Miami had one lead in the second half Thursday night at North Carolina. Fortunately for the Hurricanes, it came at the time it mattered most. Miami kept their undefeated season alive by coming from behind in the final minute of the game to escape Chapel Hill with a 27-23 victory, improving to 6-0. The victory may have come at a costly price though, as running back Duke Johnson and receiver Phillip Dorsett left the game with injuries and never returned after the first quarter.
Dorsett looked to have a knee injury and returned to the sidelines on crutches and out of uniform. Johnson appeared to take a knee to the head.
Miami trailed North Carolina by ten point sin the fourth quarter but turned to back-up running back Dallas Crawford for two fourth-quarter touchdowns to cap two separate drives of 75 and 90 yards on a night the Miami offense was full of frustration. Crawford stepped up in a big way with 33 carries for a game-high 137 yards. Miami quarterback Stephen Morris was intercepted four times but the Tar Heels were unable to take advantage of the turnovers. Miami managed to hold North Carolina to two field goals and twice had the defense return the favor with an interception of North Carolina quarterbacks Bryn Renner and Marquise Williams.
Remarkably, Miami still managed to pile up 556 yards of total offense. Most of those yards may have come while you were still scratching your heads wondering what was going on in this game. You would not be alone, that is for sure.
So now we are left wondering just what to make of Miami. With what we have seen this season int he ACC it still looks clear that Clemson and Florida State, who play each other Saturday night, are on a different level from the rest of the conference. Whichever team wins that game Saturday night will be the prohibitive favorite in the ACC the rest of the way. But can Miami take on the role of spoiler in the conference, not just for the winner of Clemson-Florida State but for the conference’s national image? This Miami team looks to be beatable, but they have proven they can scratch and claw their way to a win if they need to get a little scrappy (see: Florida, North Carolina). Depending on the status of Johnson and if they can get a semi-adequate performance out of Morris (who did pass for 322 yards, it should be noted), if Miami paired up with Clemson or Florida State on the right day, it would not be impossible to see the Hurricanes come up with a win.
It would not be likely, but it would not be impossible. Miami gets a chance to improve to 7-0 for the first time since 2005 when they host Wake Forest next week. Regardless of how banged up they may be, a win should be expected for an 8-0 start. Then things get interesting. A road game at Florida State could serve as an ACC Championship Game preview and the following week Miami hosts Virginia Tech. The Hokies and Hurricanes have been in this sort of position before, with a conference or division on the line. If Miami can earn a split, they should be in good shape to at least get to Charlotte for their first ACC Championship Game appearance in program history.
Assuming they are eligible for postseason play, of course.
Though it was in a losing effort, it should be mentioned that North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron was nearly unstoppable in the passing game. Ebron recorded 199 receiving yards and one touchdown. North Carolina’s season may not be going to plan, but Ebron continues to draw attention from NFL scouts, and for good reason.
North Carolina is now closing in on the brink of missing out on postseason eligibility. The Thursday night loss sinks the Tar Heels to 1-5. Just two more losses and North Carolina will be eliminated from postseason consideration.