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The last time Miami was ranked in the top 10 and visited Chapel Hill, the Tar Heels pulled off the biggest upset UNC has ever seen.  There must be something about the once-called “wine and cheese crowd” at UNC that makes the Hurricanes uneasy because, despite Miami’s immense advantage on all sides of the ball, UNC hung with them – scratch that – spanked the Hurricanes for the majority of the game.

Robert Willett/Raleigh News & Observer/MCT

Robert Willett/Raleigh News & Observer/MCT

In the first half, the Tar Heels really dictated the tempo on both sides of the ball.  By intercepting a horribly thrown pass from Miami quarterback Stephen Morris (we’ll get to his performance, later) on the Hurricane’s opening drive, the UNC defense set the tone that this wasn’t going to be an easy night for “The U.”   Add in a few explosive plays by tight end Eric Ebron, and the Tar Heels saw themselves leading at halftime by a score of 17-13.  The hardest pill to swallow for the Hurricanes wasn’t the score at halftime, it was the harsh realization that they were going to have to play without their two best skill guys, running back Duke Johnson and wide receiver Phillip Dorsett, for the rest of the game due to injuries.

Streeter Lecka/SB Nation

Streeter Lecka/SB Nation

With Johnson and Dorsett out for the game, Miami was desperate for some sort of offensive spark.  In a game where Stephen Morris threw and interception in each of the four quarters, backup running back Dallas Crawford brought “it” (whatever that is).  When Crawford got off the bus at the stadium Thursday afternoon, he probably thought he was just going to sit on the bench and let Duke do his thing against the Tar Heels.  In sports, as well as life, nothing ever goes as planned and, with Duke out, Crawford stepped up huge for the Hurricanes.  With 137 yards and a couple of touchdowns on the ground in just three-ish quarters, Dallas Crawford looked like everything but a backup running back.

In the second half, the third quarter was business as usual.  The fourth quarter, though, that was a different story.  After an early field goal by UNC kicker Thomas Moore, the Hurricanes found themselves down 10 in a hostile environment and completely demoralized.  How do they respond?  Well, they rattle off 14 unanswered points (capped off, of course, by Dallas Crawford’s second touchdown run) to take the lead with just 16 seconds left in the game.  The Tar Heels almost had an answer, though.  With time expiring, they took a shot at the end zone and were just inches, I mean INCHES, away from pulling it off.  Much to the dismay of Tar Heel fans and joyous relief of Hurricane fans, Miami pulls off the late-game win over UNC by a final score of 27-23.

This was a tough loss for a UNC team who was hoping to parlay an upset win on national television into a season worth noting in Tar Heel history.  This was hard for everyone in the home locker room, as UNC Coach Larry Fedora stated:

“We’ve got a bunch of guys hurting in that locker room down there, a bunch of guys that played their tails off tonight, gave everything they had, they did everything we asked … Just a tough one to swallow for us right now.” – UNC Coach Larry Fedora

Whether you are a fan of Miami, a fan of UNC, or a fan of neither, you have to be happy with the excitement this game brought to ACC football.  Plenty of Miami fans are thanking their lucky stars for walking away with a win that they probably shouldn’t have gotten and UNC fans are probably reeling in pain at the thought of what could have been the greatest ending to a game in UNC Football history.  The way I see it, though:

  1. Eric Ebron is the best tight end in the nation, bar none.  I’m sure there are some other great tight ends playing right now but, if you think they’re better than this guy, you need to go look at the Ebron’s highlight reel.  At 6’4″ and 245 pounds, this young man was still able to literally out-run Miami’s secondary on his huge 71-yard touchdown catch on his way to a career night of 199 yards and a touchdown.  I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we didn’t see him creeping up the draft boards come draft time.
  2. Stephan Morris can’t throw under pressure.  Usually, I try to stay away from general statements like that, but he really can’t throw under pressure and it was seen in this game. He threw four interceptions with pressure in his face or around his feet and it could have been more as Morris was missing targets all night due to pressure in the backfield from the UNC defense.  With that said, he is one of the best throwers I’ve ever seen when he has a clean backfield and plenty of time.  Unfortunately, though, that can’t be expected every play of the game.
  3. Larry Fedora is on to something with his two-quarterback system.  The old saying is “when you have two quarterbacks, you have none.”  That’s usually true, but it seemed to work fairly well tonight for the Tar Heels as quarterbacks Bryn Renner and Marquise Williams lead their offense to a 500-yard night against a Miami defense that isn’t used to struggling that much against opponents’ offenses.  Will it work long term?  Only time will tell.  It worked on this night against Miami, though.
  4. Game ball goes to Dallas Crawford.  When a team’s best player goes down with injury, the only thing the coaching staff wants from the backup is to not mess anything up.  Not only was Dallas Crawford not a hinderance for the Miami offense, he was the spark they needed. To take words from YouTube parody sports commentator Demetry James, Dallas Crawford had “the will to carry the team…and not let any obstacle come in between…a desire you must achieve…to go ahead and get that green…if you know what I mean.”  I’m not exactly sure what that means, but I think it’s a good thing.
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