As Miami (4-3, 3-1) prepared to go 4-0 amid the ACC Coastal, UNC (5-2, 2-1) would prove otherwise.
The Tar Heels held on late and played spoiler to the ‘Canes, winning 18-14.
The win on Saturday was the first road win under current UNC head coach Larry Fedora and the fourth straight win for the Tar Heels.
UNC RB Gio Bernard proved to be every bit as good as the hype. The Saint Thomas Aquinas alum pummeled the Miami defense for 186 rushing yards and two touchdowns, including a 17-yard score which gave the Tar Heels a 15-7 lead at the half. The score could have favored the Tar Heels even more, but UNC QB Bryn Renner was picked off by Miami LB Eddie Johnson near the goal line during the first-half.
The Tar Heels were penalized a total of 15 times during the game.
UNC PK Casey Barth missed a 43-yard field goal attempt which left the ‘Canes trailing 18-14. He would also miss on a 33-yard attempt.
The ‘Canes took over on their own 26 yard line and were facing a 4th-and-1 when Miami QB Stephen Morris left the game after suffering an ankle injury. Morris would not return. UM would convert on a Mike James run, but would fail to advance at the UNC 26. Al Golden elected to pass on the field goal due to his struggling kicker, Jake Wieclaw.
The Hurricanes defense held UNC and Miami got the ball back with 1:47 left to play.
With Morris out, backup QB Ryan Williams entered the game and led the ‘Canes to the UNC 35 yard line with just 38 seconds left in the game. Miami faced a 4th-and-16, and Williams completed an 11-yard pass to TE Clive Walford, but his reception was well short of the marker. The play resulted in Miami’s first conference loss.
‘Canes RB Mike James rushed for 97 yards, a career-high, and one touchdown. RB Duke Johnson added 47 more on the ground.
The ‘Canes receivers continued to be plagued by dropped passes and WR Rashawn Scott led the Miami receiving corps with six receptions for 72 yards. WR Allen Hurns caught three balls for 44 yards.
With Miami’s loss, the ACC Coastal Division is in even more disarray than before. Miami, North Carolina, Virginia Tech and Duke each have one conference loss.
Miami hosts rival Florida State on Oct 20 at Sun Life Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 8:00 PM ET.