University of Miami

It was ugly, but the Miami Hurricanes found a way to win – and remain undefeated

UM receiver Jeff Thomas talks about his play

Hurricanes freshman wideout Jeff Thomas talks about his 78-yard touchdown and 101-yard day against UNC on Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017.
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Hurricanes freshman wideout Jeff Thomas talks about his 78-yard touchdown and 101-yard day against UNC on Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017.

The No. 8 Miami Hurricanes just can’t help but make their fans panic.

But they still keep winning — even if it’s winning ugly.

The Canes scored 17 second-half points Saturday to stay undefeated and turn a one-point lead into a 24-19 victory over North Carolina at Kenan Stadium.

For the first time in program history, the 7-0 Hurricanes are 5-0 in the Atlantic Coast Conference. They also have the nation’s longest winning streak in the Football Bowl Subdivision, at 12 games after USF lost to Houston on Saturday.

“I’ve done it too long to apologize for winning,’’ UM coach Mark Richt said of a game in which there were six turnovers, four committed by UNC, and not one that led to points. “We’ve won [12] in a row. That’s a good thing. But you take pride in what you do, and when it’s not as clean as you want it to be, it’s bothersome. It hurts.”

Added Richt: “Just not clean enough for me personally. I cannot really remember us sustaining a drive.”

Miami coach Mark Richt reflects on victory over UNC on Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017.

The game remained nerve-racking close until the end.

With 2:56 left, North Carolina took over after UM tailback Travis Homer fumbled on first down from the UNC 44. Then, on Carolina’s possession, linebacker Zach McCloud’s late hit gave UNC 15 more yards to put the Tar Heels on the UM 37.

Miami defensive end Joe Jackson and safety Jaquan Johnson came to the rescue. On the next play, Jackson forced a fumble, and Johnson recovered. The Canes took over at their own 34 with 2:11 left and ran out the clock.

“We just got to do our job, and that’s keep the opponent out of the end zone,’’ Jackson said. “I was tired, and we had to go in and make another big stop.’’

UNC had made it 24-19 on a 9-yard pass from Nathan Elliott to Beau Corrales with 3:03 left (the two-point conversion attempt failed), again likely making UM fans wonder why their team can’t put opponents away earlier and forget the drama.

UM’s defense, led by Johnson’s and RJ McIntosh’s 11 tackles apiece, came up big again with three interceptions and the fumble recovery. The defense had 10 tackles for loss and four sacks.

The Canes’ offense had big problems run-blocking Saturday, gaining only 59 yards on the ground.

“They’re a really good defense,’’ left tackle Kc McDermott said. “It’s something we told you guys earlier in the week. We knew they were going to be a good defensive line. They presented a challenge to us, and ultimately we didn’t block it the way we need to. But we did our job good enough to win this game.”

Canes left tackle Kc McDermott said after UM's victory on Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017, that Miami knew all along that the Tar Heels had a "very good defense."

The Canes meet No. 13 Virginia Tech (6-1, 2-1 going into Saturday’s game) next weekend at Hard Rock Stadium.

UNC fell to 1-8 and 0-6.

UM quarterback Malik Rosier, who came out of the game with a shoulder injury for several minutes late in the first quarter and early in the second quarter, completed 16 of 38 passes for a career-high 356 yards and three touchdowns. He also threw an interception.

Rosier returned with 11 minutes left in the first half, but did not address the media after the game because he was getting treatment, according to a UM spokesman.

Rosier wasn’t the only quarterback to get hurt. UNC starter Chazz Surratt was knocked out of the game on another late hit by McCloud with about six minutes left in the first quarter. Surratt’s replacement, third-string Elliott, finished the day with 173 yards passing, one touchdown and three interceptions, and rushed 21 times for 79 yards.

Up 7-6 at the half, UM scored on its first play from scrimmage in the third quarter — a 78-yard pass from Rosier to freshman Jeff Thomas for a 14-6 lead. Thomas had a game-high 101 yards receiving on three catches.

UM D-end Joe Jackson, left, and safety Jaquan Johnson helped preserve the victory over North Carolina on Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017., in Chapel Hill, N.C.

Four offensive plays later, Michael Badgley kicked a 21-yard field goal to put UM up 17-6.

But beleaguered UNC, like just about every team UM has played, would not quit. The Tar Heels scored on a trick play — one of several by UNC on Saturday — and cut the lead to 17-13 with 7:59 left in the third quarter when Anthony Ratliff took a lateral pass from quarterback Elliott and threw an 18-yard touchdown to Beau Corrales.

UM scored again on a 5-yard pass from Rosier to Braxton Berrios with 9:26 left to make it 24-13, thanks to a 49-yard catch by freshman DeeJay Dallas to highlight the drive.

It took UM most of the first half to get on the scoreboard. After UNC scored the first six points on field goals of 24- and 45 yards by Freeman Jones, the Canes finally got in the end zone with 1:58 left in the first half on a dazzling, 51-yard play by tight end Christopher Herndon.

Herndon caught Rosier’s pass, spun 360 degrees, broke away from his defenders and was off to the races.

UM backup quarterback Evan Shirreffs came into the game to replace Rosier for the drive that began with 4:52 left in the opening quarter. Shirreffs completed one of three passes for no yards.

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