Battle of freshman quarterbacks one for the ages as the Hurricanes fall short on the road to North Carolina 28-25.
Manny Diaz and the Miami Hurricanes had a lot of time to think leading up to the game in Chapel Hill.
After a competitive loss to Florida in week zero, the Canes should have come out with a chip.
Instead the rust showed as Sam Howell led two quick scoring drives to put North Carolina up by 10 less than four minutes in. They would hold the lead most of the night as a late rally by the Hurricanes came up short.
No Doubt who is QB1
Dan Enos put the ball in Jarren Williams hands on the first drive with three straight pass calls.
Despite the aggressive play calling Miami went three-and-out.
Williams settled down midway through the first quarter and led the offense on a solid drive which ended with three points after Bubba Baxa put Miami on the board with a career long from 50 yards.
The Hurricanes run defense struggled in the first quarter and Howell took advantage of it, picking up a first down with his feet.
To make matter worse Amari Carter got flagged for a late hit and targeting after a shot to Howell went high during his slide.
Carter was disqualified and an already depleted secondary was even thinner for almost the entire game.
Miami seemed on their heels with the uptempo pace of the Carolina offense early.
Combine that with variety in play-calling and a confident team in blue, Miami had all they could handle on the road.
North Carolina would finish another scoring drive with a touchdown and led 17-3 with 4:04 left in the first quarter.
Miami looked uninspired and confused on defense to say the least, the group seemed unprepared for the moment.
The Tar Heels defense was equally as formidable, gang tackling and repeatedly taking advantage of the offensive line.
Finally late in the first quarter the defense found some energy, forcing a three-and-out.
Miami managed ZERO yards rushing and 47 total yards in the first quarter, while Carolina racked up 171 total yards.
Second Quarter Brings Second Wind
The second quarter change seemed to give the Hurricanes a chance to get composed again.
Williams was sharp and decisive to open that frame, and DeeJay Dallas ran with his usual aggression.
Enos took the training wheels off a little with pre-snap motion and jet sweeps, and the offense found some rhythm.
Until disaster nearly happened.
Williams put the ball on the ground and after several players had a shot, the freshman quarterback fell on his mistake and recovered the ball.
However the drive would stall and Bubba Baxa would attempt another short field goal for important points.
He missed obviously, keeping the score at 17-3.
Blake Baker dialed up the pressure in the second with corner blitzes and the defense settled in.
His colleague Enos started to figure some things out as well, giving help to the offensive line with backs chipping and quick passes.
Brevin Jordan looks like the truth and was a reliable target for Williams.
Cam Harris spelled Dallas late in the first half and picked up right where he left off.
Harris was a force in that crucial drive for the Hurricanes to say the least.
Once again the Hurricanes offense could not cash in, they went uptempo which actually seemed to take them out of sync.
Baxa redeemed himself somewhat with a chip shot (for most) to make it 17-6 with just under three minutes left in the first half.
The Hurricanes defense continued to make stops and slowly take over field position as the opening half wound down.
Williams would get the ball back with 98 seconds to go and two timeouts to work with.
Dallas gashed the Carolina defense for 16 to start the drive, followed by a quick 14-yard reception by Jordan.
Another miscue on a botched snap nearly spelled disaster for Miami, luckily Dallas fell on it to save the possession.
Finally the good fortune continued as the Hurricanes found pay-dirt on a beautiful strike from Williams to KJ Osborn on a slant.
Miami had to feel good going into the locker room down just four after a tenuous start.
Dallas had eight carries for 55 yards while Harris five for 41 yards in the first half.
Miami finished with 94 yards on the ground as a team. The offensive line as a whole looked much better compared to the Florida game, but Williams was still under pressure quite often.
A big difference was his decision making in terms of holding on to the ball. When things went sideways, he got it out.
Halftime score 17-13 North Carolina
Miami received the second half kickoff and went right to work. Dallas continued to get touches and Williams connected with Jordan to put Miami in business around the North Carolina 30 yard line.
That opening drive stalled after the Hurricanes failed on a fourth and three. Diaz likely lacked confidence in Baxa in what would have been about a 36-yard field goal attempt.
The anticipation for the Miami defense to make a game changing play was palpable.
North Carolina converted a huge third and twelve to get out of the shadow of their goalpost.
Dazz Newsome followed that with a 36-yard catch over the top, the second egregious error on pass defense to that point.
Senior linebacker Michael Pinckney got dinged up on the play but would return shortly after.
North Carolina entered Miami territory for the first time since the opening quarter and broke out a trick play of their own.
Howell hauled in an 18-yard reception on a flee-flicker, and they would cash in with a field goal to make it 20-13 midway through the third quarter.
On their next possession Miami put together their best drive to that point, marching 75 yards on seven plays and finally cashing in from close.
Unfortunately that blocked XP was a huge lapse by the offensive line as North Carolina shot into the backfield in an instant.
Can’t blame Baxa for that one, however four special teams points left on the field in a close game hurts.
A pivotal play came in the waning seconds of the third quarter with North Carolina facing a 4th-and-3 from the Miami 44.
Initially it looked like they would go for it, however Mack Brown burned a timeout and North Carolina punted.
Not taking a delay of game and instead taking a timeout seemed like a questionable move which could benefit Miami.
Williams continued to slice up the North Carolina secondary and ended the penultimate quarter with a bang.
Osborn has immediately become a key part of the wide receiver group and a favorite target for Williams.
Pass protection started to become an issue in the fourth quarter as Williams was dropped twice to stall another drive.
Special teams stepped up to pin the Tar Heels back but Howell quickly got them out of trouble.
The moment did not seem too big for Howell who looked solid under fire for most of the night.
However the Miami defense hung tough under less than ideal circumstances as multiple players went off the field due to cramping or other not overtly serious injuries.
They gave the ball back to the offense midway through the fourth and Williams kept dealing. He hit nine completions in a row and should have had 10 if not for a drop by Brian Hightower.
Jeff Thomas helped the young quarterback with a tough first down grab over the middle, not something he is always known for.
Dallas kept punishing the North Carolina defense and a perfectly executed run put them in business.
Williams would make it count, dropping a dime to Will Mallory to put Miami on top for the first time 25-20 with just under five minutes to go.
Holding a lead on the road late is a critical test for a defense and the North Carolina ground game was working.
Tempers got a little heated as Miami started to gain confidence when Shaq Quarterman picked up a huge sack to force a third and long.
That was followed quickly by another sack courtesy of Gregory Rousseau, forcing a timeout on 4th and 17.
Once again Howell made a play, picking up 20 for the first down and the crowd was back in it.
Howell drew Miami offsides all night with the “Kyler Murray pre-snap clap” and should have had a touchdown that was dropped on a free play.
He didn’t have to wait long as Newsome made a beautiful grab on the boundary to put North Carolina on top 26-25.
They would convert the two-point conversion and regain a 28-25 advantage with 1:01 to play.
Time for Williams
With all three timeouts this was the moment for Williams to show why Diaz chose him as QB1.
An 28-yard run followed by two completions put the Hurricanes in North Carolina territory quickly.
Williams threw incomplete over the middle and Miami was on their last breath, looking to avoid their first 0-2 start since 1978.
That did not happen.
Baxa shanked what would have been a game tying 49-yard field goal and Miami took another heartbreaking loss in another winnable game.
The Hurricanes gained 179 yards on the ground and 488 total yards compared to just 97 rushing and 389 for North Carolina.
Yet still lost and played from behind most of the way in a massive early test for Manny Diaz and his coaching staff.
The New Miami?
More like The Same Miami.
It’s a very distraught locker room. You’ve got to learn to finish. We’ve got to learn a little bit of a killer instinct.”
– Manny Diaz on WQAM, via @flasportsbuzz.
Key Stats – Miami
Williams: 30/39, 309 yards, 2 TD
Dallas: 14 carries, 107 yards, 37 yard long
Cam Harris: 10 carries, 60 yards, TD
KJ Osborn: 7 receptions, 76 yards, TD
Mike Harley: 5 receptions, 79 yards
Brevin Jordan: 6 receptions, 73 yards
Jeff Thomas: 7 receptions, 51 yards
Will Mallory: 1 reception, 11 yards, TD
Key Stats – UNC
Howell: 16/24, 274 yards, 2 TD
Javonte Williams: 10 carries, 76 yards, TD
Dyami Brown: 4 receptions, 80 yards, TD
Dazz Newsome: 2 receptions, 46 yards, TD
Rontavius Groves: 3 receptions, 41 yards