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October 23, 2010

Carolina offense sputters in blowout loss to Miami

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. - If North Carolina could have its first two possessions to do over again, it would.

The Tar Heels squandered a pair of early opportunities and got swept away by Miami's ensuing momentum in a 33-10 loss that ended Butch Davis' three-game winning streak against his former school.

"I think we lost to a pretty good football team tonight," Davis said.

The loss ended a four-game win streak for the Tar Heels (4-3, 2-2 in the ACC) and put them behind the No. 25 Hurricanes (5-2, 3-1) in the race for the Coastal Division title.

Miami quarterback Jacory Harris, who threw four interceptions against UNC last year, got his revenge with a 21-for-32 passing performance for 217 yards and three touchdowns.

The Hurricanes scored 30 unanswered points to erase an early UNC lead and turn the game into a blowout, which helped them rack up 225 yards on the ground.

"When you play against Miami, you don't want to play from behind," Davis said.

Carolina managed just 109 yards of offense in the second half, and quarterback T.J. Yates had his first multi-interception game since last season.

More than half of UNC's rushing total of 149 yards came on a single first-half play.

"We couldn't get a routine going," said tailback Johnny White, who led UNC with 85 yards rushing. "We had plays that just got us off the schedule."

The foreshadowing of the struggles UNC's offense would have all night was apparent from the Heels' first possession.

Despite moving the ball with relative ease down to Miami's 2-yard line, they couldn't finish and had to settle for a 19-yard field goal.

When safety Da'Norris Searcy intercepted Harris on the very next play from scrimmage to set up Carolina at the Miami 20-yard line, the Heels failed to capitalize again.

That time, it was a fumble into the end zone by Anthony Elzy that gave the Hurricanes the ball.

Not to mention all the momentum they would need.

Instead of being up by two touchdowns in the first quarter against a ranked team, the Tar Heels ended up tied at 3 less than a minute into the second quarter.

Those were points that might have changed the Tar Heels' fate.

"That was the biggest part of the game," guard Alan Pelc said. "Those are big momentum builders. We kind of killed ourselves."

The only real offensive punch Carolina showed in the first half was a 76-yard touchdown run by White, the longest of his career and the longest for Carolina since Willie Parker went 77 yards for a score against Maryland in 2001.

But it was as if White used up all of Carolina's offensive mojo on that one run.

White's scoring run aside, the Tar Heels rushed 12 times for five yards in the first half.

And after White's touchdown, the next four UNC possessions yielded a grand total of six yards on 12 plays.

In the meantime, the Heels went from leading by seven to trailing by nine.

And of course, it only got worse from there.

"It's always nice to have a one-play (touchdown) drive, but in the scheme of things, we weren't running that many plays, and that hurt our defense," Yates said.

It was the fourth straight game without injured linebacker Quan Sturdivant for UNC, which was also without starting corner LeCount Fantroy.

Things only got worse for the secondary when Searcy and Mywan Jackson, Carolina's other starting cornerback, were injured during the game and didn't return.

And of course the Tar Heels missed Kendric Burney, who served his six-game agent-related suspension but was withheld due to an unresolved academic issue. Last year against the Hurricanes, Burney had three of those Harris picks, including a 77-yard touchdown and a fumbled return that turned into another Carolina touchdown.

This time around, there were no big plays for the Heels, save for White's long run.

And that wasn't nearly enough to keep their winning streak alive.


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