University of Miami

UM’s ‘D’ saves victory, as Jaquan Johnson dedicates game to his late grandfather

Hurricanes defensive end Joe Jackson, left, and safety Jaquan Johnson address the media after victory over UNC.

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.
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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.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C.

University of Miami defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said this week that junior safety Jaquan Johnson “has been unbelievable the last three games’’ and “is a guy that absolutely does not get the credit he deserves.’’

Johnson, along with defensive end Joseph Jackson, made another pivotal play Saturday to preserve UM’s 24-19 victory over North Carolina in front of 45,000 fans at Kenan Stadium. Then Johnson dedicated the game to his grandfather, who lived in Miami and died Tuesday.

Jackson, a sophomore out of Miami Gulliver Prep, forced a fumble late in the fourth quarter that Johnson, a junior out of Miami Killian, recovered.

The Canes took over on their own 34-yard line with 2:11 left and ran out the clock.

“Before we start, I’d like to just say I dedicated this game to my granddad,’’ said Johnson, who now has a team-leading 51 tackles after Saturday’s game-high 11 tackles (along with RJ McIntosh). “My mom’s dad just died on Tuesday and I dedicated the game to him. I just wanted to say that.”

How did that convert to the field, where Johnson had a game-high 11 tackles (along with RJ McIntosh)?

“I believe that just gave me more fuel,’’ Johnson said. “Football is great, but there’s life after football. My family, they’re in a rough time right now. Everybody is grieving. I just played for them, and they played through me as well.’’

Johnson credited his team for its support.

“My team is amazing. I wouldn’t trade them for nothing in the world. We created this bond in the spring and summertime, and it’s continuing on through the games we play and the tough battles we go through.’’

KEY DEFENSIVE STOP

The Hurricanes’ defense made a crucial goal-line stop in the first quarter.

During UNC’s second drive, officials at first signaled a 23-yard touchdown reception for receiver Dazz Newsome, then said he fell down short of the goal line. So, the Tar Heels had four attempts from the 1-yard line and were stopped every time. Linebacker Michael Pinckney and McIntosh combined for the first two stops, and Shaq Quarterman got the third-down tackle and sack on fourth down.

“It probably was the difference in the ballgame,’’ UM coach Mark Richt said of the goal-line stand.

▪  On fourth-and-15 from the UNC 26-yard line, UM freshman Jon Garvin blocked a punt – UM’s first since 2016 at Notre Dame – with about 11 minutes left in the third quarter.

▪ UM’s defense forced UNC into four turnovers, three of them interceptions by cornerback Michael Jackson (his fourth of the season), linebacker Charles Perry and safety Sheldrick Redwine. Miami has seven interceptions the last two weeks, which is the most over a two-game stretch since 2010.

BERRIOS THROWS UP THE U

Hurricanes receiver/punt returner Braxton Berrios, who graduated from Leesville Road High in Raleigh, N.C., made his homecoming Saturday for the second time this season, and once again had a great game.

But the most gratifying play of the day for him had to be his 5-yard touchdown catch at 9:26 of the fourth quarter, after which he decisively threw up the U and held it for a bit.

Two years ago in Chapel Hill, UNC trounced UM 59-21 and two starting Tar Heels made fun of the Canes by displaying the U upside down. On Saturday, UNC receiver Beau Corrales did the same thing, though Berrios said he didn’t see it.

“Very important, obviously,’’ Berrios said. “It hasn’t really left my mind since we came up here two years ago and we got utterly embarrassed. You can lose a game, but when you get disrespected like that it sticks with you for a while. And so I told my wide receiver group if I got in, I was going to make sure that U was held up properly.”

Berrios ended the day with 78 yards and the touchdown on seven catches, including a 44-yard reception late in the third quarter — two plays after Jackson made his fourth pick of the season at the UM 4-yard line.

“It’s awesome,’’ Berrios said earlier this week about making the trip to UNC. “I’m hoping it’s my second-to-last trip there during my senior year. There probably will be a good amount of family and friends and I expect to go up there and win.’’

If Berrios makes one more trip to North Carolina during the season, it would be for the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship on Dec. 2 in Charlotte.

* Travis Homer, who had 57 yards receiving on three catches, had a career-long 35-yard reception during UM’s second drive.

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