UNC-Miami (OH): The Good and the Bad

Despite tying an Atlantic Coast Conference record with nine turnovers, North Carolina somehow had a chance to defeat visiting Miami (OH) at Kenan Stadium on Saturday.

But the Tar Heels' mistakes were too much to overcome, and they fell, 27-21, in the season-opener for both teams.

Here is a look at the good and the bad of UNC's second season-opening loss to Miami in five seasons.

GOOD

Dexter Reid – Reid had an awesome game, leading the Heels with 18 tackles, including two on the five-play goal line stand in the third quarter. Fourteen of his tackles were solo, and he was credited with two pass deflections. An intense competitor, Reid leads by example. He is also an excellent NFL prospect.

Michael Waddell – Waddell was in on just a pair of tackles, but defended extremely well. He broke up three passes, of which one was inside the 5-yard-line and saved a touchdown. Along with Reid and Will Chapman, Waddell provides excellent leadership for the Tar Heels.

Sam Aiken – Aiken is truly a great talent. He hauled in eight passes for 174 yards and a touchdown. Carolina finally got wise and went to him a lot in the fourth quarter, and he played crucial roles in a pair of touchdown drives. In the final quarter alone, Aiken caught five passes for 142 yards.

C.J. Stephens – Stephens entered the game with just 1:39 left but he sure made his impact felt. He moved the Heels 79 yards on six plays, culminating with a 37-yard TD pass to Aiken to cut the margin to 27-21. After UNC recovered an onside kick, he took them to Miami's 24-yard-line before the game ended on an incomplete pass. Durant's struggles coupled with Stephens' play shouldn't escape the coaching staff, media and fans.

Will Chapman – Chapman was in on four tackles, but he did an excellent job plugging holes and providing some pressure on Miami's QB, especially in the first half. He appears to have not lost any quickness, and in fact, might even be a tad quicker than last year.

Total yards – Despite nine turnovers and possessing the ball for just 21:43, Carolina had 447 yards of offense. The Tar Heels averaged six yards per snap. If they had cut the turnovers in half, UNC may well have scored 40 points and won easily.

Goal line stand – The Heels showed tremendous grit in stopping the RedHawks at the 1-yard line on five consecutive snaps. Miami moved from its own 16 to UNC's 1 in 12 plays. They had runs of 6, 10, 7, 6, and 5 yards on the drive, but couldn't punch it in. Reid was credited with two of the tackles. Malcolm Stewart and Doug Justice also were in on tackles in the stand.

Still almost won – Despite the record number of turnovers, Carolina still almost won. That says a lot about their grit, their ability to get up, dust themselves off and go back at it, and for the pride they play with. Had there not been a pass interference on Miami with five seconds left UNC may have won as Brandon Russell would have likely caught the ball and scored.

BAD

Turnovers – UNC coughed up the ball a shocking nine times. Seven of the errors are correctable, and shouldn't have happened. The Heels fumbled on five consecutive possessions in the first half, and turned the ball over on six of their first eight possessions. Carolina gave it away inside the red zone twice, and at the Miami 36 after moving the ball 34 yards in five plays. There is more turnover information in the field position note.

Takeaways – Miami had just two turnovers and both were fumbles. One was with four seconds left before halftime.

Darian Durant – On the surface, most of Durant's stats (24-37, 279 yards, 1 TD) look impressive, but he had a miserable day. He threw three interceptions, two of which were thrown right to Miami defenders, and one was near the goal line. Another interception occurred as he was trying to throw the ball away from the end zone and gave Miami the ball at UNC's 19-yard-line. He fumbled three times, including a poor decision when trying to escape the clutches of Miami defenders. He was decent throwing over the middle but struggled with out patterns, often throwing either too high or too wide. His lack of arm strength limits Carolina's versatility regarding the deep ball. On the positive, he hung in there and led the Heels to a fourth-quarter scoring drive in which he looked sharp.

Derrick Johnson – Johnson played too soft on nearly every play. He was too far from the receivers on short yardage situations, allowing some ridiculously easy receptions. Miami picked on him most of the game, with considerable success.

Field position – Miami started five possessions in UNC territory, two of which led to touchdowns. UNC's turnovers cost the Heels badly in field position. Remarkably, Carolina had drives of 9, 17, 0, 1, 1, and 0 yards that ended with a turnover. Miami had to go just 19 yards each in two scoring drives, and started three possessions already inside the red zone. The RedHawks' average starting field position was its own 40.

Run defense – Four of Carolina's top five tacklers were defensive backs, an indication the defensive line and linebackers were struggling against the run. Had Miami mostly passed, it would make sense for DBs to be the leading tacklers, but the RedHawks ran the ball 23 more times than they threw it. UNC's front line did a fine job in the first half, holding Miami to 38 yards on 20 attempts. But, other than the defensive stand, they wilted in the second half, allowing Miami to run the ball for 137 yards and dominate the time of possession.

Time of possession – For the game, Miami had the ball for 38:17 compared to UNC's 21:43. Incredibly, Carolina had possession for just 8:30 in the second half, yet still managed to amass 264 yards of offense over the final two quarters.

Tackling – There were too many missed tackles, especially in the second half. Malcolm Stewart, who was second on the club with a part in 11 tackles, missed a few opportunities where a tackle would have likely changed the possession. Not to pounce on Stewart, as he had a solid game in many respects and even caused a fumble, but he did miss too many tackles. He wasn't alone. The linebackers struggled, as no other LB had more than three tackles. The DBs tackled well, including Chris Curry, who showed excellent form.

Miami's fourth TD drive – After the Tar Heels cut the margin to 20-14 on a 9-yard TD reception by Bobby Blizzard, Miami marched 67 yards in seven plays to go up 27-14 with 8:13 left in the game. The seven plays: 13-yard pass, 7-yard run, negative 1-yard run, 15-yard pass, 6-yard run, 12-yard run, and Luke Clemens' 15-yard TD run. When the Heels grow up and gain experience, they may not allow such a drive at a crucial period of a game.

Play calling – After the goal line stand, Carolina ran three plays from its own 1, two of which were pass attempts. Gary Tranquil actually had Durant drop back into the pocket in the end zone, looking to throw over the middle or even long. On his second attempt - and third down - Durant scrambled to his right and tried to throw the ball away. But it was picked off, and four plays later the RedHawks scored. It made no earthly sense to have Durant drop back, especially considering the trouble he was having. It would have made sense to run the ball three times and punt.

UP NEXT

Carolina travels to Syracuse to face the Orangemen Saturday night at 8 p.m. on ESPN2. With the loss to Miami, this game takes on even greater importance, as UNC can't afford to start the season 0-2 with Texas coming to Chapel Hill in the third game.


Senior writer Andrew Jones is in his seventh year covering football and basketball for Inside Carolina. He can be reached via e-mail at: AndrewJones@AM630.net.


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