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The Daily Tar Heel

Late interception helps UNC football hold off Miami, 45-42


Redshirt first-year tight end John Copenhaver (81) scores a touchdown at the game against Miami on Oct. 16 at Kenan Stadium. UNC won 45-42.

After losing its first home game of the season to Florida State last Saturday, the North Carolina football team (4-3, 3-3 ACC) was able to escape its home turf victorious against Miami (2-4, 0-2 ACC), 45-42. 

What happened?

On the first drive of the game the Tar Heels got on the board early, scoring on a 51-yard touchdown run by graduate transfer running back Ty Chandler. After a 33-yard interception return by Miami tied things up at 7-7, the Tar Heels responded loudly on their next drive with a 45-yard touchdown pass to sophomore wide receiver Josh Downs, flipping the momentum back in UNC’s favor. 

After holding the Hurricanes to a field goal on their next possession, the Tar Heel offense took advantage of the opportunity to build an 11-point cushion, capping off an 81-yard drive with a 2-yard touchdown pass to redshirt first-year John Copenhaver, making the score 21-10. UNC capitalized on good field position presented by an interception by sophomore linebacker Cedric Gray on their next drive, and scored their fourth touchdown of the first half via another Chandler touchdown to push UNC’s lead to 18. 

Miami responded on its second possession of the second quarter, capping off a 75-yard drive with a 2-yard touchdown run from running back Jaylan Knighton to cut the UNC lead back to 11. To end a crazy first half, the Tar Heels got the ball back for one last possession after an interception from junior safety Cam’Ron Kelly, but were forced to settle for a 48-yard field goal, sending UNC to the locker room with a 14-point advantage.   

To start off the second half, Miami got things rolling early on its first drive, cutting the score to seven after finishing a 75-yard drive with a 3-yard rushing touchdown by running back Cody Brown. The Tar Heels didn’t stay down long, scoring on their next drive off a 30-yard rush by Howell, giving him his fourth rushing touchdown of the season and extending the lead back to 14. 

After trimming the deficit back to down 11 off of a 42-yard field goal, the Hurricanes ramped up their comeback, scoring off a 60-yard touchdown reception from Knighton to make it a one possession game, 38-34. 

The Tar Heels responded once again on their next drive, extending the lead back to 11 but the Hurricanes made things close late in the fourth by responding with another rushing touchdown and a two-point conversion to make it a three point game. Miami marched down the field for one last chance to win or tie after the conversion, but another interception by Gray on the UNC 16-yard line saved the day for the Tar Heels.     

Who stood out? 

Howell led the way for the UNC offense, passing for 154 yards and two touchdowns, while rushing for 98 yards and two touchdowns. Chandler was equally productive on the ground, adding 104 yards and two touchdowns. Downs also had another stellar outing for the Tar Heels, hauling in 11 passes for 96 yards and a touchdown. 

On the defensive side of the ball, Gray led the way, racking up two interceptions to go along with a pass breakup and five solo tackles. Sophomore defensive lineman Myles Murphy also had another nice game for UNC, registering two tackles for loss and one sack. 

When was it decided?

After a back-and-forth contest, the game was decided on the last drive. Miami threatened late, marching the ball down to the Tar Heels’ 16-yard line down three, but Gray’s interception sealed the deal for UNC’s three-point victory.

Why does it matter?

After dropping their third ACC game of the season against the Seminoles, the Tar Heels were able to rebound and add another conference win to their record against the Hurricanes. The big win against Miami also keeps UNC from falling below .500 for the first time since November of 2019.  

When do they play next?

The Tar Heels will get a much-needed break next week after playing five of their first six games against conference opponents. UNC will be back in action Oct. 30 as the team travels to South Bend, Ind. to take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. 

@DTHSports |

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