The conventional wisdom heading into this game was both teams would score with alarming frequency turning the respective defenses into bystanders. So it only stands to reason that the most ACC thing that could happen would be a low-scoring, penalty ridden affair that involved UNC making two fourth down stops to win the game. In other words it was nowhere near what the "on paper" analysis suggested it could be which is(say it with me) why they play the games.
The game started well enough for UNC with a defensive stop followed by a complete gashing of the Miami defense to take a 7-0 lead. UNC followed up with an interception and a second drive into the red zone when Bryn Renner forced a pass into double coverage near the goal line which was promptly intercepted. This was the first of three legitimate scoring chances UNC failed to capitalize on. The other two came off the foot of Casey Barth who missed a 33-yard field goal in the first half and a second one from 43 yards in the second. The two missed kicks and the goal line INT from Renner costs the Heels at worst nine points which would have been more than enough to give UNC some breathing room. Instead UNC was left clinging to a one score lead for most of the game.
UNC's other issue was another game full of penalties. Like last week against Virginia Tech, UNC committed 15 penalties for 140 yards. That is 30 penalties for 266 yards over the course of two games. Usually being penalized to that degree is a sure way to lose. In that respect the Heels have been fortunate that the yellow handkerchief epidemic hasn't been anything more than an annoying hindrance.
One big reason behind UNC's ability to overcome so many penalties is Giovani Bernard continues play like an All-ACC running back. Last week it was 262 yards against Virginia Tech. This week Bernard rushed for 177 yards and two touchdowns including a huge run for a first down late in the fourth quarter with only one shoe on. That was one of many "tough" runs on the day for the sophomore running back. Bernard often had to either fight for yards or patiently pick his way through the Hurricanes' defense to secure positive yardage.. The passing offense was not nearly as effective as the pre-game analysis indicated it would be. Renner went 25-40 for 243 yards and an interception which was fairly pedestrian given the state of the Miami pass defense.
Despite the troubles, it was the first road win in the Larry Fedora era. It was also a game the Tar Heels had to grind out even though much of the adversity was of UNC's own making. The defense came up big to stop two potential game winning drives and preserve the win. Normally a game like this would be one of those "lesson" losses that push the team to deal with its collective deficiency. The upside here is the lesson can still be learned without the mess and fuss of the loss. Whether that happens or it takes an actual loss to get the point across remains to be seen.
Tar Heels vs Hurricanes boxscore
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