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No. 16 Miami Storms Past North Carolina

No. 16 Miami Storms Past North Carolina

By David Villavicencio
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — The defending ACC Coastal champion Miami Hurricanes opened their 2018 conference schedule with a dominant victory over North Carolina, 47-10.
Over 60,000 fans packed Hard Rock Stadium to witness No. 16 Miami (4-1, 1-0 ACC) thrash the visiting Tar Heels (1-3, 1-1 ACC) on Thursday night. The Hurricanes racked up 354 yards of total offense while running just 46 plays and the defense tallied 14 tackles for loss, forced a school record-tying six turnovers and scored three times in a commanding win over their division rival.
“Overall, just a great win,” Miami head coach Mark Richt said. “1-0 in conference play. That’s what we wanted to be. Now we have a little bit of rest, a little more rest than usual for next one against Florida State. We’re looking forward to that.”
North Carolina was the last team to beat the Hurricanes at home, but the win Thursday night was Miami’s 12th straight regular season home win dating back to October 15, 2016 — the longest such streak for the Canes since winning 26 straight from 1999 through 2003.
Making his first career start, quarterback N’Kosi Perry connected with Mike Harley over the middle for a 28-yard gain on the first play from scrimmage, but North Carolina’s defense held firm and forced a punt four downs later to take over the ball on the UNC 17. 
Then it was Nathan Elliott’s turn to lead his offense and the junior quarterback and sophomore running back Michael Carter drove the Tar Heels 78 yards before kicker Freeman Jones hit a 22-yard field goal to give North Carolina a 3-0 lead halfway into the opening quarter.
North Carolina scored first, but the Hurricanes scored often and the rout of the visiting Tar Heels featured Miami scoring touchdowns four different ways in the first half: rushing, receiving, fumble return and interception return. Thursday’s first-half performance marked the first time the Hurricanes have scored via those four ways since August 28, 2003 vs. Louisiana Tech.
“First half, I don’t think we could really play a lot better – offense, defense, special teams,” Richt said. “I was very encouraged by what happened there.”
While UNC’s Carter had 52 yards on two carries to help the Tar Heels score on their first possession, the Canes did some major Miami’s Travis Homer ripped off a 56-yard run to the North Carolina 4 and DeeJay Dallas rushed into the end zone on the next play to put Miami up, 7-3.
“Travis is my mentor and I really look up to Travis because he does everything right,” Dallas said. “It’s really just a vet and like a semi-vet trying to become a vet. So that’s how we complement each other; he leads me and I just lead the other guys.”
Miami’s defense doubled the Hurricanes’ score when Shaquille Quarterman sacked Elliott to force a fumble that was recovered by Jonathan Garvin and returned nine yards for the Canes’ first defensive touchdown of the season. It was Miami’s first fumble returned for a touchdown since Michael Jackson against Notre Dame in 2016.
“It’s special because even in the other games you could see sometimes the ball comes out, it is not actually a turnover,” Garvin said. “But then we pick it up, we scoop it and then he had the guys, three men blocking for him. So you could see it come into fruition today. So something that we constantly practice. It just came to light really. “
The defensive touchdown was Miami’s first since Jaquan Johnson’s interception returned for a touchdown last season against Virginia and earned Garvin the opportunity to don the Turnover Chain when he reached the sideline with his team leading, 14-3.
North Carolina turned to quarterback Chazz Surratt on it’s next drive and the sophomore led a seven-play, 70-yard scoring drive that was capped by his own 17-yard touchdown run that cut Miami’s lead to four, 14-10, with 2:11 remaining in the opening quarter.
The Canes responded with another scoring drive, charging to the UNC 17 before Bubba Baxa converted a 35-yard field goal to put the Hurricanes ahead, 17-10, with 12:22 left n the first half.
Miami’s defense struck again on UNC’s following possession, as Surratt was pressured by Gerald Willis III and the quarterback threw an interception to defensive end Joe Jackson who then took the ball 42 yards to the end zone for the Hurricanes’ second defensive score of the night and put the Canes ahead, 24-10. 
“Not a lot of times you get to see the defensive ends run,” Jackson said. “I feel like I got pretty good speed, so I put a little show on for you tonight.”
Jackson wore the Turnover Chain for the first time of his career and scored his second career touchdown after recovering a fumble and scoring at Georgia Tech in 2016. That was also Miami’s last game with two defensive scores, as Jackson and Quarterman each returned fumbles for touchdowns on Oct. 1, 2016 against the Yellow Jackets.
“Joe Jackson’s one was probably my favorite touchdown from the defense tonight because he always said how he could play tight end and how he wants the ball,” Perry said. “And he showed his feet tonight. It was very fun watching him.”
The Hurricane offense had a pair of big plays to get Miami deep into UNC territory on the next possession, as Dallas burst for a 25-yard run and Perry found Harley streaking down the Miami sideline for a 42-yard gain to the UNC 5. Three plays later, Perry hit Darrell Langham for a five-yard touchdown, but the Tar Heels blocked the PAT attempt to hold Miami to a 20-point lead, 30-10. The redshirt freshman quarterback finished 8-for-12 for 125 yards with a touchdown and an interception, while Langham has a career-best three catches for a team-leading 33 yards and a touchdown.
The Turnover Chain made its third appearance of the first half when Jhavonte Dean picked off Surratt on third-and-15 from the UNC 49 and returned it 24 yards to the Tar Heel 33 with 11 seconds left before halftime.
“It’s always fun to score points on defense, for the defense and the offense,” Richt said. “Everybody loves it. The fans love it. There was a lot of ESPN highlights right there. Again, I felt first half, the entire team played like we should play. If we can put two halves together like that, offensively, we’ll be in good shape. With the lead as it was, probably slowed things a little too much too early, in my play-calling.”
Dallas, who finished with a career-best 114 rushing yards and a touchdown, ripped off a 22-yard run to set up a 28-yard field goal by Baxa that closed the opening half with the Hurricanes ahead, 33-10. Miami’s 33 points were the second-most ever scored in a first half of an ACC game by the Hurricanes, coming one point short of the team’s record (34 at Wake Forest, Nov. 12, 2005).
“We gave up what, 24 points on turnovers, right,” UNC head coach Larry Fedora said. “Most of those were on third and long. They did exactly what we thought they were going to do. They got us in some long yardage situations and then brought a lot of heat on third and long and we didn’t handle it very well at all.”
In addition to the three turnovers and two defensive scores, Miami’s defense forced 10 tackles for loss and had three sacks in the opening 30 minutes of play. Miami recorded a touchdown via fumble return and interception return in the same game for the first time since August 28, 2003 at Louisiana Tech.
On the opening drive of the second half, Miami’s Turnover Chain made its fourth appearance of the night. North Carolina’s Elliott fumbled on the UNC 34 and the ball was recovered by Garvin to give the Canes the ball in Tar Heel territory. But UNC would get the ball back four plays later, as Perry was sacked by Malik Carney and his fumble was recovered by Jeremiah Clarke on the UNC 35.
Miami’s next drive also ended in a turnover, as Perry was picked off by Bryson Richardson and the interception was returned 19 yards to the Miami 38. The turnover put the Tar Heels in Miami territory for just the third time in the first nine possessions. 
North Carolina drove to the Miami 7, but an offensive pass interference call and a pass to Dazz Newsome that went for a nine-yard loss sent UNC back to the Miami 31 and Jones’s 48–yard field goal attempt clanked off the left upright to end the UNC drive without any points.
The Hurricanes scored on defense for the third time, when Romeo Finley picked off Surratt on the opening play of the fourth quarter and returned the interception 83 yards for a touchdown. The junior wore the Turnover Chain for the first time in his career and scored his first career touchdown to put Miami up, 40-10. The touchdown tied a school record with three defensive touchdowns in a game, as Miami had three defensive scores on Sept. 23, 2000 in a 47-10 victory at West Virginia. 
“I don’t remember three touchdowns… I mean, I don’t remember that even as a fan watching a game and seeing a defense score three touchdowns,” defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said. “Unless it’s a JV game or something. But our guys, the thing I will give them credit for is we pressured the quarterback and we made the play. We didn’t almost catch it. We caught the ball, we tucked it in and brought it back for a touchdown.”
Redshirt senior Trayone Gray added Miami’s final score of the night, a one-yard touchdown with 4:04 remaining in the game, to wrap up an 11-play, 61-yard scoring drive that put Miami ahead, 47-10.
“Second half, with a big lead, offensively [we were] trying to slow the game down a little bit and be a little more conservative,” Richt said. “Not very good at that. Anyway, at the very end, we were able to hold the ball about six or seven minutes and give the defense a break. What happens when you score touchdowns on defense is you’ve got to go back and play defense again. So the time of possession for them was pretty high. We only ran 40-something plays – we had 46 plays. A lot had to do with just the fact that we were scoring on defense and how we were having to go play defense again.” 
Bradley Jennings Jr. recovered a fumble with 16 seconds left in the game, giving Miami its sixth turnover of the night and closing out a dominant victory by the Hurricanes. It was the most turnovers forced by the Hurricanes since getting six takeaways against NC State in 2012.
“Six turnovers, three for touchdowns – I heard that tied a school record,” Richt said. “I would have thought it would have been the record. I guess it’s tied for the school record, so it is a school record. But I was kind of hoping we broke one. The turnover chain was out a bunch and there was another one we thought was out too, but we didn’t get it. We could have had seven.”
Miami, who entered the game as the national leader in third down conversion percentage defense, allowed North Carolina to convert just two of 13 third down attempts in the game.
Twenty-eight different Hurricanes recorded a tackle, led by linebacker Zach McCloud’s eight tackles (four solo), while Sheldrick Redwine added seven stops and Trajan Bandy had six – including 1.5 tackles for loss. Quarterman led UM and set a career mark with 3.0 tackles for loss Thursday, including two sacks; it marked the sixth performance of 3.0 TFLs by a Hurricane this year. Mike Smith added the Canes with a career-best 2.5 tackles for loss, while Jackson added one sack and had a pair of forced fumbles.
Miami will host in-state rival Florida State on Saturday, Oct. 6, at Hard Rock Stadium.
“We are going to celebrate this one tonight, obviously,” Jackson said. “The next day is a new week for any new opponent. Same preparation. These games always turn into a dogfight, whether you blow them out in the end or not. These rivalry games always happen to be a dogfight. So we’ve got to come prepared and make sure we don’t have any self-inflicted wounds.”