Ebron finished with career high in catches (8) and yards (199) to go along with his third touchdown reception of the season.
“I was just doing my job, running my routes,” Ebron said following the game. “Believing in the concepts, believing in our coaches, believing in everything.”
His 199 receiving yards broke Tony Blanchard’s single-game record for tight ends (144), set way back in 1968. That yardage total also stands as the sixth-most receiving yards by a Tar Heel in a game.
“I think he’s one of the best tight ends in the country, if not the best,” quarterback Bryn Renner said. “He’s critical to our success passing the ball and he’s a heck of a player.”
Ebron caught passes on UNC’s opening four possessions, including a 20-yard drag route to move the Tar Heels into Miami territory for the first time. His top play of the game, however, came two possessions later.
Ebron lined up detached from left tackle James Hurst and slid behind Miami’s linebackers on a crossing route. Backup quarterback Marquise Williams found him near midfield, and after breaking two tackles, outran the Hurricanes secondary for a 71-yard touchdown.
Ebron set up another Tar Heel touchdown early in the second quarter. Quarterback Bryn Renner connected with his tight end down the left seam for a 31-yard gain to put UNC in the red zone. Renner found Quinshad Davis three plays later for a 20-yard touchdown pass and a 14-13 lead.
With 11:02 to play in the second quarter, Ebron had already posted a career-high 132 receiving yards on five catches. He finished the first half with six catches for 144 yards and a touchdown.
Ebron, who will be eligible for the NFL Draft next spring, caught five passes that went for 20 yards or longer.
Thursday wasn’t the first time this season that Ebron turned in a mesmerizing first-half performance. Against Georgia Tech on Sept. 21, the Greensboro, N.C. product caught five passes for 95 yards and touchdown prior to halftime. The Yellow Jackets made adequate adjustments, however, by keeping a safety over top of Ebron to limit him to one catch for 13 yards in the second half.
Miami followed a similar approach in doubling Ebron after the break. UNC head coach Larry Fedora, however, scoffed when asked about Miami limiting his effectiveness in the second half.
“He had 200 yards basically,” Fedora said. “I don’t know what they did to slow him down. We didn’t get the ball to him as much. There were a couple of times they covered him up pretty good and left the wideouts open. There’s one ball I know Eric would have liked to have made the catch on but he made some catches that not many other people are going to make. He really played his heart out tonight.”
Despite his career night, UNC’s last-second loss was clearly affecting him while he spoke with reporters.
“I feel like I played one of the best games probably a tight end could ever play, but for my family and for my teammates, I still feel like I could have done something better,” Ebron said. “I let them down. We should have had the win. We could have had the win, but we didn’t.”
Ebron now has 532 receiving yards on the season, good for second all-time on the single-season receiving totals by a UNC tight end. He is less than 100 yards away from breaking his own record (625) set in 2012.