With the Tar Heels struggling for extended periods, particularly at the end of the second quarter and falling behind on the scoreboard in the third period, the Hurricanes could simply tee off. Miami sacked Yates five times, and at least that many times forced him to scramble for the sidelines. As the game wore on and the more UNC fell behind, the more difficult UNC’s task of protecting its quarterback became.
“Especially late in the ballgame when you’re down that much, you’ve got to be throwing the ball,” Yates said. “The thing is we can’t get in that situation, because … that situation it is one of the toughest ones.”
Butch Davis acknowledged the role that Miami’s pressure had on the outcome, and noted the failure of North Carolina to get good yardage on first down enabled the Hurricanes to dial up pressure on Yates all night long.
“The formula when you play against Miami is that you don’t want to play from behind because then they’ve got outstanding defensive linemen that can pressure the quarterback,” Davis said.
“You need to keep them honest, you need to keep (your offense) in second and middle, second and six-seven-and-eight, then third down and two-three-four-and five. Then you've got a reasonably good chance of having some good success, and we weren’t able to do that except on a few of the drives.”
A year ago the pressure applied to Harris led to four picks on route to a UNC victory, but tonight Harris seemed protected by an imaginary bubble the Tar Heels could not penetrate. The Tar Heels got to him only once for a three-yard loss.
Harris did throw one interception, when Da’Norris Searcy just made a great play – the Tar Heel safety nearly broke on the ball before it left Harris’s hands. Outside of that one miscue, Harris had one of his better nights on the season, completing 21 of 32 attempts for 217 yards for a balanced Miami offense.
Largely responsible for Harris’s freedom in the pocket was the powerful Miami running game. Damien Berry joined Clinton Portis and Willis McGahee as the third back in Hurricane history to record four consecutive 100-yard games. With the ‘Canes averaging 5.1 yards-per-carry and churning out 225 rushing yards, the Tar Heels had to respect the run all night, limiting their options defensively.
“It really compromised our game plan,” safety Deunta Williams said.
Miami added to Harris’s security at times with an extra offensive lineman or other special formations.
“We knew going in to the ballgame that they had several personnel packages that included six offensive linemen, using a big offensive lineman as a true tight end, along with tight ends, multiple backs in the backfield, they try to create an extra gap for you,” Davis said.
While neither Davis nor the players keyed on this point, they did acknowledge when pressed that being undermanned took its toll against the Hurricanes.
“It is no secret we’re missing key components of our defense, the whole world knows that,” Williams said. “They are going to go at the freshmen.”
Though he had only one pick going into the evening, the Hurricanes would intercept Yates two times, though the blame for one or more of those picks could rightly be shared.
The pressure Miami brought Saturday night, contributed to those interceptions.
And thus contributed greatly to Miami’s win.