Miami vs. North Carolina Review

By: Shasky Clarke

#7 Miami 27, North Carolina 23

Completing a 90 yard touchdown drive with 16 seconds left on the clock, the undefeated Miami Hurricanes narrowly escaped defeat Thursday night at North Carolina. The two teams played each other evenly, both missing opportunities and turning the ball over. Each offense amassed over 500 yards and drove the ball relatively consistently outside of the red zone. But sloppiness and lack of execution on both sides of the ball put the teams in peril.

Miami (6-0, 2-0 in the ACC) is now ranked seventh in the first BCS standings. They face Wake Forest at home on Saturday the 26th. North Carolina (1-5, 0-3 in the ACC) will play Boston College at home on Saturday as well.

The Good

Miami Success on the ground

The Hurricanes enjoyed a significant advantage running the ball on North Carolina’s thin and undersized front six and seven. North Carolina’s senior defensive end Kareem Martin was disruptive several times, showcasing his size, stoutness and penetrating ability off the edge. But, despite that, Miami’s offensive line largely dominated the game, paving the way for the Hurricanes to rush for 234 yards on 45 total carries.

In limited action, Duke Johnson gained 83 yards on just eight carries. After getting knocked out of the game, backup running back Dallas Crawford took advantage of wide running lanes and poor open field tackling, rushing 33 times for 137 yards. The Tar Heels had a tough time defending Miami’s zone stretch plays all night.

North Carolina Miscues

Miami was the beneficiary of several North Carolina mistakes. First, North Carolina had a field goal blocked, turning what could have been a three point Tar Heel score into an extremely critical Miami return touchdown.

Further, North Carolina failed to run the ball effectively, averaging 2.9 yards per carry and continuing what has been a trend for them all season.

Late in the game, and nursing a small lead, Bryn Renner passed up a first down toss over the middle of the field to star tight end Eric Ebron, instead forcing a difficult pass down the sideline and throwing an interception to Miami cornerback Tracy Howard.

The Tar Heels also had an opportunity to sit on the ball in the middle of the fourth quarter on 3rd and one. But they were then called for two pre-snap penalties that forced them to punt, giving Miami yet another possession.


The Bad

Stephen Morris Problems

Stephen Morris completed only 19 of 35 passes and was mostly erratic, failing to consistently anticipate and showing poor ball placement as a result of inconsistent footwork. It is hard to know how much of it was a result of his ankle injury. Morris especially struggled when North Carolina got pressure on third downs, even on four-man rushes. The Tar Heels effectively used stunts and Morris had trouble stepping into his passes, leading to interceptions downfield.

His four interceptions continue a trend that has derailed an otherwise super productive offense. He is the senior leader. But Morris, due to injury or not, has been the unequivocal weak link of not only the offense, but the team.

Bryn Renner and Eric Ebron Shine against Miami Pass Defense

Coming into the game, Miami’s pass defense had not been tested. North Carolina and Bryn Renner (28-36, 297 yards) largely carved up Miami’s defense over the course of the game. Tracy Howard flashed his playmaking ability with two interceptions in zone coverage. But overall, North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron was largely dominant, taking advantage of zone coverage. And, until Miami brought extra attention to the line of scrimmage, North Carolina effectively used quick receiver screens to supplement their running game and move the chains.

Duke and Dorsett Injuries

Miami star running back Duke Johnson and wide receiver Phillip Dorsett exited the game early with head and knee injuries, respectively. Johnson should be okay. But Dorsett will reportedly miss several weeks with an MCL tear. Dorsett is one of the most dangerous deep threats in college football and Miami’s wide receiver depth will have to come into play, especially with a big Florida State match-up looming.

Player of the Game

RB Dallas Crawford 5’10” 200, Sophomore: 33 carries, 145 yards, 2 touchdowns

The backup running back played very well on a heavy workload. He repeatedly eluded defenders in the hole, broke tackles and showed a nice penchant for squaring his shoulders and getting vertical. He is not the big play back that Duke Johnson is, but is an effective complimentary back for a team that desperately needed one.