UNC Now

North Carolina comes from behind again and defeats Miami 28-25 in home opener

The Tar Heels keep doing it.

For the second consecutive week, North Carolina trailed in the fourth quarter and came back to win. Last week, the Tar Heels overcame an 11-point, fourth-quarter deficit.

This time, they had a lead entering the fourth quarter and lost it. But UNC freshman quarterback Sam Howell was unbothered. Trailing 25-20 with less than five minutes remaining, Howell helped engineer nine-play, 75-yard touchdown drive with one minute remaining. The Tar Heels held on to win 28-25 and are now 2-0 on the season.

The last time UNC started a season 2-0 was in 2014. The Tar Heels are also 1-0 in the ACC Coastal Division. The win had Tar Heel fans celebrating, and some chanting, “we want Clemson,” which UNC plays later this month.

The win almost didn’t happen.

UNC was facing a fourth-and-17 with about two minutes remaining. But Howell threw a 20-yard strike to junior wide receiver Rontavius Groves for a first down to the Miami 40-yard line, which kept the game-winning drive alive.

Miami even had a chance to tie the game and send it to overtime. But Miami kicker Bubba Baxa missed what would have been the game-tying, 49-yard field goal.

After the miss, UNC’s players celebrated on the field.

North Carolina coach Mack Brown said earlier in the week that UNC’s game against Miami would show whether the Tar Heels were for real or still a work in progress.

After surrendering an early 14-point lead, they still may be a work in progress. But two wins to start the season, after winning two games all year last season, isn’t bad.

Howell finished Saturday’s game 16-of-24 for 279 yards and two touchdowns.

UNC led for 54 minutes and 21 seconds, while Miami led for three minutes and 37 seconds.

Offsides

The Tar Heels’ running game, their bread and butter, was not very good on Saturday. Through the first three quarters, UNC had only 20 rushing yards and was averaging less than a yard per carry.

Against South Carolina last week, UNC had 238 rushing yards, and its top three rushers — Michael Carter, Javonte Williams and Antonio Williams — all had at least 50 yards.

Against Miami, the Tar Heels rushed for 100 yards on 35 carries. They caught fire when they needed it though. Javonte Williams, a 5-10, 215-pound sophomore, led the way with 76 yards on 10 carries and a touchdown.

First down

Junior linebacker Tomon Fox came up big against the Hurricanes. He had a game-high three sacks. One of the sacks occurred on third down early in the fourth quarter.

Fox, who is 6-3, and 260 pounds, is expected to have a big season this year.

Touchdown

Despite UNC’s struggles to run the ball, Howell played well. He even caught his first career pass, an 18-yard reception from sophomore wide receiver Dyami Brown on a trick play.

This was also the second consecutive game Howell has thrown for more than 200 yards. He also did not commit a turnover in this game.

He threw a 10-yard game-winning touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Dazz Newsome on a corner route with 1:01 left in the game.

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North Carolina’s Dazz Newsome (5) celebrates after scoring on the Tar Heels final drive of the game, scoring on a ten-yard pass from Sam Howell late in the fourth quarter on Saturday, September 7, 2019 at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill, N.C. Robert Willett rwillett@newsobserver.com

ICYMI

The Tar Heels had three starters who went down with injuries in the first half and did not return to the game. Senior cornerback Patrice Rene, senior center Nick Polino and sophomore wide receiver Antoine Green all sustained lower-body injuries.

Polino, who sustained an injury late in the first quarter, had to be helped off the field. After his injury, the Hurricanes started to get better pressure on Howell.

Key numbers

0 times Miami was able to bring out its turnover chain. The Tar Heels took care of the football and did not turn the ball over.

1 penalty. The Tar Heels were a much more disciplined team than they were last week against South Carolina when they had 10 penalties for 90 yards. The one penalty for UNC cost them only five yards.

5 yards in the second quarter. The Tar Heels struggled to move the ball in the second quarter. They allowed the Hurricanes to get back into the game after leading by two scores in the first quarter.

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Jonathan M. Alexander has been covering the North Carolina Tar Heels since May 2018. He previously covered Duke basketball and recruiting in the ACC. He is an alumnus of N.C. Central University.
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