On Saturday night, Miami suffered one of its most crushing defeats in school history, as the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets upset the ‘Canes, 23-20, at Hard Rock Stadium.
With 33 seconds remaining and the ball, Miami simply had to take a knee and escape with a hard-fought victory, but the Hurricanes ran the ball, which resulted in a fumble by running back Donald Chaney Jr., followed by a 44-yard game-winning touchdown for the Yellow Jackets. As a result of the loss, Miami (4-1, 0-1 ACC) dropped from No. 17 to 25 in the AP Poll this week.
Such a deflating loss would be a difficult task for any team to bounce back from, but to make it even harder for Miami, it will have to travel to Chapel Hill, North Carolina to square off with the No. 12 University of North Carolina (UNC) Tar Heels (5-0, 2-0 ACC).
The Heels boast a deadly offense, with the engine behind it being their Heisman candidate quarterback, Drake Maye.
UNC’s offense is second in the ACC in total yards per game, only behind Miami, and although Maye’s counting stats do not look as impressive as last year, he has been making all the plays needed of him and more to lead the Tar Heels to their undefeated record so far this season.
According to UM senior defensive tackle Branson Deen, Miami needs to make Maye uncomfortable in the pocket to slow him down.
“We got to do the same thing we did a few weeks ago,” said Deen. “Hit him, make him uncomfortable, move him around and if he makes some plays, we can’t think about it we have to go to the next one.”
In a battle between two of the best offenses in the country, Miami’s unit will need to rebound from its performance against the Yellow Jackets and look more like it did through its first four games. After averaging 43.75 points per game through the first month, the Hurricanes only mustered 20 points against Georgia Tech.
The ‘Canes also had trouble holding onto the ball, as quarterback Tyler Van Dyke threw three interceptions. Van Dyke and the Hurricanes’ offense had been excellent at limiting turnovers through the first four games, so they will look to get back to that style of play against UNC.
Miami’s offense and defense will need to bounce back to help the ‘Canes grab a crucial conference victory on the road. The importance of this game cannot be understated for Miami, as it may decide who will play in the ACC Conference Championship Game in December.
After the devastating loss at home to Georgia Tech, the Hurricanes need a statement win to cement themselves as contenders in the ACC among the likes of North Carolina and Florida State.
Head coach Mario Cristobal believes in Miami’s resiliency and ability to rebound from a tough loss.
“Go and fix all the things that we can do better, realize the opportunity in front of us,” Cristobal said. “The guys are very eager to get back to work and prepare for this weekend’s opportunity.”
Kickoff for Saturday’s matchup against the Tar Heels is set for 7:30 p.m., and the game will air on ABC.