- The Tar Heels couldn't have asked for a better start to the (second) Mack Brown era, downing Miami at home to move to 2–0 on the season.
After five seasons away from college football, Mack Brown was brought back for a second stint at North Carolina in hopes of restoring some kind of competitive foothold, most likely against teams not named Clemson.
Brown was basically run out of town after 16 successful seasons at Texas because fans and boosters were fed up of spending their hard-earned money on underachieving teams getting pushed around all over the field and not competing for championships.
Coming back to Chapel Hall was no easy task, but Brown accepted the challenge and earned a victory over South Carolina in the season opener.
Brown and his young Tar Heels again worked their magic again in Week 2, taking down Miami 28–25 to drop the Hurricanes to 0–2 for the first time since 1978.
True freshman Sam Howell threw for 274 yards and two touchdowns for North Carolina, including a 10-yard score to Dazz Newsome with 1:01 left. On that final drive, Howell completed four passes, the biggest one on 4th and 17, finding Rotavius Groves wide open for 20 yards. Miami had taken its first and only lead of the game when Jarren Williams found Will Mallory for an 11-yard strike with 4:38 left.
The game and the tone was a far cry from last year’s contest, a Miami 47–10 victory that featured Hurricane defensive touchdowns and plenty of mugging for the cameras.
Williams, the redshirt freshman who beat out transfer Tate Martell and incumbent N’Kosi Perry for the starting job, remained cool all game, completing 30 of 39 passes for 309 yards and two touchdowns. He didn’t turn the ball over and was sacked four times.
The last time we saw Miami seemed like an eternity ago. In the season opener against Florida, the Hurricanes not only got to breakout their turnover chain, but also debuted some impressive looking touchdown rings. That was the good news.
The bad news was watching Williams get thrown to the turf 10 times in a lackluster 24–20 loss.
Saturday night’s game against North Carolina started out as more of the same, as the Hurricanes spotted the Tar Heels a 17–3 lead before storming back.
The Tar Heels scored on each of their first three possessions, with a 37-yard field goal, a 62-yard pass to Dyami Brown from Howell and a two-yard run by Javonte Williams, who finished with 76 yards.
Then the Hurricane defense tightened up. After gaining 171 yards in the first quarter, UNC could only manage a mere five yards in the second.
Miami then went to its running game to slice into the deficit, led by DeeJay Dallas and Cam’Ron Harris. Dallas had 107 yards rushing, including a critical 37-yard run on the drive that gave the Hurricanes a late lead. Harris added 60 yards as the Hurricanes found plays to gash the Tar Heel defense, allowing Williams the time to sit back and find receivers, something he was unable to do against the Gators.
The Hurricanes had a chance on their last possession to tie the score, but Bubba Baxa’s 49-yard attempt went wide left. Baxa had hit a 50-yarder in the first quarter to give Miami its first points.
The good news for Miami is plays its next five games at home and will try to avoid an unfathomable 0–3 start next week when it welcome FCS foe Bethune Cookman. The 'Canes play Central Michigan the following week before the rest of the ACC slate awaits them when Virgiina Tech comes to town on Oct. 5.
North Carolina hits the road for the first time in 2019 when it visits Wake Forest next Saturday. Brown can savor this victory now before reality hits in the form of Clemson, who comes calling at the end of the month. But for now, Brown can break out his dancing shoes and enjoy another victory as an underdog.