They called it “history week” and indeed North Carolina made some history on Saturday during its 59-21 victory against Miami.
Among the accomplishments: A ninth consecutive win –the longest win streak in a single season since 1914. The completion of a perfect season at home; UNC went undefeated at Kenan Stadium for the first time since 1996, and went 7-0 there for the first time since 1980.
There was more. The 59 points were the most the Tar Heels had ever scored in a game against Miami. And their 125 points combined in their past two games – 66 of which came in a 66-31 victory against Duke – are the most UNC has ever scored in consecutive games.
We wanted to be different. We wanted to be a team that wins seven at home and also win more than eight games … We want to do something different around here.
UNC quarterback Marquise Williams
“I’m kind of at a loss of words for it,” senior offensive lineman Landon Turner said when reminded of what UNC had accomplished on many levels Saturday. “It’s so exciting to be a part of something like that.”
The Tar Heels made more history Sunday. They’re now ranked 12th in the Associated Press top 25 poll – their highest ranking since entering the 1998 season also No. 12, and their highest this late in a season since 1997.
Now there’s more even more significant history to be made. The Tar Heels are on the cusp of clinching the ACC’s Coastal Division, and would do so with a victory in one of its final two games – at Virginia Tech and at N.C. State – or if Pittsburgh loses one of its remaining games against Louisville or Miami.
9 Consecutive wins for UNC, its longest win streak in a single season since 1914
UNC finished in a three-way tie for first in the Coastal in 2012 and would have represented the division in the ACC Championship game had it been eligible. But it served a postseason ban that year.
An appearance in the conference title game, then, would be the Tar Heels’ first since the ACC in 2005 adopted a divisional format with a conference championship game. UNC would guarantee it makes that kind of history with a win next weekend at Virginia Tech in coach Frank Beamer’s final home game.
Another win, too, would represent some history of its own: the Tar Heels haven’t won 10 games in a season since 1997. They’ve won that many six times since UNC began playing football in 1888.
125 The Tar Heels’ combined points in their past two games, most ever scored in consecutive games
UNC coach Larry Fedora and several of his players on Saturday spoke of their desire to make history. And in a good way, after last season when they UNC posted some historically bad defeats and fielded one of the worst defenses in school history.
“We wanted to be different,” UNC quarterback Marquise Williams said after accounting for four touchdowns – three rushing and one passing – against Miami. “We wanted to be a team that wins seven at home and also win more than eight games …
“We want to do something different around here.”
The Tar Heels are doing that and in the process appear to be improving the longer the season goes on. During its past three games, UNC has beaten a ranked Pitt team on the road on a Thursday night, defeated rival Duke by five touchdowns and won against Miami by 38 points.
The victory against the Hurricanes was in hand at halftime, when UNC led 31-0. The Tar Heels put it more out of reach early in the third quarter with a 5-play, 61-yard touchdown drive that lasted about a minute and a half.
0 UNC’s turnovers in its past three games
Part of the reason for the Tar Heels’ success in recent weeks: no turnovers. UNC hasn’t committed a turnover since its 26-13 victory against Virginia on Oct. 24. During their past three games, their turnover-margin has been a combined plus-seven.
“That’s a big part of it, right there,” Fedora said. “A big, huge part of it.”
UNC’s performance on Saturday was likely its most complete of the season. The offense had its way, and generated nearly 300 yards rushing. The defense shut out Miami until the game was decided. And on special teams, Ryan Switzer returned a punt 78 yards for a touchdown.
“Everything came together,” sophomore running back Elijah Hood said. “and what a time to do it. Senior day, the last home game, 7-0 at home.”
And now there’s more history to be made.