Five things we learned from Miami Hurricanes’ 24-19 win at North Carolina

CHAPEL HILL, NC – OCTOBER 28: Trajan Bandy #2 of the Miami Hurricanes breaks up a pass intended for Dazz Newsome #19 of the North Carolina Tar Heels during their game at Kenan Stadium on October 28, 2017 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

[Live updates, commentary from the press box]

[Pregame news, notes and photos]

[Report:  Shoulder trouble for Rosier]

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — The Hurricanes keep winning while looking less-than-worthy of their top-10 status.

They were expected to dominate struggling North Carolina, a three-touchdown underdog on its homecoming day. They nearly lost, escaping Kenan Stadium with a 24-19 win.

Miami (7-0, 5-0 ACC), which entered the weekend as one of eight unbeaten FBS teams, is unlikely to give the College Football Playoff selection committee much to consider before Tuesday, when it issues its first rankings of 2017.

Five things we learned:

There’s a lot to clean up.

The Canes have its toughest games of the season ahead, and frankly, it’s hard to be too impressed. Entering Saturday, their four most recent opponents had a combined record of 11-18. UM beat them by a combined 18 points.

If they’re playing possum for Virginia Tech and Notre Dame (both 6-1), they’re doing a very good job.

“I’ve done it too long to apologize for winning,” said Mark Richt, whose team won its 12th consecutive game. “You take pride in what you do. When it’s not clean as it should be, it’s bothersome. It hurts.”

The Hurricanes played down to the level of an opponent missing 21 players due to injury, had not beat an FBS team and was being outscored 90-219 in ACC play.

The offensive line offered weak protection and a lack of push in the run game. Quarterback Malik Rosier missed a bunch of throws and made shaky decisions, earning some stern sideline words from Richt. Travis Homer’s fumble with 2:56 left set up North Carolina for a go-ahead touchdown. The defense busted for big gains, missing tackles all over the field. Miami even allowed a 43-yard kickoff return.

Miami needed Joe Jackson to cause a fumble, and Jaquan Johnson to recover it under a pile, with 2:11 left after Homer’s fumble nearly gave away the game. It was UM’s first fumble of the year.

Again: UNC (1-8, 0-6) has the worst record in the ACC.

“It’s not to our standard,” left tackle Kc McDermott said. “We need to do better.”

Can this Miami offensive line handle Virginia Tech’s defensive front and quality quarterback next week? Can this defense tackle well enough to slow Notre Dame’s outstanding ball-carriers? Can Rosier make the right throws? Their season likely depends on it. Forget the playoffs: playing like they did Saturday would spell a campaign that ends somewhere other than the ACC title game.

Knowing the Hurricanes of 2017, they’ll clean it all up and play well for four quarters, because apparently they need a dramatic setting to perform.

But they’re hardly playing their best ball entering this critical stretch, so it would hardly be a surprise to see them lose.

Stats, but struggles for Rosier.

Miami’s first-year starting quarterback set a career high in passing yards (356), but was not nearly as sharp as he was in last week’s win over Syracuse. He was off-target for most of the game, finishing 16-of-38. He threw three touchdowns and an interception.

In the fourth quarter, he threw his fourth pick of the season (and first since Oct. 7 at Florida State) after missing Ahmmon Richards in the red zone. He fumbled a snap two plays before, while trying to hand to Homer. Earlier in the quarter, he nearly threw another interception — the ball was short and wide — but a defender pushed his receiver, Jeff Thomas, out of the way and earned a pass interference foul.

Miami was 4-of-17 on third down, after entering the weekend 112th nationally in that category.

“It’s a matter of execution,” Richt said. “I know it’s a boring answer. You pass-protect, throw the ball accurately, you catch the ball when it hits your hands, you create space for a runner.” He said he could “call plays that give us a better chance,” but he’s seeing a lot of stacked boxes and one-on-one coverage.

“It’s a matter of getting better at what we do.”

A slew of mental mistakes.

After Homer’s game-changing fumble, fellow sophomore Zach McCloud was called for a 15-yard personal fould. It put UNC at the Miami 37-yard line, with three timeouts in its pocket. Its crowd, less than half-full for what was expected to be a rout, was making as much noise as possible.

Defensive end Joe Jackson made the game-saving play, knocking the ball out of the hands of running back Jordon Brown. Safety Jaquan Johnson scrapped for the rock at the bottom of the pile, and emerged with it.

That was the fourth turnover Miami gained, but it scored zero points off the miscues.

Michael Jackson, Charles Perry and Sheldrick Redwine intercepted Elliott, UNC third-string quarterback, who finished 16-of-39 for 173 yards and a touchdown after replacing injured starter Chazz Surratt in the first quarter. The Tar Heels also gained 176 rushing yards on 46 carries (3.8 per). They wore down Miami’s defense with 92 plays.

Big-play receivers shined.

Rosier could have had a lot more yardage if he was sharper, because Miami had matchup advantages through the air and a lot of one-on-one coverage.

Speedy freshman Jeff Thomas (101 yards, touchdown on three catches) had the first 100-yard day of his career. Another freshman, DeeJay Dallas, put a devastating downshift on a defender for a 49-yard gain. Tight end Chris Herndon spun out of two tackles on a 51-yard touchdown catch-and-run. Braxton Berrios (seven catches, 78 yards, touchdown) made a gorgeous diving catch for a 42-yard gain. Homer, whose hands failed him later, flashed a reliable pair on a 35-yard grab.

Why can’t Miami run the ball?

After weeks of sticking with a Homer-Rosier run game (remember, Mark Walton is hurt), the Hurricanes got two new running backs into the game. Trayone Gray earned two yards on his lone carry, and Dallas was stuffed for no gain.

Homer and his QB didn’t have it much easier. Homer went 16 times for 40 yards, losing the fumble when linebacker Cayson Collins punched it out. Rosier had 20 yards on 12 carries, and saw swallowed up nearly every time he tried to run. His longest gain was an 18-yard keeper.

UM’s ball-carriers gained a season-low 1.8 yards per carry, finishing with 59 yards on 32 tries.

They didn’t have much room to operate. Miami’s offensive line, which featured a three-man rotation between the two guard spots, was pushed around all day. Richt’s best teams — and most teams that win anything of importance — are solid along the lines.

Miami, which has an outstanding defensive front, is halfway there.

“Everything fires in practice,” Berrios said of the offensive struggles. “If we knew what it was, we’d fix it right now. … It might be just going out there and playing, stop worrying.”

The offense hasn’t had that conversation, he said, but “maybe it’s something that needs to be addressed.”

Miami Hurricanes quarterback Malik Rosier had shoulder trouble against UNC

CHAPEL HILL, NC – OCTOBER 28: Jalen Dalton #97 of the North Carolina Tar Heels tackles Malik Rosier #12 of the Miami Hurricanes during their game at Kenan Stadium on October 28, 2017 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

[Video: Postgame reaction from Chapel Hill]

[What Miami players, coaches said after UNC]

[Live updates, commentary from Miami-UNC]

[Pregame news, notes and photos]

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Given Miami’s ranking — eighth in the polls — and North Carolina’s season of struggles, it would not have been a surprise to see the Hurricanes put quarterback Evan Shirreffs in Saturday’s game.

It was a surprise to see it so soon.

Shirreffs, the redshirt sophomore backup to Malik Rosier, ran the Hurricanes’ offense for a first-quarter series after Rosier had shoulder trouble.

Coach Mark Richt said afterward Rosier “dinged” his throwing shoulder before he went to the locker room. ESPN and WQAM’s broadcast teams reported he was getting treatment. Miami’s staff was treating his shoulder afterward, according to a UM staff member, which is why Rosier did not speak to reporters.

Rosier returned to start the second quarter — Shirreffs went 1-for-3 for zero yards — and set a career high in passing yards (356). However, he was 16-of-38, posting his lowest completion percentage (42.1) of the season. He threw three touchdowns and one interception, and had one near-pick called back on a pass-interference call. He also fumbled a snap.

“I would say no,” Richt said, when asked if Rosier’s struggles came from injury. “I would say no. Only he would know for sure and I don’t even know what he’d say. He certainly got it dinged up a little bit, so we weren’t sure what he could do. But after a little bit, he was able to start throwing again and feel comfortable.”

As Shirreffs and the Hurricanes went three-and-out, Rosier ran from the locker room to the sideline, helmet in hand, apparently looking to get back in the game. Richt put him back in at 11:00 of the second quarter.

Rosier, the first-year starter who took over for Brad Kaaya, has thrown for 2,071 yards, 17 touchdowns and four interceptions this season. He has started every game.

Live updates and commentary: No. 8 Miami Hurricanes at North Carolina Tar Heels

CHAPEL HILL, NC – OCTOBER 28: Christopher Herndon IV #23 of the Miami Hurricanes breaks away from Cole Holcomb #36 of the North Carolina Tar Heels for a touchdown during the second quarter of their game at Kenan Stadium on October 28, 2017 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

[Pregame news, notes and photos]

[Report:  Shoulder trouble for Rosier]

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — In this post, we’ll let you know what’s happening in the Miami-UNC game. Join in:

FINAL: No. 8 Miami 24, North Carolina 19

Miami survived an upset bid yet again.

UNC fumble (2:11 4Q) 

Joe Jackson saved Miami by forcing a fumble. Jaquan Johnson recovered.

Miami fumble (2:56 4Q) 

Travis Homer lost the ball when UNC linebacker Cayson Collins punched it out.

UNC has three timeouts and half a field left.

UNC, Miami trade punts (4:56 4Q)

Not much doing on offense here at Kenan Stadium.

Miami interception (8:08 4Q)

After an illegal block made it second-and-28, J.K. Britt collected an interception. Malik Rosier’s throw wasn’t anywhere near Ahmmon Richards, who was bolting to the end zone.

Turnover Chain, Pt. III (9:13 4Q)

Bad throw, easy pick for Sheldrick Redwine.

UNC’s last seven passing attempts: four incompletions, three interceptions.

No. 8 Miami 24, North Carolina 13 (9:26 4Q) 

Braxton Berrios dove and caught a 6-yard touchdown pass, and in response to the last UNC touchdown, threw up the ‘U’ high.

Malik Rosier got lucky on that drive. One of his passes was underthrown and intercepted, but a defender pushed Jeff Thomas out of the way to earn a pass-interference flag. Miami kept driving.

Thomas isn’t the only Miami freshman shining. DeeJay Dallas put a quick shake on a defender and gained 49 yards on a slant. He then took his first carry of his career for no gain, before Rosier hit Berrios for the score.

UNC punt (11:28 4Q) 

UM forced a punt, though UNC got to UM’s 44, further putting a scare into the Canes fans here at Kenan Stadium.

Before that, Miami got lucky on two fronts: UNC tried the same receiver-to-QB trickery, and the pass was incomplete despite the fact UM didn’t have Nathan Elliott covered. Then, Amari Carter was not penalized despite popping the QB-turned-receiver with a hard hit after the ball fell.

Miami punt (15:00 4Q) 

END 3Q: No. 8 Miami 17, North Carolina 13

Turnover Chain Pt. II (0:53) 

On the next play after Miami’s fourth-down failure, linebacker Charles Perry intercepted Nathan Elliott’s pass over the middle.

Miami turnover on downs (0:59 3Q)

Miami’s struggling offensive line allowed two sacks, putting the Hurricanes at third-and-22, before UM went for it on fourth-and-13 from the 37. Rosier’s pass was tipped.

There were promising moments before that. Braxton Berrios laid out and made a spectacular 42-yard catch, tracking a deep ball and securing it as he crashed to the turf. Rosier showed good wheels on an 18-yard keeper around the right side.

Turnover Chain (4:47 3Q) 

Michael Jackson hauled in an arm-punt at the UM 4-yard line. There wasn’t a lot of celebrating, at least compared to what we’ve seen when Miami breaks out its Turnover Chain.

Quarterback Nathan Elliott, the Tar Heels’ third-stringer, bounced off a tackle for an 11-yard keeper. He hit former St. Andrew’s tight end Jake Bargas for 14, and UNC had momentum before the interception.

Miami punt (6:48 3Q) 

Jeff Thomas was swallowed at his own 8, and Miami advanced to its own 25.

Miami has 30 rushing yards on 15 carries and is 3-for-12 on third down.

No. 8 Miami 17, North Carolina 13 (7:54 3Q)

The Hurricanes continue to look like anything but the nation’s eight-ranked team.

Miami allowed a 43-yard kickoff return to Anthony Ratliff-Williams, a 28-yard Jordon Brown catch and a 12-yard rush by Brown as the Tar Heels marched to the red zone in three plays.

Then the Heels used another trick play: quarterback Nathan Elliott handed to Ratliff-Williams, who floated one to Beau Corrales for an 18-yard touchdown. Ratliff-Williams found Elliott for 33 yards in the first quarter, a play that set up the game’s first points (a UNC field goal).

Corrales, a freshman from Texas, put up the ‘U’ hand sign and turned it down — shades of former UNC quarterback Marquise Williams, who did the same thing during his team’s 59-21 blowout of the Hurricanes in their last visit to Chapel Hill.

Injury notes: Jaquan Johnson returned to the lineup. … Michael Pinckney was in pain after a collision. He walked off with UM’s trainers.

No. 8 Miami 17, North Carolina 6 (9:52 3Q)

More offensive frustration.

Miami had outstanding field position at the Tar Heels’ 13, but couldn’t turn Jonathan Garvin’s blocked punt into a touchdown.

Michael Badgley’s 21-yard field goal extended the Hurricanes’ lead, after UM went nine yards in four plays.

UNC turnover (11:03 3Q)

Jonathan Garvin’s block-and-tackle on punter Tom Sheldon gave Miami the ball at UNC’s 13-yard line.

It was the first Miami blocked punt since Zach McCloud since Oct. 29, 2016 at Notre Dame. That was also the last time Miami lost a game.

Injury note: safety Jaquan Johnson, one of UM’s best defensive players, sat on the turf as trainers assessed him. He jogged off.

No. 8 Miami 14, North Carolina 6 (14:43 3Q)

Crisis over?

Freshman Jeff Thomas took the first play from scrimmage 78 yards for a touchdown. He was wide open, Malik Rosier hit him near the 30 and he took it the rest of the way. It was the longest passing play of the season for the Hurricanes.

That gave the fleet-footed Illinois native his first career 100-yard game. He has 101 yards and a touchdown on three grabs. Thomas is averaging a cool 34.28 yards per catch in his last two-plus games (7 receptions, 240 yards, two touchdowns).

Halftime thoughts

HALF: No. 8 Miami 7,  North Carolina 6

In the first half, Miami’s defense allowed 248 total yards to a team that hasn’t won an FBS game this year.

UNC gained 15 first downs, was 4-of-11 on third down, converted a fourth-down try, ran 46 plays and held the ball for 17:52. Four different players completed a pass, with backup quarterback Nathan Elliott (subbing for the injured Chazz Surratt) going 10-for-18 for 88 yards. Backup running back Jordon Brown broke a 56-yard run and finished the half with 70 yards on 13 carries.

Miami’s offense was 3-for-9 on third downs and averaged 5.2 yards per play.

Miami ran the ball 11 times for 19 yards.

Miami punt (0:59 2Q)

After a punt rolled to Miami’s 24, UM tried to string together a last-minute drive. It went 12 yards on four plays.

The offensive woes continue.

UNC unt (1:31 2Q)

UNC went backward on three plays, and Miami  will get a shot to score before the half.

Smart call: Mark Richt called timeout after UNC ran the ball on first down, hoping to put together a one-minute drive to end the half.

No. 8 Miami 7, North Carolina 6 (1:58 2Q) 

After sleepwalking through most of the first half, Miami is on the board.

Tight end Chris Herndon caught a pass from Rosier near the 35, spun out of two would-be tackles, and raced 51 yards to the house for UM’s first touchdown. That was the longest career reception for the senior, who had a career-high 10 catches and 96 yards and a touchdown last week against Syracuse.

The other highlight play of the drive: Jeff Thomas made a 17-yard catch on third-and-8 to give Miami some life.

Personnel notes: Trayone Gray started the drive at tailback. He carried once for two yards. Right guard Hayden Mahoney returned, after ceding that spot to Navaughn Donaldson for a series.

North Carolina 6, No. 8 Miami (3:48 2Q) 

The longest career field goal for UNC’s Freeman Jones, a 45-yarder, extended the Tar Heels’ lead.

Jones entered the day 4-for-8 on three-point tries.

Elsewhere: Miami’s front seven, as usual, is doing its job. But its secondary, as usual, is shaky.

A holding call on safety Robert Knowles moved the chains to the UNC 38. Cornerback Michael Jackson allowed a 26-yard catch — he thought he was about to pick it off — at the Miami 41. Cornerback Trajan Bandy lost his man on a 7-yard reception.

Defensive tackle R.J. McIntosh broke up a pass — his sixth of the year — and defensive end Demetrius Jackson pressured quarterback Nathan Elliott into an incomplete throw to force the field goal.

Miami punt (6:58 2Q) 

Miami’s offense — in particularly its offensive line — continues to struggle.

A tipped pass on third-and-8 led to another punt. Malik Rosier (shoulder), who returned after a one-series absence, was under pressure from North Carolina’s front.

Braxton Berrios drew a pass-interference call — offset by a hold on Tyler Gauthier — and made a sliding 9-yard grab to get Miami near midfield. Jeff Thomas made a leaping 9-yard grab on third down. Miami converted on fourth-and-inches in its jumbo package to keep the drive going at the Tar Heels’ 45. But it did little else.

Personnel notes: Navaughn Donaldson entered the game at right guard. Donaldson sprained his ankle Oct. 7 at Florida State and missed the next two games. … UM used two tight ends (Chris Herndon and the returning Michael Irvin II) and fullback Michael Parrott on fourth-and-inches at the UNC 46.

UNC turnover on downs (11:00 2Q)

The Tar Heels tried a fake punt pass instead of try a 42-yard field goal, but got 5 of the 18 yards they needed.  Shaq Quarterman made the stop.

END 1Q: North Carolina 3, No. 8 Miami 0 

UNC outgained UM 156-43 after the first quarter, gaining eight first downs to Miami’s two. The Tar Heels, who had the ball for 10:15 of the first 15 minutes, were driving on the Canes’ side of the field. On fourth-and-1 at the Miami 43, quarterback Nathan Elliot found 2 yards on a sneak.

Miami QB change and punt (3:56 1Q)

In a surprising development, Miami also made a quarterback change.

Evan Shirreffs, the redshirt sophomore backup to Malik Rosier, ran the offense that drive.

WQAM and ESPN’s broadcast teams reported Rosier had shoulder trouble. He went to the locker room. As Shirreffs and the Hurricanes went three-and-out, Rosier ran from the locker room to the sideline, helmet in hand, apparently looking to get back in the game.

North Carolina 3, No. 8 Miami 0 (4:52 1Q)

A quarterback change helped UNC score the game’s first points.

Linebacker Zach McCloud hit quarterback Chazz Surratt hard, and a moment too late, and drew a 15-yard foul. Surratt was taken out for sophomore Nathan Elliott.

Elliott’s first play was a reception. He raced down the field as UNC ran a double-reverse, and wideout Anthony Ratliff-Williams heaved a 33-yard pass to the wide-open quarterback. He was pushed out by Sheldrick Redwine at the 4.

Miami’s defense knocked UNC back three yards before the field goal.

Miami missed FG (6:48 1Q)

Michael Badgley, apparently as sleepy as the rest of the offense, was well short on a 53-yard try. Carolina ball at the 36.

UM sputtered after it got beyond midfield. Travis Homer made a slick grab and showed quick feet for a 35-yard pickup, but dropped a screen pass later on the drive. Jeff Thomas was covered on a deep shot to the end zone. Malik Rosier scrambled but found little room.

Formation notes: Miami started the drive with Homer in the slot next to Braxton Berrios, with Chris Herndon, Ahmmon Richards and Thomas out wide.

North Carolina almost scored (9:15 1Q)

It has been this kind of season for UNC: immensely frustrating.

The Tar Heels opened at their 10 after a back-spinning punt from Miami’s Zach Feagles. On the first play, sophomore Jordon Brown — UNC’s backup, starting for injured freshman Michael Carter — took it 56 yards up the sideline. The Hurricanes, apparently still asleep, missed several tackles on that play and the ones after.

Brown nearly scored a 1-yard rushing touchdown after quarterback Chazz Surratt found Dazz Newsome for a 23-yard gain, but his knee was ruled down after review.

UM’s defense, wiping crust from its eyes, forced fourth-and-goal from the 1. Linebacker Shaq Quarterman sacked Surratt for a 10-yard loss, then turned to the sideline with his arms out as if to say, “What, me worry?”

Miami punt (12:16 1Q)

Malik Rosier’s low throw on third-and-10 forced a Miami punt, after Travis Homer went nowhere on UM’s first two run plays. UNC’s defense is fired up, as is a thin crowd of home fans. The crowd is about 80/20 Carolina blue, but about 50/50 empty seats.

Personnel notes: Jeff Thomas started out wide. Hayden Mahoney started at right guard.

UNC punt (13:38 1Q)

Jaquan Johnson had a near-pick on the first third-down try. UNC gained two yards on its first drive. Braxton Berrios did not fair-catch, and returned a punt 15 yard to the 50.

Kickoff 

Miami won the toss and deferred until the second half.

Amari Carter made a diving tackle at the 9-yard line.

Pregame live: No. 8 Miami Hurricanes at North Carolina Tar Heels

A view of Kenan Stadium an hour before Miami and North Carolina kicked off. (Matt Porter/The Palm Beach Post)

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Keep it locked here for live updates before Miami and North Carolina played an ACC Coastal game.

Live game blog 

Click here to follow the action.

Personnel notes

Sophomore tight end Michael Irvin II, who was suspended last game, is back and warming up.

Freshman running back Robert Burns, who has yet to play this season, is not here. He is headed toward a redshirt season.

Senior defensive end Chad Thomas (shoulder/arm), linebacker Michael Pinckney (chest), right guard Navaughn Donaldson (ankle), cornerback Dee Delaney (knee) — listed as probable on the injury report — receivers Mike Harley (ankle) and Ahmmon Richards (hamstring/ankle) are all  warming up.

Donaldson, who missed the last two games after spraining his right ankle against Florida State, was warming up as the second-team right guard, an indication he may come off the bench (or not play at all).

Fired up

Senior left tackle Kc McDermott raced out of the tunnel and jumped around and threw his arms up to the visiting section of fans. He’s got the juice today, as they say.

Uniform check

Miami is in white jerseys and orange pants. UNC is in all-navy and white helmets.

Slogans

Weather report

Beautiful day here in the Triangle. Temperature at 11 a.m. is 61 degrees, with a high of 72 expected. Skies are clear. Humidity is 69 percent. A gentle breeze rolls through the pine trees behind the west side of Kenan Memorial Stadium.

Miami-North Carolina 2017: Who has the edge, matchups, prediction

 

MIAMI GARDENS, FL – OCTOBER 21: Malik Rosier #12 of the Miami Hurricanes calls a play during a game against the Syracuse Orange at Sun Life Stadium on October 21, 2017 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

With its last-second thrills and newfound heroes, Miami’s season is starting to look like a Disney movie.

Meanwhile, North Carolina is trapped in a horror flick.

 

Saturday’s show in Chapel Hill (noon, ESPN2) won’t have a dramatic Hollywood ending. It won’t be anything like 2004, when the unranked Tar Heels stunned the fourth-ranked Hurricanes on a last-second field goal. Frankly, it won’t be very competitive — unless the eighth-ranked Hurricanes (6-0, 4-0 ACC) are interested in keeping it closer than the three-touchdown spread suggests they will.

UNC (1-7, 0-5) just doesn’t have much this year. No less than 21 players are unavailable this week due to injury, 17 of them ruled out for the season. Coach Larry Fedora, who lost quarterback Mitch Trubisky (the No. 2 pick in the NFL draft) and a host of offensive talent last offseason, expected a rebuilding year, but nothing like this.

Miami, which has won 11 games in a row and is the ACC’s only remaining unbeaten team, could finally score a comfortable win before the first College Football Playoff rankings come out Tuesday. UNC, which has lost its last 10 games to Power 5 teams, just hopes it won’t lose more players.

The matchups, and a prediction:

When Miami passes

Coach Mark Richt and players said this week that defensive coordinator John Papuchis’ unit has played better than the statistics show. UNC has been frisky in stretches — like a 20-14 loss to Virginia two  weeks ago — but ranks among the bottom 30 teams nationally in most categories, including points allowed (34.6), yards per carry against (4.79) and opponent passer rating (140.27). The Heels allow 5.87 yards per play, second-worst among ACC teams.

Quarterback Malik Rosier faces a pass rush that is 61st (of 130 FBS teams) in sacks per game and 64th in tackles for loss, but UM’s protection has been solid and may get a boost with the return of true freshman right guard Navaughn Donaldson, who missed the last two games with an ankle sprain. He was not listed on UM’s injury report. Receiver Ahmmon Richards (hamstring, ankle) says he’s healthy, but Miami won’t need him.

As long as Rosier avoids cornerback M.J. Stewart, a senior NFL draft prospect, he should have success. Edge: Miami

When Miami runs 

This could be an active day for UM running backs not named Travis Homer. No one besides Homer and Rosier carried the ball in last week’s 27-19 win over Syracuse, and if Trayone Gray and DeeJay Dallas are going to help Miami in its tougher upcoming games against Virginia Tech and Notre  Dame, the Canes should get their feet wet Saturday.

UNC’s rush D has been respectable in the last two games, holding Virginia and Virginia Tech to a combined 3.62 yards per carry. Both opponents carried nearly 50 times, content to put the ball on the ground and get away with a win. Miami might follow a similar blueprint, though given its personnel it may use short passes to the same effect. Edge: Miami

When North Carolina passes 

Fedora is rotating turnover-prone quarterbacks Chazz Surratt and Brandon Harris, but his offensive line may be a greater worry. The Tar Heels had more false starts (eight) than points (seven) in last week’s 59-7 loss at Virginia Tech.

UN ranks among the bottom 30 teams nationally in sacks and tackles for loss allowed, and three FBS teams have been worse on third down (27.68 percent). Miami has one of the best front sevens in college football, and its pass-rush is elite. Edge: Miami

When North Carolina runs 

The Heels got more bad news this week regarding — of course — an injury to top freshman tailback Michael Carter, who will miss the game with an undisclosed ailment. He was eighth in the ACC in yards per carry (6.01), and had 403 yards and seven touchdowns on 67 carries. Jordon Brown, a sophomore, will take the bulk of carries this week.

UM’s performance on third downs is a concern (40.37 percent conversions allowed), and the run defense is part of the problem. Stopping the run will be critical to Miami’s chances of beating Notre Dame in two weeks; the Irish’s playoff hopes rest on its outstanding rushing attack. This should be a tuneup for a unit that has been too pliable for its coaches’ liking. Edge: Miami

Special teams

Five teams nationally have punted more than UNC, and it could be punting more if its quarterbacks weren’t throwing so many interceptions (11, sixth-most in the country). The Heels are the only team in the nation to have allowed both a kickoff return and a punt return of 90-plus yards. Miami has explosive speed in Raleigh, N.C. native Braxton Berrios (punts) and freshman Jeff Thomas (kicks). UM’s Michael Badgley (11-for-12) has been more successful than UNC’s Freeman Jones (4-for-8), though if the Canes have their way, he’ll be kicking for single points Saturday. Edge: Miami

Coaching 

Tough to be too critical of Fedora, who is headed toward the worst finish of his 10-year coaching career. He knew his offense would take a step back with the loss of Trubisky, draft defector Elijah Hood and several seniors.  Then defensive coordinator Gene Chizik stepped down after signing day, throwing that side of the ball into arrears. Richt has Miami headed toward the ranks of the elite, and though his team may lack the depth of a typical title contender, it hasn’t lost in nearly a calendar year (last Oct. 29 at Notre Dame). Edge: Miami

Prediction 

In the last 40 years, the Tar Heels are 4-30 against top-10 teams, with one win against a top-five team. That was in 2004 against Miami, after which fans tore down the goalposts in Chapel Hill. UNC sold $150 chunks of the felled pipes as souvenirs. In order to keep themselves hungry, this current group of Canes can recall the 59-21 shellacking they took in their last visit to Kenan Stadium, in 2015. That UNC team was headed toward the league championship game. This UM team could be on the same path. Miami 45, UNC 7

More Miami-UNC 2017

[Delaney only player on Miami injury report]

[Talking tackles: McIntosh shining, Willis on track]

[Short-yardage, third-down, red zone among UM’s issues]

[Bowl projections: ‘Playoffs? You kidding me?’]

[Canes OL has its own kind of ‘Turnover Chain’]

[Richards trying to hurdle injuries, inconsistency]

[Miami national title odds have dropped]

[Richt: UM not fooling itself with first-half success]

[Injured Walton returns, inspires teammates]

[Irvin off scout team, suspension over]

Miami Hurricanes basketball picked fourth in ACC preseason poll 

Bruce Brown posing for a photo in Nov. 2016. (Matt Porter/The Palm Beach Post)

Three quick hits from the ACC’s basketball media days in Charlotte:

Miami was picked to finish fourth in the preseason media poll, tying its highest preseason predicted finish ever (2008-09). UM earned one first-place vote from the 69 ballots cast.

Sophomore guard Bruce Brown was a preseason  All-ACC second-team pick. Brown earned one vote for preseason player of the year. That honor went to Notre Dame forward Bonzie Colson.

Freshman guard Lonnie Walker finished second in the preseason rookie of the year voting. Duke forward Marvin Bagley was the runaway winner.

The voting:

ACC Operation Basketball 2017-18 Preseason Poll

(First-place votes in parenthesis)

Team & Points

1. Duke (57) – 1020

2. North Carolina (7) – 921

3. Notre Dame (4) – 852

4. Miami (1) – 809

5. Louisville – 733

6. Virginia – 690

7. Virginia Tech – 549

8. Florida State – 519

9. Georgia Tech – 468

10. Syracuse – 420

11. Wake Forest – 378

12. NC State – 310

13. Clemson – 289

14. Boston College – 181

15. Pittsburgh – 141

 

2017-18 Preseason All-ACC Team

(votes in parenthesis)

First Team

Bonzie Colson, Notre Dame (64)

Grayson Allen, Duke (60)

Joel Berry II, North Carolina (58)

Marvin Bagley III, Duke (26)

Ben Lammers, Georgia Tech (25)

 

Second Team

Bruce Brown Jr., Miami (22)

Quentin Snider, Louisville (12)

Deng Adel, Louisville (12)

Josh Okogie, Georgia Tech (11)

Jerome Robinson, Boston College (11)
ACC Preseason Player of the Year

Bonzie Colson, Notre Dame (49)

Grayson Allen, Duke (9)

Joel Berry II, North Carolina (9)

Bruce Brown Jr., Miami (1)

Jerome Robinson, Boston College (1)
ACC Preseason Rookie of the Year

Marvin Bagley III, Duke (58)

Lonnie Walker IV, Miami (3)

Lavar Batts Jr., NC State (2)

M.J. Walker, Florida State (2)

Jalek Felton, North Carolina (1)

Aamir Simms, Clemson (1)

Oshae Brissett, Syracuse (1)

De’Andre Hunter, Virginia (1)

Miami Hurricanes’ top DT has as many PBUs as Florida State’s top DB; Gerald Willis will ‘play a bunch’ in 2018

MIAMI GARDENS, FL – OCTOBER 21: Eric Dungey #2 of the Syracuse Orange stiff arms RJ McIntosh #80 of the Miami Hurricanes during a game at Sun Life Stadium on October 21, 2017 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

[What’s up with UM in the red zone?]

[Bowl projections entering Week 9]

[Miami’s OL has its own type of ‘Turnover Chain’]

[To make Playoff, Miami may need to go unbeaten]

Gerald Willis continues to terrorize UM’s scout-team offensive line, to the point coaches have asked him to slow down, according to defensive coordinator Manny Diaz. 

Willis, who left the team for personal reasons last summer before returning for August camp, is still on track to play in 2018.

“Oh yeah, absolutely,” coach Mark Richt said. “He’ll play a bunch, too.”

Asked to clarify the reasons behind Willis’ absence — UM has deemed them “personal” and said nothing more — Richt said this:

“What I want to clarify what we know. We know he’s not playing this year, he’s working with the team, he’s healthy, and he’s going to have a great senior year.”

UM opens 2018 in Arlington, Texas against LSU — a team that lost Willis, a New Orleans native, to Florida in the 2014 recruiting cycle. Wills transferred to Miami the following year.

Willis, a redshirt junior listed at 6-foot-4 and 285 pounds, will be needed in 2018 considering UM could lose standout starters R.J. McIntosh and Kendrick Norton to the NFL draft. They have been two of UM’s best players.

They have combined for 3.0 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss, but their inside pressure has let UM’s ends and linebackers make plays. Miami ranks third in the ACC in sacks and fifth in tackles for loss.

McIntosh broke up five passes last week — catapulting him into a tie for 10th place in the ACC in that category. For perspective, McIntosh has as many PBUs as Florida State’s top cornerback, Tarvarus McFadden.

Sophomore Pat Bethel and freshman Jon Ford are expected to be a larger part of UM’s defensive tackle rotation, and four-star recruit Nesta Silvera is likely to see time. UM will be loaded at end; even though Chad Thomas and Trent Harris will graduate, Joe Jackson, Demetrius Jackson, D.J. Johnson and Jonathan Garvin return.

Short-yardage, red-zone and third-down struggles hampering unbeaten Miami Hurricanes

MIAMI GARDENS, FL – OCTOBER 14: The Miami Hurricanes line up against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets during a game at Sun Life Stadium on October 14, 2017 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

[Bowl projections entering Week 9]

[Miami’s OL has its own type of ‘Turnover Chain’]

[To make Playoff, Miami may need to go unbeaten]

Thomas Brown was a tailback at Georgia when Mark Richt‘s teams dominated with a power run game. Richt hasn’t changed his style since. How close are the Hurricanes to imposing their will in that way?

“We’re not even close,” said Brown, Richt’s offensive coordinator and running backs coach.

Miami has been productive through the air, but Richt wants balance.  Their inconsistent running game — especially in short-yardage and goal-line situations — was a major reason UM lost four games in a row last year, and is a concern entering a make-or-break November.

In three October games — all close wins over Florida State, Georgia Tech and Syracuse — Miami ranks 77th nationally in yards per carry (3.36). Last October, when Miami went 1-4 with four losses in a row, the Hurricanes were 127th of 128 FBS teams (2.42).

Miami’s offensive line has improved since then, and Richt and his staff has a better handle on its players. But UM also had three available running backs then. The run game now consists of Travis Homer and quarterback Malik Rosier. 

Brown feels the Hurricanes move the ball well when Miami “has more grass, has more space. In the red zone and goal line, we struggle.”

The numbers back him up, painting a picture of a team doing just enough to score. In its last three games, Miami has taken 12 trips inside its opponents’ 20-yard line. It has scored every time — seven field goals, five touchdowns — but its frustration has mounted.

“We’re getting too many field goals,” Rosier said. “As much I love Badge [Michael Badgley] and watching him kick field goals, I’d rather it be a PAT instead of a three-pointer.”

In the red zone this month:

* UM has gained 37 yards on 13 carries (2.84), not including Rosier’s 4-yard loss on a slide to set up a winning field goal against Georgia Tech. Mark Walton, lost for the season on Oct. 7, had two of UM’s three first downs.

* Rosier is 7-for-14 for 66 yards and four touchdowns. Those numbers aren’t bad — especially considering big plays, like Jeff Thomas‘ 70-yard catch against Georgia Tech, Darrell Langham‘s fourth-and-10 grab for 28 yards and Ahmmon Richards’ 32-yard catch at FSU, put Miami in the red area. Langham’s 23-yard winning touchdown against the Seminoles, while not technically in the red zone, is a clear-cut example of production when it counts.

But Miami wants more, especially considering it sees the same root of its third-down problems. UM is 12-for-42 on third down in its last three games — 28.57 percent — which ranks 112th nationally. That is also Miami’s season-long ranking on third down. UM was 99th last year, and 125th in its woeful October.

“Me against you, we’re just getting too many stalemates,” Brown said. “Even from a tailback standpoint, we can be more physical. We don’t have the biggest guys in the world, but they do a good job.” Homer’s “reads are always clean,” Brown said, but he needs to “finish full-speed in the goal line area. You’ve got to whip somebody’s butt.

“We’ve got to execute better. It’s not a play-calling deal. It’s not bad design. It’s just me-against-you, one-on-one, drop a ball, get beat on a block, not running a guy over, not making a guy miss, wrong read by a quarterback. All of those things add to our struggles not scoring touchdowns in the red zone.”

[Related: Richards on his injuries, inconsistency]

The line is better this year, but has been so-so overall. Searels found a gem in true freshman right guard Navaughn Donaldson, but he hasn’t played since spraining his ankle Oct. 7 against Florida State. True freshman Corey Gaynor and a 2015 signee, Hayden Mahoney are learning on the job.

Senior left tackle Kc McDermott has been UM’s best offensive lineman, and helped spring Homer for a 33-yard touchdown that sealed last week’s win over Syracuse. Right tackle Tyree St. Louis and center Tyler Gauthier have been solid, but not dominant. They were part of a 2015 class that has yielded little else. UM’s hopes rest in the 2017 and future classes.

After losing Marquez Williams to graduation, Richt has tried Gaynor at fullback, but last week swapped him for walk-on Michael Parrott. Tight end Michael Irvin II has been in his doghouse, so Richt had to use converted defensive end Scott Patchan in UM’s goal-line package last week.

On a first-quarter sequence, he even tried Richards as an H-back, asking him to throw a cut block on a Homer run that went nowhere. Georgia Tech “pretty much stoned us,” Richt said. Two plays later, Richards, Miami’s best wideout, dropped a touchdown pass that would have made the red-zone numbers look better.

“We’re frustrated as coaches,” Richt said. “I know the players are. We just have to get more movement. We have to run better. We have to get behind our pads. If we do throw the ball, we have to put it in play and guys have to hang onto it.

“If you score from a distance, that helps. You don’t even have to mess with the red-zone stuff.”

Elsewhere:

* Homer was the only back who took a carry last week. How close is UM to trusting Homer’s backups with key carries? Trayone Gray has two carries in the last four games, and six this season. DeeJay Dallas hasn’t carried yet.

Brown said last week UM went more empty-backfield, four-wide. Gray (6-2, 230) is not a split-out back.

“I have confidence in Trayone, situation-wise and knowing what to do,” Brown said. “He knows pass-protection. He does a pretty good job in the run game. Obviously, DeeJay has a long way to go when it comes to pass protection. Syracuse is a huge pressure team. They did it on first and second down. We couldn’t afford to have a pick, a turnover.”

More Canes over here

[Miami-Virginia Tech: ACC waits to announce kickoff]

[UM’s national title odds dropping fast]

[Injured star Walton inspires teammates]

[Richt: Canes ‘not foolish enough to think we’ve arrived]

[Irvin II off scout team]

[Pinckney, Herndon honored by ACC]

[How to fix Richards’ drops; Jeff Thomas elite?]

[Pinckney: ‘Everybody is doubting us’]

[Irvin suspended; Richt’s day-after comments]

[North Carolina a chance for UM to find consistency]

[Longest UM win streak in 15 years | 8th in polls]

 

 

 

Miami Hurricanes bowl projections: Orange Bowl a popular pick

Heisman contender Saquon Barkley (left) and Travis Homer (right) would face off if Penn State met Miami in a bowl. (Getty Images photos)

Miami is certain to be included in the first set of College Football Playoff rankings, which is released Tuesday.

A win at North Carolina on Saturday (noon, ESPN2) would put the Hurricanes at 7-0 (5-0 ACC). Entering this game against the Tar Heels (1-7, 0-5), Miami is one of six Power Five teams without a loss. That streak should continue.

Miami’s toughest tests of the season come in the next two weeks, with Virginia Tech and Notre Dame (a combined 12-2) visiting Hard Rock Stadium. To make the College Football Playoff, it seems UM would need to win both of those games, at least.

Entering Week 9, some postseason projections, rankings and other numbers on Miami:

* Miami opened the year at No. 18 in the Associated Press poll and has climbed to No. 8 after winning its first six games. Miami hasn’t lost since last Oct. 29 at Notre Dame, a span of 11 games.

* ESPN’s FiveThirtyEight gives Miami a 33 percent chance to win the ACC. Clemson, the only team with a better projection, is at 34 percent. North Carolina State: 21 percent. Virginia Tech: 10 percent. Those numbers are sure to shift drastically next week, since Miami hosts Virginia Tech and N.C. State hosts Clemson on Nov. 4.

* The Hurricanes, per FiveThirtyEight, have a 20 percent chance to make the playoff. Clemson is at 31 percent. Virginia Tech and N.C. State are 7 and 6 percent, respectively.

* FiveThirtyEight gives Miami a 3 percent chance to win the national title. Clemson: 7 percent. Alabama is far and away the favorite, at 28 percent.

* The Hurricanes have a 10 percent chance of winning its remaining games on its way to an ACC title. Clemson: 22 percent. Virginia Tech: 8 percent. N.C. State: 4 percent.

* ESPN’s FPI rankings give UM a 6.5 percent chance of winning out and a 32.8 percent chance of winning the ACC. Miami is given a 60.8 percent chance to beat Virginia Tech and has a less than 50 percent chance to win one of its remaining five games: Notre Dame, at 41.4 percent.

* Miami is No. 11 in SB Nation writer Bill Connelly’s S&P+ ratings, which is precisely where it was pre-Florida State.

* The last time we did a bowl projections roundup — Oct. 5, before UM beat the Seminoles — the Hurricanes were getting a lot of love for the Orange Bowl. Nine of the 11 then-current picks collected had Miami playing at home.

This week, it is nine of 12, and Sports Illustrated was so bold as to make Miami a College Football Playoff pick.

The roundup:

247Sports (Brad Crawford): Orange Bowl vs. Penn State, Dec. 30 at Hard Rock Stadium

Athlon Sports (Steven Lassan): Orange Bowl vs. Penn State

College Football News: Orange Bowl vs. Penn State

College Sports Madness: Peach Bowl vs. USF, Jan. 1 in Atlanta

CBS Sports (Jerry Palm): Orange Bowl vs. Georgia

ESPN (Kyle Bonagura): Orange Bowl vs. Georgia

ESPN (David Hale): Orange Bowl vs. Ohio State

SB Nation (Jason Kirk): Orange Bowl vs. Penn State

The Score (Brett McMurphy): Orange Bowl vs. Georgia

Sports Illustrated (Eric Single): Sugar Bowl (CFP) vs. Alabama, Jan. 1 in New Orleans

Sporting News (Bill Bender): Orange Bowl vs. Ohio State

USA Today (Erick Smith): Camping World Bowl vs. Oklahoma State, Dec. 28 in Orlando

Past projections

**The All-American (Stewart Mandel): Pinstripe Bowl vs. Nebraska

**ESPN (Desmond Howard): College Football Playoff semifinal vs. Alabama

**ESPN (Paul Finebaum): “I think The U is back.” Finebaum picked UM as his team outside the top 15 that could make the College Football Playoff.

**Sports on Earth (Matt Brown): Fiesta Bowl vs. Washington, Dec. 30 in Glendale, Ariz.

* Pick made before Sept. 30 games
** Pick made before the season 

Miami Hurricanes O-linemen have their own kind of ‘Turnover Chain’

Kc McDermott and Sebastian the Ibis before Miami-Georgia Tech. (Allen Eyestone/The Palm Beach Post)

[Richards on his injuries, inconsistency]

[To make Playoff, Miami may need to go unbeaten]

[Miami-Virginia Tech: ACC waits to announce kickoff]

[UM’s national title odds dropping fast]

[Injured star Walton inspires teammates]

[Richt: Canes ‘not foolish enough to think we’ve arrived]

CORAL GABLES — Their teammates get to have a little more fun. After making an interception last week against Syracuse, Miami cornerback Michael Jackson, proudly wearing the Turnover Chain, held a football like a newborn and pretended to rock it to sleep. In the crowd behind Jackson and the TV camera, a player put on a pair of shades and posed.

After Tuesday’s practice, right guard Corey Gaynor was preening in a decidedly less flashy manner.

“I’m gonna build a house,” he said.

This year, Miami’s offensive linemen show their swagger with bricks, not chains.

Hurricanes who make interceptions and fumble recoveries get to wear a gold-plated Cuban link necklace with a ‘U” pendant made of orange-and-green stones. It has become a viral sensation. Big men get their reward, though it’s decidedly more workmanlike.

“It’s a brick painted in school colors with your number and the score on it,” said Gaynor, a freshman from Parkland-Douglas High. “It’s an actual brick that they paint, and it’s awesome.”

Gaynor has two, for crushing blocks against Georgia Tech and Syracuse. Senior left tackle Kc McDermott has three bricks. Junior center Tyler Gauthier has one.

Unfortunately for the linemen, they have to wait to celebrate. Bricks aren’t awarded on the sideline. They’re handed out when coaches review the film afterward.

Though offensive players can’t get the Turnover Chain, Gaynor still has dreams of doing a touchdown dance. In his first half-season at UM, he was briefly used as a fullback. Which would make him an eligible receiver, and maybe he could …

“Catch a pass?” he said, grabbing hold of a reporter’s intimation. “One-handed, down the sideline, for sure.

“I say, ‘Offensive lineman by day, skill position by night.'”

O-line notes 

* Freshman right guard Navaughn Donaldson (sprained right ankle at Florida State on Oct. 7) “probably could have played last week,” offensive line coach Stacy Searels said. “Trying to get him a little bit better. Hopefully he’ll be back out there this week.”

* According to our count, three offensive linemen — McDermott, Gauthier and right tackle Tyree St. Louis — have played all but 10 snaps this season. The only time they went to the bench: late in the fourth quarter of Miami’s season-opener against FCS Bethune-Cookman.

Searels said McDermott has been graded highest: “He’ll play good the whole game and then there’s one pressure here or one bad block here and he’s really done a good job of eliminating the bad play.” Searels would like to see St. Louis be more physical, though he’s hardly ever on the correction tape Searels shows in meetings.

* Right guard Hayden Mahoney “may not have the most ability,” Searels said, “but he trusts his fundamentals, his techniques and plays with great effort. I trust him and he’s doing a good job.”

* Gaynor was shifted off the fullback position for walk-on Michael Parrott, who made his debut last week. Gaynor said he “messed up a little bit” in the Duke game. UM had a goal-line play that was busted (more on UM’s goal-line struggles in a post to come).

More Canes over here

[Irvin II off scout team]

[Pinckney, Herndon honored by ACC]

[How to fix Richards’ drops; Jeff Thomas elite?]

[Pinckney: ‘Everybody is doubting us’]

[Irvin suspended; Richt’s day-after comments]

[North Carolina a chance for UM to find consistency]

[Longest UM win streak in 15 years | 8th in polls]