Game day preview: UM vs. UNC

Lineman Scott Patchan and the rest of the defense celebrate the first turnover of the 2019 season during their game against the Florida Gators Aug. 24. Photo courtesy Haylee Blitch

The Canes are looking to improve and avoid going 0-2 with their start against North Carolina this weekend.

Miami (0-1) opens their ACC schedule this weekend with a trip up to Chapel Hill to face the North Carolina Tar Heels (1-0) in what is anticipated to be a sellout crowd for Mack Brown’s return to Kenan Memorial Stadium.

The Canes are looking to recover from a 24-20 loss to Florida two weeks ago, which was headlined by a young offensive line that struggled to protect quarterback Jarren Williams, who was sacked 10 times in the game. The state of the offensive line is one of the biggest questions going into the game.

Starting quarterback Jarren Williams hugs fellow QB Tate Martell during the Canes' game against the Gators Aug. 24. Photo courtesy Haylee Blitch

“To me, they’re improving and getting better,” head coach Manny Diaz said.

Redshirt freshman tackle John Campbell and true freshman tackle Zion Nelson both struggled in their first career starts two weeks ago, but will remain as starting tackles against North Carolina.

“We released the same exact depth chart as we had versus Florida,” Diaz said. “In terms of snap counts and things like that, all of that evaluation is still ongoing in terms of who knows what to do and gives us a chance to play clean and play hard.”

North Carolina’s defensive line pales in comparison to Florida’s, but Miami’s offensive line will need to step up in order to provide better pass protection for Jarren Williams, who completed 19 of 29 passes for 214 yards and one touchdown against Florida.

Offensive coordinator Dan Enos chided Williams for poor ball security and wants to see him make better decisions, but Williams feels he has improved during the last two weeks of practice, especially feeling more comfortable in the pocket.

“When you watch the rush, you tend to just run out the pocket when you can step up and make a throw,” Williams said. “I’ve been really making that a point of emphasis this week. Of not watching the rush and getting the ball down the field to my receivers.

Miami’s defensive line also initially struggled against Florida, with a number of missed tackles and blown coverages, but eventually settled in to record three forced turnovers.

Lineman Scott Patchan and the rest of the defense celebrate the first turnover of the 2019 season during their game against the Florida Gators Aug. 24. Photo courtesy Haylee Blitch

Although North Carolina’s two scoring plays in the fourth quarter of their 24-20 win over South Carolina came on passing plays, most of their offense was generated through their run game. No Tar Heel receiver caught more than four passes and non-running backs had only 12 total receptions.

“That’s our first thing as a defense,” linebacker Shaq Quarterman said. “We’re always going to stop the run first and deal with everything second.”

If the Canes defensive line can show up, the defense should have no problem stopping the Tar Heels running backs and putting a lot of pressure on North Carolina’s true freshman quarterback Sam Howell, who threw two touchdowns but was sacked three times against South Carolina.

Defensively, North Carolina’s strong suit is there skilled position players, including defensive back Myles Wolfolk, who had two interceptions and six tackles against South Carolina last week. Expect Miami to rely on running back DeeJay Dallas, who had 95 yard on 11 carries with a 50 yard touchdown last week.

The Canes will have to play with more of a sense of urgency than they did in the first game if they want to avoid starting the season 0-2, which includes eliminating the 14 penalties they committed against Florida.

“We can’t sit and sulk on that,” Quarterman said. “We’ve never been the team to sulk, so we just move on and look toward the next Saturday.

The Miami Hurricanes will take on the North Carolina Tar Heels at 8:00 pm September 7 at Kenan Memorial Stadium in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The game will be televised on the ACC Network