MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – North Carolina delivered arguably its best performance of the season in holding off No. 16 Miami, 20-13, on Saturday, just one week after suffering its worst defeat of the Larry Fedora era.
Fedora was quick to tell reporters this week that his team had turned in some of its best practices of 2016 in the wake of the 34-3 dismantling by Virginia Tech last weekend. His words proved prophetic as his Tar Heels (5-2, 3-1 ACC) were the aggressor early in building a 17-point halftime lead before gutting out a tough victory.
Miami (4-2, 1-2 ACC) fought back to within seven points and had the ball with 1:45 to play, but Malik Carney’s sack and forced fumble of quarterback Brad Kaaya was recovered by Jeremiah Clarke at the Hurricanes’ 16-yard-line to seal the victory.
Quarterback Mitch Trubisky completed 33 of his 46 passes for 299 yards and two touchdowns and rushed 13 times for 47 yards. T.J. Logan added 84 rushing yards on 15 carries. UNC averaged 5.3 yards per play against a Miami defense that entered the game ranked fifth nationally in allowing opponents 4.0 yards per play.
UNC’s defense continued its steady growth by holding the Hurricanes to 139 rushing yards at a 3.9 yards-per-carry clip. Kaaya completed 16-of-31 passes for 224 yards without a touchdown.
Another Fast Start in Florida
Two weeks after building a 21-0 lead against then-No. 12 Florida State in Tallahassee, UNC took a 20-3 lead into halftime on Saturday. Not only did the offense capitalize on its opportunities, but the defense provided a repeat performance in forcing field goal attempts and special teams even replicated its work in blocking an early field goal that would have fueled the crowd.
Senior wide receiver Bug Howard served as Trubisky’s go-to receiver in pulling in a career-high 10 catches for a career-high 156 receiving yards. After a 40-yard catch on UNC’s opening scoring drive, Trubisky leaned on Howard late in the third quarter with three consecutive pass hookups of 22, 11 and 27 yards.
Injuries Mounting on Offense
The good news for UNC is that running back Elijah Hood returned to action after missing last week’s game due to an undisclosed injury. The bad news is that not only did left guard Caleb Peterson miss his second straight start due to injury, but right tackle Jon Heck and wide receiver Mack Hollins were knocked out of the game in the first half and did not return.
Switzer Sets School Record
Ryan Switzer caught nine passes for 17 yards and a touchdown to move past former teammate Quinshad Davis for UNC’s career receptions record with 206.
Still Alive in the Coastal
This game was essentially a must-win for both teams to keep their hopes alive for winning the ACC Coastal. The Tar Heels could ill-afford to drop back-to-back games to their primary challengers in the division, and they avoided that scenario with a strong performance at Hard Rock Stadium. UNC is now tied in the loss column for the divisional lead, although it still needs help to overtake Virginia Tech, which lost to Syracuse on Saturday.
UNC remains on the road with a trip to Charlottesville to face Virginia next Saturday. Bronco Mendenhall’s Cavaliers lost to Pittsburgh, 45-31, on Saturday to fall to 2-4 (1-1). The Tar Heels have won six straight in the South’s Oldest Rivalry, including three straight at Scott Stadium.