Miami took down North Carolina in convincing fashion on Thursday night—47-10—and solved their quarterback quandary, as far as Week Five was concerned. Mark Richt played things coy all week, but come game time the veteran head coach seemingly went with the next-step-in-a-logical-progression route—giving N’Kosi Perry the start over Malik Rosier.

The decision paid off as Perry was an effective 8-of-12, throwing for 125 yards and a touchdown—though the evening wasn’t perfect as the r-freshman fumbled when sacked, while throwing an interception into double coverage.

All that to say, mistakes like these prove less glaring when the Miami defense plays as lights out as it did for the prime time showdown. The Hurricanes forced six turnovers in the first four games of the season—and matched that total on Thursday night, returning two interceptions and one fumble for touchdowns.

Miami Defense 21, North Carolina 10

The Canes’ first drive stalled after Perry opened the game with a 28-yard bullet to favorite target Mike Harley, but the ground attack and Travis Homer hadn’t yet gotten going. The Tar Heels then marched down the field on an 11-play, 78-yard drive—Michael Carter tearing off runs of 22 and 30 yards, setting UNC up at the UM three-yard line—before Miami’s defense clamped down and forced a kick.

Perry found freshman Brian Hightower for a 13-yard pick-up on 2nd-and-8 the next drive, setting up a 56-yard run from Homer that saw him out of bounds at the UNC four-yard line, where DeeJay Dallas punched it in for the score a play later.

Up 7-3, Miami’s defense struck next—pushing the lead to 14-3 after Shaquille Quarterman sacked Nathan Elliott for a 15-yard loss; the quarterback fumbling and Jonathan Garvin, scooping and scoring from nine yards out.

The turnvoer prompted a quarterback change, with UNC opting for the more mobile Chazz Surratt—seeing his first action of the season due to suspension. The result, a seven-play, 70-yard touchdown drive putting the Tar Heels back in the game—though Miami defensive lineman Gerald Willis gets the assist as a boneheaded unsportsmanlike penalty on 3rd-and-12 turned a punt from the UNC 41-yard line into new life and a fresh set of downs from the UM 44, where Carter and Surratt relied on their wheels to go 44 yards over three plays.

Perry marched the Miami offense back onto the field with a 14-10 lead—starting strong with a 22-yard hook-up with Darrell Langham on second down, but stalling out seven plays later; a second down sack putting the Canes in a 3rd-and-8 situation and an incomplete pass—again back to Langham, setting up Bubba Baxa to hit a 35-yard field goal.

Again, the Miami defense put points on the board, seven plays into what looked like another promising drive for North Carolina, until Carter was stuffed for a six-yard loss and Surratt put a 3rd-and-17 pass into the bread basket of Joe Jackson, who rumbled 42 yards for the score.

Jackson shut down the Heels’ next possession, as well—sacking Surratt on 3rd-and-11 and forcing a punt that gave Miami the ball back on their own 21-yard line; Perry back on the field with a comfortable 24-10 lead and all moments on the Hurricanes’ side.

Dallas tore off a 25-yard run and Perry found Harley for a 42-yard gain; arguably the best throw in the young quarterback’s career—rolling left, squaring up the shoulders, planting and putting in on a rope, to the outstretched receiver. Three plays later, after no gain, Perry hit Langham in the end zone for the score—the lead pushed to 30-10 after Baxa’s extra point was blocked.

Trying to make a dent before the half, Surratt worked to move UNC into scoring position—before trying to do too much and miscommunication put his pass into the hands of Jhavonte Dean, who retuned it 25 yards to the UNC 33, where Dallas tore off a 22-yard run that set Miami up for a 28-yard field goal as time expired.

The second half was somewhat of a formality; the Canes leading 33-10, the Tar Heels completely out of their game plan—Elliott in for Surratt and fumbling on the first possession of the second half, though Perry returned the favor when sacked four plays later. Miami’s defense quickly forced a three-and-out—though Perry gave it back; this time with an interception as he forced a pass to Harley in double coverage that was tipped and retuned 19 yards. Insult to injury for North Carolina, as offensive pass interference resulted in a missed 48-yard field goal, after originally looking at 1st-and-Goal from the UM nine-yard line.

The Canes were in full-blown run-out-the-clock mode from this point on, though the defense kept scrapping—Romeo Finley intercepting a 4th-and-7 pass on the first play of the fourth quarter, returning it 83 yards for the score. Miami earned one more possession after North Carolina turned it over on downs, running 10-of-11 times; Dallas doing the heavy lifting, Homer getting in a dig and Trayone Gray punching it in for the score from one yard out.

One final turnover for good measure on UNC’s final possession; Elliott coughing it up after going 54 yards on seven plays—Bradley Jennings recovering the fumble, as Miami’s equipment staff had to dig the Turnover Chain out of its carrying case, having assumed the night was over.

A dominant night at HardRock, the Hurricanes’ defense almost did Miami—and Perry—a disservice by forcing and scoring on too many turnovers. In a game where the Hurricanes were breaking in a new quarterback and working to get him experience, the pressure was ultimately off Perry as the defense did all the heavy lifting.

The closest “threat” the newbie dealt with all night; when North Carolina cut the lead to 14-10. Perry took the field with two minutes left in the first quarter and moved Miami 57 yards over ten plays, settling for the field goal. Moments later, Jackson pushed the lead back to 14 with a pick-six.

Quarterback reps and experience aside, the 47-10 drubbing and three defensive scores also masked some issues Miami had in regards to stopping the run—something North Carolina did with ease early, but pulled back from in the second half, after heading to the locker room down, 33-10.

Six Tar Heels running backs—as well as Surratt, who tucked-and-ran nine times—combined for 240 yards. Even worse, each broke off an impressive run, or two against the Canes. Michael Carter had a 30-yarder, Jonathan Sutton had a 20-yarder, Antwuan Branch an 18-yarder, Antonio Williams a 15-yarder, Jordon Brown a 14-yarder and Javonte Williams a 13-yarder—while Surratt’s long was a 20-yard run.

Penalties-wise, it wasn’t a strong, composed showing for the Canes, either—dinged seven times for 65 yards; the Willis personal foul the most egregious as it kept the Tar Heels’ lone touchdown drive alive.

Winning big has a way of curing everything, whereas a loss—or even a close victory—forces glaring weaknesses to be put under a microscope and dissected in a much different manner. For Miami, entering Florida State week undefeated was the goal. That fell to the wayside after a season-opening loss to LSU in Dallas. From there, the next-best option was winning four in a row—which the Canes did—as well as getting a handle on a quarterback issue that’s been a problem since last fall; which remains a work in progress.

Perry earned the start against North Carolina after a solid showing against Florida International; which was good to see a Richt promised things would be evaluated on a week-by-week basis, explaining that he would field the guy he felt gave Miami the best shot at success. Had Rosier trotted out for that first series against the Tar Heels, it’d have hurt Richt’s credibility based on how he’s discussed the state of this program year three.

All that to say, what does this mean for Florida State week, as the Seminoles are a different beast than anyone the Canes have faced these past four weeks? Perry has seen legitimate action in two home games against inferior foes—and while FSU’s limps at 2-2, whipped good by Virginia Tech and Syracuse,  it’s still a rivalry game and a scenario where the Noles will bring their best as an upset will save their season.

Rosier fifth career start came in Tallahassee last season—slow out the gate, but relied upon heavily as the Canes struggled to run the football. The junior’s stats weren’t all that pretty; 19-of-44 for 254 yards, three touchdowns and an interception—but the game was ultimately defined by a nine-play, 75-yard drive in under ninety seconds, where Rosier connected with Langham for the game-winner.

Twice in the fourth quarter, Rosier led Miami from behind—going 75 yards the previous possession, as well—where he hooked up with Braxton Berrios, giving the Canes a short-lived 17-13 lead. After UM’s defense folded moments later—Rosier was called upon to do it again, and delivered in calm, cool, confident fashion.

Just as RIcht and staff treated North Carolina week like a one-game season; expect the same with Florida State on the horizon. The Seminoles notched a road win at Louisville—giving them the most confidence they’ve had in the short-lived Willie Taggart era. That being said, neither the Noles or Cardinals played a memorable game; 15 penalties between the two, four turnovers—including a late, pointless throw that went awry when everyone in Papa John’s Stadium expected the home team to run the clock out and secure the victory.

The spread is already in double-digits, favoring the Hurricanes—but throw it all out the window rivalry week, as all bets are off when Miami and Florida State are set to tussle. More to come as the big week progresses.

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