melet)

Likely most concerning for UNC head coach Roy Williams has been the late-game miscues that have repeatedly cost his squad vital victories.

The end-game woes all started with the collapse at Louisville, continued in the disappointment at Duke and stung most recently in the N.C. State loss.

“Silly poise. No poise. I’ve never had a play where our big guy shoots a three-point shot, unless he could really shoot threes. Kennedy [Meeks] just didn’t know what to do so he shot it. We had a set play called twice in a row and didn’t execute that so that’s the Coach’s fault,” Coach Williams says.

Junior forward Brice Johnson, who struggled mightily Tuesday night against the Wolfpack with a 1-6 shooting mark, says the Tar Heels need to leave their struggles behind them and focus on the here and now.

“That was awful. We got to do better. We got to be ready to play from the tip. We didn’t. They came here and beat us. We can’t let that happen, but it did. We got to bounce back from it. We’ve been in this predicament before,” Johnson says.

Coach Williams says his team needs to get tougher and take it to opponents at the rim for a full forty minutes going forward.

“Pump fake and go at him strong. Don’t pump fake 17 times and then try to make the softest shot in the history of basketball. You got to be tough. It’s a physical game. You’ve got to be strong,” Coach Williams says.

UNC’s toughness will likely be put to the test Saturday against Miami head coach Jim Larranaga’s bunch. Junior guards Sheldon McClellan and Angel Rodriguez are capable of taking over a game.

Miami's Angel Rodriguez is a handful (Todd Melet)

Miami’s Angel Rodriguez is a handful (Todd Melet)

Last time out, Rodriguez did just that, running over the rival  FSU Seminoles with ruthless authority to the tune of 25 points.

UNC would do well to get its scoring leader, junior guard Marcus Paige, back into the flow. Coach Williams says the rest of the team, though, needs to do a better job of helping him out.

“He’s an emphasis for the other team. We’ve got to do a better job of getting him open. He’s got to do a better job moving, but other guys got to be able to step up and make a shot every now and then too,” Coach Williams says.

Paige says it’s not the defense that’s got him concerned. But with nights like Tuesday, where the Tar Heels shot a mere 35 percent from the floor and totaled a Smith Center low in points, the offense is another issue altogether.

“We need to play better. We were getting decent shots, but we weren’t giving them a chance to get us layups. In the second half we got a bunch of layups, got back in the game and made it interesting, and then we kind of deviated from that again. We need to play better offensively. Offensively, we just kind of stunk it up,” Paige says.

Despite the discouraging slide of late, UNC remains in the hunt for that coveted No. 4 seed in the ACC Tournament. But it can ill-afford a slip-up in the Sunshine State.

Tar Heels Licking Wounds Heading Into Bye Week

It was tricks not treats for the Tar Heels over Halloween weekend.

***Listen to the story***

The Tar Heel football team heads into a bye week with a bitter taste in the mouth following a 47-20 beating at Miami Saturday. UNC head coach Larry Fedora’s squad was thoroughly dominated in all three phases of the game.

Coach Fedora says UNC, now owning a 4-5 overall record and 2-3 mark in the ACC, didn’t do much right in Sun Life Stadium Saturday.

Tough day at the office for the Tar Heels (Miami Athletics)

Tough day at the office for the Tar Heels (Miami Athletics)

“They did a great job. They started a lot faster than we did. They pretty much won every phase of the game. I don’t think there’s any doubt about it. They ran the ball on us, we couldn’t move the ball on them, and special teams were atrocious,” Coach Fedora says.

The Tar Heel offense had a season-low six yards rushing and quarterback Marquise Williams was continually battered in the backfield.

Falling behind big early, the Tar Heels were forced to abandon their multi-faceted offensive playbook and become one-dimensional – allowing the Hurricanes to concentrate all their efforts on the passing game.

Coach Fedora says it was a recipe for disaster.

“We gave up six sacks. We didn’t run the ball very good at all and got into a position that we were down so far that we had to throw it every down. That’s not what we’re built for,” Coach Fedora says.

The Tar Heel defense earned a dubious distinction in the process. Star Miami running back Duke Johnson’s 90-yard scoring run was the longest rushing play by a UNC opponent in school history.

To add insult to injury, the normally reliable special teams play was nowhere to be found as well. There were two errant snaps on what should have been routine punts.

Coach Fedora says he’ll use the bye week to shore up the cracks in the special teams armor.

Marquise Williams airs one out (UNC Athletics)

Marquise Williams airs one out (UNC Athletics)

“We’ll go back and evaluate what we’re doing with those kids and make sure that we get it corrected. That’s not very characteristic of the way we play on the special teams. I’m not sure what the reason was,” Coach Fedora says.

The Tar Heels have three games remaining on their schedule – Homecoming against Pittsburgh, a Thursday night contest at Coastal-leading Duke and a battle with N.C. State, who got off the ACC schneid last weekend, to wrap up the regular season.

UNC will need to win at least two of them to earn bowl eligibility. Coach Fedora says the team will get healthy in the bye week and then prepare to close the 2014 campaign strong.

“We need all the help and days we can get to get some extra work in. We’ll try to get some guys healthy, get them freshened up and make a run these last three games,” Coach Fedora says.

Tar Heels Trounced By Canes 47-20

The North Carolina football team fell at Miami 47-20 in a critical ACC Coastal Division matchup Saturday afternoon and dropped to 4-5 on the season and 2-3 in the conference.

With the win, the Hurricanes improved to 6-3 overall and 3-2 in ACC action.

Duke Johnson went over the 3,000-yard mark for his career and scored three times despite getting most of the second half off. Miami freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya threw three touchdown passes to help guide his team by UNC.

Miami's Duke Johnson sprints ahead (Miami Athetics)

Miami’s Duke Johnson sprints ahead (Miami Athetics)

Johnson had a 90-yard touchdown run that tied the Miami record for longest rush from scrimmage, and he finished with 177 yards on 19 carries for the Hurricanes. His one-yard scoring run opened the scoring and later, he turned a middle screen into a 37-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter.

Kaaya completed 11 of 17 passes for 189 yards, and now has 20 touchdown passes in his freshman season. Clive Walford had two touchdown grabs, the first Miami tight end to do so since Greg Olsen in 2005.

Quarterback Marquise Williams had a pair of touchdown runs and Cayson Collins returned a fumble 39 yards for a score for UNC, but the Tar Heels struggled mightily to gain any traction against a motivated Hurricane bunch.

With Miami up 30-6 at halftime and leading 322-57 in total yards, it was practically over.

 Johnson has had a rushing touchdown in each of his last eight games, the first Miami back to do that since Willis McGahee in 2002. And in his last five games, he’s racked up 843 yards on 97 carries.

UNC's Williams drops back (Miami Athletics)

UNC’s Williams drops back (Miami Athletics)

It was the second straight week that Miami led by 24 at halftime. The Hurricanes have had that big a lead at intermission only once in their first 83 ACC games, before doing it last week against Virginia Tech and again Saturday. They’re in form.

 Next up for the Tar Heels after a bye week comes a home game contest against Pittsburgh Nov. 15.


Underdog Tar Heels Strive To Survive Hurricanes

The North Carolina football team, 4-4 on the season and 2-2 in ACC play, will take on the 5-3 Miami Hurricanes, also 2-2 in conference, Saturday at 12:30 p.m. in Sun Life Stadium.

***Listen to the story***

Both teams harbor realistic hopes of an ACC Coastal division crown, but neither can afford a loss this weekend.

Miami is playing formidable football these days. Coming off two dominating wins over Cincinnati and Virginia Tech, the Hurricanes currently sit as 17-point favorites in the betting lines.

UNC head coach Larry Fedora (Elliott Rubin)

UNC head coach Larry Fedora (Elliott Rubin)

But junior offensive guard Landon Turner says the Tar Heels are ready for the challenge. The Notre Dame game changed the team’s mindset.

“I think it [ND game] helped a lot. You play a high-caliber team like that and play very well. I think that spoke volumes and boosted our confidence up for the weeks to come. It was tough to lose. The loss hurt, but it was still healthy for us. We still came out of that game winning,” Turner says.

Miami’s star running back Duke Johnson has tallied a touchdown in seven straight games and has amassed 35 first downs in the past five outings. He’ll be a handful for the Tar Heel defense.

Duke Johnson (Miami Herald)

Duke Johnson (Miami Herald)

UNC head coach Larry Fedora says Johnson’s legs take pressure off the rest of the Hurricane offense.

“They’re getting better in the offensive line. They’ve got Duke Johnson and have the big kid behind him that comes in and does a great job. They’ve always had the guys that can fly on the outside. I think they’ve done a good job with the quarterback and bringing him along. It helps when you have an offensive line and Duke Johnson that can run the football like that to take some of the pressure off him so he doesn’t have to throw it all the time,” Coach Fedora says.

Miami’s freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya has matured greatly in the past few games, playing with a newfound sense of comfort and confidence. Earlier in the year, the young signal caller was prone to coughing up the football, but he’s cleaned up his act.

“You watch his film as he goes, and he’s more poised every week. I watched the TV copy of the Virginia Tech game. He handled every aspect of it just like a junior or senior. He wasn’t rattled by the noise or hype. He did a nice job of managing the team,” Coach Fedora says.

The Hurricane defense has been up and down in 2014, but Coach Fedora says their experience has allowed them to be a much more worrisome unit than in years past.

“Defensively, a lot of these guys were playing three years ago. I think they have six or seven seniors starting on the defense. I think out of the eleven guys, there’s one sophomore on the defense. You have some age and experience. They’ve been through the battles together. They’re playing well on defense,” Coach Fedora says.

As for the Tar Heels, UNC junior quarterback Marquise Williams says the offense must get off to a faster start this weekend.

“As an offense, we’ve got to start out much faster. This past Saturday, we started off too slow. We’re just going to keep playing our style of football – smart, fast and physical,” Williams says.

Williams in action (Elliott Rubin)

Williams in action (Elliott Rubin)

Coach Fedora says the keys to UNC’s success on Saturday will rest in special teams play and stopping the run.

“On special teams, we’re going to have to create another game-changing play. That’s going to have to happen. On defense, we’ve got to play with a lot of energy from the very beginning. We’ve got to stop the run. We’ve got to put the game on the freshman quarterback’s back,” Coach Fedora says.

Carolina leads the all-time series with Miami 9-8, but fell to the Hurricanes by a 27-23 margin in dramatic fashion a season ago. The two schools have battled to a 5-5 draw in their 10 games as ACC members since 2004.

Baseball: Miami Claims UNC Series

No. 4 Miami got six scoreless innings from starter Bryan Radziewski and clinched the Atlantic Coast Conference regular season title with a 2-0 win over North Carolina Saturday afternoon at Alex Rodriguez Park. Zac Gallen was Radziewski’s equal for much of the day, allowing just two runs on seven hits in 6.1 innings and striking out six in a losing effort. Michael Russell had two hits for the Tar Heels, who finished the regular season 32-23 and 15-15 in the ACC.

Miami (40-15, 24-6 ACC) scored once in the first and once in the fourth against Gallen and the Tar Heels. Tyler Palmer reached on a one-out triple when his bloop to right got past a diving Tyler Ramirez, and David Thompson plated Palmer with a single up the middle.

Skye Bolt almost erased the second run of the day when his strike from center after a one-out fly ball beat Thompson to the plate. But Thompson’s clean, hard slide knocked the ball away from Korey Dunbar and the Canes had a 2-0 lead.

Carolina’s best chance came in the fifth, when Ramirez and Adrian Chacon reached on consecutive singles to open the frame against Radziewski. After a failed sacrifice attempt for the first out, Russell blooped a ball in front of Palmer in left to load the bases. But Miami’s redshirt junior lefty struck out Parks Jordan and Landon Lassiter swinging to end the threat and strand three.

Bolt led off the sixth with a double to left, but he was erased on a double play when Willie Abreu’s throw from left beat him to the bag at third.

Lassiter walked with two gone in the eighth to bring on Bryan Garcia, and the Miami closer got the final four outs of the game to end it and give the Canes the ACC regular season title.

Zach Rice entered the game for Carolina in the seventh and retired all five batters he faced to keep the game close.