Following each of UNC’s thrilling comebacks against Pitt and Florida State, head coach Larry Fedora gave the same message.
One of these days, the tables would turn and the struggling defense would be forced to bail out the high-powered offense.
That time came on Saturday, when Malik Carney’s strip sack in the final moments capped an impressive defensive effort–and sealed the Tar Heels’ 20-13 road win over No. 16 Miami.
Coming off the worst offensive performance of the Fedora era, the Tar Heels sprinted out to a 17-point halftime lead behind a pair of touchdown passes from quarterback Mitch Trubisky and a pair of field goals from Nick Weiler.
UNC became the first team to score on Miami’s much-improved defense in the first quarter all season long, and appeared to have found its groove again. That progress then slowed to a halt after halftime, as the Tar Heels were held scoreless over the final two quarters.
Instead, the game was won by the defense for a change—a group that not only made the game-sealing play, but one that also stopped the Hurricanes on third down 11 times and held them to just 3.9 yards per rushing attempt on 36 tries.
“It looked like, to me, they controlled the line of scrimmage pretty well,” Fedora said of his defense. “I thought they controlled the line of scrimmage the entire game.
“There were only a couple times it looked like we misfit a gap and a guy got through,” he continued. “But very seldom, did they get to the linebacker level.”
As fate would have it, the skies opened up with heavy rain early in the fourth quarter—creating conditions similar to those the Tar Heels played in during their loss to Virginia Tech.
Not long after, Miami tailback Joseph Yearby took a handoff from quarterback Brad Kaaya and scampered 42 yards down the right sideline. UNC was able to force him out of bounds,however, and then make a critical red zone stop.
A 22-yard field goal put the Hurricanes within one score, but Carney’s heroic effort ended their next drive—and with it, their chances of tying the game.
Defensive tackle Jeremiah Clarke scooped the ball off the ground, while tailback Elijah Hood followed up three plays later with a bulldozing 13-yard run on 3rd-and-12 that put the final nail in Miami’s coffin.
“You get Malik Carney who comes in during a two-minute situation—and it’s the first time our defense has been on the field in a two-minute situation—and they had the opportunity to win it, and they do that,” Fedora said.
The coach then smiled a bit. “And that run by Hood there at the end was just unbelievable.”
In a battle between two of the ACC’s top quarterbacks, Trubisky completed 33 of his 46 throws–finishing a yard shy of 300 in addition to the two early scores. He also channeled his inner Marquise Williams by carrying the ball 13 times for 47 yards.
The Tar Heel secondary, meanwhile, played perhaps its best game of the year as it held Kaaya to completions on just 16 of his 31 passes for only 221 yards.
“They hit us on some runs, and we had some negative yardage plays,” Fedora said. “But I thought Mitch had a real good command of where he was taking the ball. He threw the ball really well today and the receivers did a nice job.”
It was the eighth straight road win for UNC, which moves to 5-2 while also moving back into a tie for first atop the ACC Coastal Division following Virginia Tech’s upset loss to Syracuse.
There’s still plenty of work to do, as the Hokies still own the tiebreaker over the Tar Heels.
If the UNC defense continues to build off this effort, though, Fedora and his bunch have a good shot at taking care of their end of the bargain.
“We’ve got all of our goals still sitting in front of us,” Fedora said. “That’s a big thing, to be at this point of the season and to have that. We’ve got another divisional opponent coming up, so that’ll be one we have to get ready for—but I’m proud of where this team is.
“We talked about it before the game,” he added. “They’ve become a team.”
The Tar Heels will stay on the road next week for a game in Charlottesville against Virginia, which is 2-4 in 2016 after a 45-31 loss to Pitt on Saturday.
Among the many memorable moments from UNC’s 2015 season was a 59-21 blowout over Miami that served as the final game at Kenan Stadium for seniors such as Marquise Williams and Landon Turner.
The visitors fired head coach Al Golden after the year and brought in former Georgia boss Mark Richt—who now has Miami ranked No. 16 and ready to exact revenge on the Tar Heels this Saturday in South Florida.
The Hurricanes enter this game at 4-1 after suffering their first loss of the season last week against Florida State when their potential game-tying extra point was blocked with under two minutes to play. Each of Miami’s four wins, though, have come by at least 14 points or more–including a 35-point victory in Boone over Appalachian State.
This group of Hurricanes might not resemble the dominant Miami teams of the early 90’s and 2000’s, but UNC head coach Larry Fedora definitely won’t be expecting a repeat performance of last year’s demolition.
“I think Mark’s doing a great job with them,” Fedora said Monday. “I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. I think they’re playing energized, they’re playing hard and they’re playing well.
“Other than the other night [against Florida State], they’ve been pretty dominant.”
In nearly 200 games as the head coach at Georgia, Richt managed to win a whopping 74 percent of them—despite competing in the ruthless SEC.
He brought with him to Miami—his alma mater–a reputation as a great recruiter and offensive mind. Because of that, many people envisioned a breakout year for star quarterback Brad Kaaya being the key to a successful season.
While Kaaya has been solid, the team’s defense—led by a trio of true freshmen at linebacker—currently ranks seventh in the country in total yards allowed. Virginia Tech, which manhandled the Tar Heels last week, is one of only two teams in the ACC (NC State being the other) to have allowed less yards than Miami this season.
UNC quarterback Mitch Trubisky and the rest of the Tar Heels’ high-octane offense will have to be at their best in order to avoid another letdown.
“They’re a really tough defense that’s been putting up some good numbers,” Trubisky said. “Definitely one of the best defenses in the ACC.
“They’ve got some young guys—especially at linebacker—flying around and making plays,” he continued. “They’ve got some ballers, so they’re gonna be ready to go.”
Earlier this week, UNC received good news when word got out that junior tailback Elijah Hood will play against Miami after missing last week’s game due to a concussion. The Tar Heels will need Hood’s ability to run in between the tackles in order to expand their options offensively—especially since they’ll need every point they can get against that stingy defense.
Miami’s offense—like each of the other opponents UNC has faced this season–will certainly test the team’s run defense for as long as they can find success.
However, the added bonus of having a 6-foot-4 quarterback in Kaaya that’s near the top of NFL Draft boards means Miami could easily force the Tar Heels into trying to outscore them.
“He can spin it,” Fedora said of Kaaya, using one of his favorite phrases to describe throwing ability. “He’s a quality quarterback, there’s no doubt.
“I don’t know where he’s projected [in the NFL Draft], but he’s gonna go high,” the coach continued. “One thing I can say is Florida State got after him the other night, but he stood in there and played really well.”
This game will also mark UNC’s third this season in a tough atmosphere against a school with a long and storied football history. First Georgia in the Georgia Dome, then Florida State in Tallahassee and now this.
With the body of work Richt has put together in his first five games at Miami, it’s clear this game will look plenty different for his team than last year’s did.
For the Tar Heels, though, it’s more about making sure this game looks plenty different than last week’s.
“Again, another ranked opponent on the road in a hostile environment,” Fedora said. “Our guys have done that, so they know what to expect.
“I expect our guys to bounce back,” he continued, referencing the loss to Virginia Tech. “I think they understand the task at hand.”http://chapelboro.com/featured/unc-football-faces-stiff-challenge-against-revamped-miami
Although she’s received many different accolades in her illustrious career, UNC women’s tennis star Hayley Carter has yet to win a national championship.
That may be changing soon.
The No. 1 ranked player in the nation, Carter reached the doorstep of her first title on Sunday–defeating No. 8 Sinead Lohan of the Miami Hurricanes 1-6, 7-5, 6-2 in their NCAA Tournament Semifinal match at the Michael Case Tennis Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
🏆🎾 TICKET PUNCHED!
— NCAA Tennis (@NCAATennis) May 29, 2016
Carter–a three-time All-American who entered the tournament 44-4 for the Tar Heels in 2016–staged a tremendous rally after finding herself on the brink of elimination midway through the match.
After taking the first set with ease, Lohan took a 5-4 lead in the second–needing to win just one more game to advance.
It was an unusual spot for Carter, the 5-foot-11 junior, as she had yet to even be threatened–let alone play in a three-set match–during her tournament run.
Showing nerves of steel, though, she fought back to win the second set–before cruising to a third set victory that clinched her spot in the next round.
Now, she finds herself just one win away from the biggest moment of her career.
The championship match will pit Carter against No. 2 Danielle Collins of Virginia–a former national champion.
They have played each other three times already this season, with Carter holding a 1-0 record. The other two matches were suspended due to the team match finishing first.
For the first time during the 2016 college baseball season the No. 7 UNC baseball team found itself on the wrong end of a series sweep–as the Tar Heels were defeated 7-4 on Sunday by the No. 4 Miami Hurricanes.
Sophomore Brian Miller–who started in left field for UNC–went 3-for-4 with 3 RBIs and a pair of doubles at Mark Light Field in Miami. One of those doubles drove in a pair of runs and put the Tar Heels ahead 3-0 in the top of the second inning.
The Hurricanes simply held strong and waited for the Tar Heels to crack, their go-to plan all weekend long.
Although UNC entered the series 16-2 in games where it scored first, Miami rallied to win after facing early deficits three consecutive times.
The Hurricanes are now 23-4 (10-2 ACC) this season while the Tar Heels drop to 20-7 (6-6 ACC).
Right-hander Jason Morgan (2-3) worked through the fourth inning on Sunday without giving up a run to Miami, but the fifth was a completely different story.
After putting the first three hitters in the frame on base–two walks sandwiched around a single by Carl Chester–Morgan’s day was done early.
The 6-foot-6-inch righty had thrown just four complete innings and 68 pitches, but the walks were his third and fourth of the day–a foreshadowing of the control issues that haunted the Tar Heels in the late innings.
Reliever AJ Bogucki came in to a bases-loaded situation and immediately struck out Miami’s Zack Collins. Bogucki then gave up a two-run double to Jacob Heyward that opened up the dam. A wild pitch brought a third run home, followed later by a sacrifice fly from Johnny Ruiz and an RBI single from Willie Abreu.
Just like that, it was 5-3 in favor of the Hurricanes.
Each team was kept quiet through the sixth and seventh innings, but for a brief moment in the eighth it appeared as if the Tar Heels were about to put together a rally–as they have so many times before this year.
Catcher Cody Roberts singled with two outs, and then came home to score after the next at-bat on Miller’s second double of the day–making it a one-run ball game.
Miami then turned to its star closer Bryan Garcia a little bit earlier than normal. Garcia validated that decision by getting Tar Heel second baseman Eli Sutherland to fly out.
Then the control problems came back for the UNC pitching staff.
The Hurricanes loaded the bases in their half of the eighth against reliever Spencer Trayner–who gave up two hits and a walk. After the Tar Heels turned to lefty Zach Rice in response, Miami simply took ball four and extended its lead.
Freshman Cole Aker took the mound after Rice’s mistake, but had a pitch mishandled behind the plate by Roberts–who did not start the game, entering as a pinch-hitter for Brandon Illies in the top half of the inning.
The passed ball gave Miami all the comfort it would need to get to the finish.
Down three runs and down to their final three outs, the Tar Heels were only able to muster up a two-out single by Brandon Riley–their 11th hit of the afternoon.
Garcia then retired Adam Pate to end the game, and the sweep.
UNC returns home to Boshamer Stadium for a Tuesday night contest with High Point on April 5 at 6 p.m.
If UNC needed a reminder of what it takes to truly be among the nation’s elite baseball teams, it most certainly got one Friday night–as the No. 7 Tar Heels fell 10-4 to the No. 4 Miami Hurricanes at Mark Light Field in South Florida.
A participant in last year’s College World Series, the Hurricanes (21-4, 8-2 ACC) and their experienced lineup forced UNC ace Zac Gallen into his toughest start of the year–pounding out 15 hits in the game.
Gallen (3-2) was finally pulled after giving up four runs and six hits in the fifth inning, allowing Miami to break a 1-1 tie and open up a comfortable lead that would hold up the rest of the way.
Over his first five starts of the season, Gallen went at least seven innings in each. In each of his last two–against Georgia Tech last Friday and this game against Miami–he was unable to last longer than five.
In all, the junior surrendered 11 hits in 4 2/3 innings–striking out four hitters while throwing 91 pitches.
Despite defeating Davidson this past Tuesday in a non-conference game, the Tar Heels have dropped three of their last four conference outings and are now 20-5 overall and 6-4 in the ACC.
This shows that the young Tar Heels–while still extremely talented–have met their match in the ACC gauntlet.
Wins are always at a premium in a conference that boasts eight teams in the most recent D1baseball.com Top 25 poll–including UNC’s past two weekend opponents.
After Miami broke through against Gallen in the fifth inning, the Tar Heels experienced another let down in the sixth.
A combination of three relievers–Cole Aker, Chris McCue, and Taylor Sugg–struggled to find the strike zone in the frame, walking three Miami hitters and hitting another.
The end result was three more runs for the Hurricanes–one following a wild pitch by Sugg–with the benefit of just one hit.
Entering the night UNC was 14-0 this season in games where it scored in the first inning.
Freshman designated hitter Brandon Riley, who reached base in all six of his at-bats for the Tar Heels against Davidson, drove in Brian Miller with a double in the first inning on Friday–representing the only run UNC was able to scratch across until the late stages of the night.
Miami tied the game in the second inning, then rode its starting pitcher–junior Thomas Woodrey–through the seventh. Woodrey (3-2) wasn’t spectacular, striking out just two batters, but he was good enough to limit the Tar Heels to only four hits on 102 pitches.
At one crucial moment in the top of the fifth UNC loaded the bases against Woodrey with two outs and the game still tied 1-1. However, Woodrey got Miller to line out to left field–putting an end to the threat immediately.
Not until Woodrey was removed from the game did the UNC bats finally start to break through, but by then it was too late.
Looking for the late boost that has become common this season, UNC shortstop Logan Warmoth drove in a pair of runs of reliever Keven Pimentel in the visiting half of the eighth inning to make it an 8-3 ballgame.
Although that never-say-die attitude has benefited UNC is most games this season, the Hurricanes’ star right fielder, Willie Abreu, quickly put an end to any of those thoughts with a two-run double in the bottom of the eighth.
Right fielder Adam Pate picked up an RBI single for UNC off Pimentel in the ninth– however the next batter up, Riley, flew out to end the contest.
The Tar Heels will have a chance to even up the three-game series with the Hurricanes on Saturday, with first pitch scheduled for 7 p.m.
Wednesday night’s shocking loss to Duke left a poor taste in the mouths of UNC basketball fans, players, and coaches alike.
All that can be said now is that game is old news.
Clearly playing with a chip on their shoulder Saturday afternoon at the Smith Center, the No. 5 Tar Heels blew out the No. 11 Miami Hurricanes 96-71 in a game between the top two teams in the ACC standings.
UNC led by as many as 38 points in the second half before finally calling off the dogs, dropping Miami to 21-5 this year with a 10-4 conference mark.
Head coach Roy Williams gave his Tar Heels—now 22-5 with an 11-3 ACC record–the day off after the Duke game, with the expectation that the players would get themselves ready for Miami.
In another shift from how Wednesday night played out, Williams’ plan worked.
“Friday when they came in, I showed them two plays of the Duke game,” Williams said. “I said, ‘Alright that’s all we’re gonna talk about it. It’s behind us now. Our focus with the scouting report and every possession when we’re out there on the court today will be on Miami.”
“We never mentioned the Duke game again,” he continued. “We had a pregame meal today, never mentioned anything except Miami—and the kids did a great job of focusing.”
Senior forward Brice Johnson picked up his ACC-leading 16th double-double of the season with 16 points and 15 rebounds—leading a balanced effort that saw six Tar Heels reach double figures.
UNC also made nine of its 20 three-pointers, showing a shooting prowess that simply was not there against Duke—when the team went just 1-of-13 from long range.
Miami head coach Jim Larranaga said afterwards, though, he doesn’t think the result had anything to do with what happened earlier in the week.
“Teams lose from time to time,” Larranaga said about the Tar Heels. “As good as they are, and as good as this league is, you’re playing against good teams most every night.
“[UNC] shot the ball great from the perimeter, they rebounded the ball well, and they dominated us,” he added. “That hasn’t happened all year long.”
While it’s true that Miami hadn’t been beaten that badly at any point this season, it’s even more important to recognize that UNC only led by nine points at halftime.
Much of the talk surrounding the team—both since the Duke loss and after last season—has focused on its ability to close out games.
Listening to sophomore wing Theo Pinson, who scored 10 points and provided a number of hustle plays off the bench, it’s clear that the players want nothing more than to change that narrative, and used this game to do it.
“People were saying that last year, we’re basically the same team [this year],” Pinson said. “We’re way more mature than we were last year. Last year we might have came out flat in this game.
“This year, as you see, we came out and punched them in the mouth,” he added.
Although the Tar Heels may have done more than just punch Miami in the mouth, it’s indisputable that the effort gave the Tar Heels their first win over a ranked ACC opponent in four tries this season.
Whether they can build on it heading into tournament play remains to be seen, but Williams said his main focus on Saturday was making sure his players had their minds in the right place—the same reason he went to check on them in the weight room on their day off from practice Thursday.
“I wanted to see if anybody was around so we could talk to make sure they weren’t giving me this ‘Woe is me’ stuff,” the coach said. “Because I’ve tried to make sure I’ve never felt sorry for myself in my whole life.
“So I don’t like that to happen to my team.”
A pair of tough road games await the Tar Heels, as they’ll head to Raleigh on Wednesday for a rivalry matchup with NC State, before heading to face Virginia on Saturday.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
“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.
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.
The game will be carried live on WCHL’s airwaves, and will begin at 3:30 p.m.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.