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The loss put UNC (3-4, 2-2 ACC) in the predicament of now having to win three of its last four regular season games in order to become bowl eligible, while also ending any realistic chances of an ACC Coastal Division championship.
Yet, having performed well against the heavily favored Hurricanes (6-1, 3-1), despite the loss, may have given Carolina a spark as it prepares for three straight home games starting with Boston College next Saturday at noon.
The Tar Heels took the opening kickoff and moved 65 yards in 10 plays to take a 7-0 lead, capped off by a one-yard scoring run by Ronnie McGill. Miami would answer later in the quarter, but a safety and another McGill touchdown would give UNC a surprising 16-7 lead late in the first half.
Hurricane Wilma was five days passed, but high winds remained and made downfield passing almost impossible for both teams. UM quarterback Kyle Wright suffered the most, throwing three interceptions on the afternoon, two into the waiting arms of Trimane Goddard.
In fact with the light standards waving in the breeze, Orange Bowl security personnel decided to empty the stadium’s upper deck and move its smattering of fans to the lower level.
Then, just before half, with the Tar Heels all but dominating both sides of the ball, they missed on an opportunity to go for the Hurricanes’ jugular when Jarwarski Pollock dropped a Matt Baker pass over the middle that was destined to become another UNC touchdown. But instead, the ball bounced off his hands and halftime would approach without any further scoring.
“I just dropped the ball,” Pollock said. “It’s just my personal opinion, but it changed the whole complex of the game. We would have been up 23-7. I just dropped the ball.”
Carolina had easily won the first half, but Miami wasn’t impressed. After scoring on their first drive of the second half – on another short touchdown run by Moss, Quadtrine Hill recovered a blocked UNC punt in the end zone for another quick touchdown.
Miami would fail on its two-point conversion try, but it had its first lead of the game and would never look back.
Carolina was unable to get its running game back on track and it would only be a matter of time before the Tar Heels would crumble under the pressure of the Hurricanes’ top-ranked defense.
“They started filling all the lanes,” John Bunting said. “They started blitzing the crap out of us. And that’s to their credit. They were willing to take that chance to their coaches’ credit. They wanted to turn up the volume and pressure us.”
Miami outscored Carolina 27-0 in the second half. And to add insult to injury, Baker was knocked out of the game in the fourth quarter after being sacked.
“I just have a lingering ankle injury,” Baker said. “It will come back. It will be about the same as it is every week.”