ZERO DARK HURTY

Oct. 18, 2013 @ 12:35 AM

Nothing exemplified how close North Carolina came to beating a top 10 team Thursday night than the final play, when Bryn Renner’s pass to Quinshad Davis seemed to hit the receiver’s hands in the end zone before being knocked away.

As a result, an inspired effort by UNC did nothing to dull the pain of what turned into another loss in a season full of them.

The Tar Heels went play-for-play with No. 10 Miami in front of a national audience and a packed Kenan Stadium, but Dallas Crawford’s 3-yard touchdown run with 16 seconds left capped a 90-yard drive for the Hurricanes, who remained unbeaten with a 27-23 win.

“We got a bunch of guys hurting in that locker room,” UNC coach Larry Fedora said. “A tough one to swallow for us right now.”

Playing in front of a Kenan-record 37 NFL scouts and five general managers, top tight end prospect Eric Ebron had 199 receiving yards, a school record at his position, and UNC’s much-maligned defense intercepted four passes and held the ninth-ranked scoring offense in the country to just 13 points until the final possession.

But the Tar Heels still fell to 1-5, 0-3 in the ACC. One year after finishing tied for first in the Coastal Division, UNC will need five wins in its final six games just to be eligible for a bowl.

The Hurricanes were hampered by injuries — running back Duke Johnson, the conference leader in all-purpose yards, and leading receiver Phillip Dorsett were injured in the first quarter and didn’t return.

But Crawford ran for 137 yards on 33 carries, including the go-ahead score when he bowled over Dominique Green at the goal line on third down.

It was the second-ever ESPN Thursday night game for UNC, which lost the previous one by three to Florida State in 2009.

UNC expanded the night theme, calling it "wearing all-black uniforms and painting the words and logos on the field in black, and the renewed energy seemed to carry the team as it led 23-13 in the fourth quarter before giving up two long touchdown drives.

The Hurricanes entered the game first in the nation in pass defense, having allowed 142 yards a game and just two touchdowns total through the air. But the Tar Heels didn’t take long to match those numbers, as starter Bryn Renner and backup Marquise Williams both threw touchdown passes in the first half.

Williams, a sophomore, made his first career start in the previous game at Virginia Tech when Renner missed the game with a left foot injury, and his performance against the Hokies gave the coaches confidence to include him more against Miami even as Renner returned.

Williams’ first pass went into double coverage and was intercepted in the end zone. But his second pass was turned into a 71-yard touchdown by Ebron, who slipped a tackle and midfield and outran the secondary for UNC’s longest play from scrimmage this season.

UNC’s defense gave up its own share of big plays in the first quarter, including a 59-yard run by Johnson and a 68-yard reception by Dorsett.

But the Tar Heels held both times in the red zone, first when Tré Boston tackled Johnson twice at the goal line and then when Jeff Schoettmer’s pressure caused a third-down incompletion.

The Hurricanes finally reached the end zone early in the second quarter thanks to their special teams. When East Chapel Hill High graduate Thomas Moore attempted a career-high 48-yard field goal, Artie Burns came around the corner untouched and blocked the ball into the waiting hands of Ladarius Gunter, who went 67 yards for a touchdown to put Miami up 13-7.

It was the first time UNC had a field goal blocked against them since 2005 against Virginia Tech, and the first time an opponent returned a block for a touchdown since Duke in 2004.

But the Tar Heels regained the lead less than three minutes later on a 20-yard touchdown pass from Renner to Davis, who got behind the Miami defense in the end zone.

Miami had some drives into UNC territory after that, but Fort Myers, Fla., native Boston intercepted a pass at the 11, Norkeithus Otis intercepted a deflected screen pass at the 20, and kicker Matt Goudis was wide right on a 43-yard field goal after Kareem Martin sacked Stephen Morris for a 13-yard loss.

That allowed the Tar Heels to extend their lead to 23-13 with 14:17 left on three short field goals by Moore. Renner had 15 straight completions at that point, a single-game school record (the senior completed a school-record 19 straight over two games two years ago).

Miami got back to within 23-20 on a 3-yard touchdown run by Crawford with 11:29 remaining, setting up an intense finish.

Green, a freshman safety, recorded his second interception of the game at midfield with 8:50 left, but Renner gave the ball back with an overthrow from his back foot 50 seconds later.

UNC forced a three-and-out by Miami, and the Tar Heels offense got a third-and-inches at midfield before a delay of game, false start and sack of Renner killed the drive.

Tommy Hibbard uncorked a career-long 54-yard punt, pinning Miami at the 10 with 4:11 left, but it wasn’t far enough to stop the Hurricanes from putting together their winning drive, the longest of the game for either team.

After Miami’s go-ahead touchdown with 16 seconds left, UNC got to the Miami 28 in two plays as Renner connected with Ebron for 32 yards and to A.J. Blue for 15. That left time for one more play, but Renner’s long pass fell incomplete, ensuring that the Tar Heels wouldn’t beat a top 10 team for the first time since a win over Miami in 2004.

No. 10 MIAMI 27, NORTH CAROLINA 23
Miami 6 7 0 14—27
North Carolina 7 10 3 3—23
First Quarter

Mia—FG Goudis 22, 8:45.

NC—Ebron 71 pass from Williams (T.Moore kick), 5:20.

Mia—FG Goudis 20, 2:59.

Second Quarter

Mia—Gunter 67 blocked field goal return (Goudis kick), 12:33.

NC—Q.Davis 20 pass from Renner (T.Moore kick), 9:50.

NC—FG T.Moore 25, 3:32.

Third Quarter

NC—FG T.Moore 35, 6:59.

Fourth Quarter

NC—FG T.Moore 22, 14:17.

Mia—D.Crawford 3 run (Goudis kick), 11:29.

Mia—D.Crawford 3 run (Goudis kick), :16.

A—56,000.

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  Mia NC
First downs 23 23
Rushes-yards 45-234 36-105
Passing 322 395
Comp-Att-Int 19-35-4 32-43-2
Return Yards 0 24
Punts-Avg. 4-41.0 6-42.0
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 2-0
Penalties-Yards 4-30 7-44
Time of Possession 29:01 30:59

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INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING—Miami, D.Crawford 33-137, Du.Johnson 8-83, Clements 2-27,

Edwards 1-0, Morris 1-(minus 13). North Carolina, Logan 16-61,

Blue 8-37, Williams 5-27, Renner 6-(minus 4), Team 1-(minus 16).

PASSING—Miami, Morris 19-35-4-322. North Carolina,

Renner 28-36-1-297, Williams 4-7-1-98.

RECEIVING—Miami, Hurns 6-98, Waters 3-54, Coley 3-21, Dorsett 2-68,

Walford 2-57, D.Crawford 2-17, M.Lewis 1-7. North Carolina, Ebron 8-199,

Q.Davis 8-81, Blue 5-34, Switzer 5-28, Logan 2-18, Howard 2-12,

Thorpe 1-19, Tapley 1-4.