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The Daily Tar Heel

North Carolina holds off Miami

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — For the North Carolina football team, it was the defense that clinched Saturday’s 18-14 win.

Tommy Heffernan’s second-down sack handcuffed Miami’s final drive, and Gene Robinson’s tackle on fourth down delivered the knockout blow in the Tar Heels’ win at Miami.

It was UNC’s best defensive performance in a conference win since October 2010 based on points allowed. But it wasn’t necessarily a complete domination of the Hurricanes — it was an adequate containment.

“Miami’s been able to get behind everybody. Didn’t matter who they played, they’ve been able to do that,” coach Larry Fedora said about Miami’s potential for beating teams with deep passes.

“That was a point of emphasis this week — to limit the big plays. We knew we were going to give some things up underneath, we understood that. We made the plays when we had to.”

The Tar Heels succeeded in keeping the Hurricanes in front of them in the secondary, mostly due to a strong performance from safety Tre Boston.

Both times Miami quarterback Stephen Morris tried to go deep, Boston came up with the interception. Though one of those was called back for a penalty, the statement was clear. Miami was not going to beat the Tar Heels with the long ball.

“That’s what we planned on all week,” Boston said. “That’s exactly what we executed. We just made sure we stayed deeper than the deepest.”

Miami’s longest play from scrimmage was 23 yards, but as Fedora predicted, the Hurricanes made some considerable gains underneath.

With the help of some less-than-stellar tackling, especially in the first half, the Hurricanes picked up 10 yards or more on 11 different passing plays. Miami also had six runs that went for more than 10 yards, including a 19-yard scramble by Morris.

But since the Tar Heels came out the victors, those moderate gains in the middle were an afterthought.

“It actually gave the (defensive backs) some confidence going against those guys because that was a great group of wide receivers,” senior linebacker Kevin Reddick said. “We were up to the challenge coach put us up to.”

Though Morris couldn’t pick up huge chunks of yards on his own, UNC helped him on several occasions. For the second week in a row, UNC committed 15 penalties — against Miami, it cost the Tar Heels 140 yards.

Moving forward, that’s something that Fedora still has to figure out how to address.

“I don’t know why it’s happening,” Fedora said. “It’s not like we’re not emphasizing it in practice. We’re still coaching the fundamentals. I don’t know. I’m going to have to go back and evaluate each and every one and determine what the reasons are.”

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