Takeaways from Miami’s 41-31 loss to North Carolina

Redshirt junior quarterback Tyler Van Dyke throws a pass during Miami's loss to North Carolina on Oct. 14, 2023 at Kenan Memorial Stadium. Photo credit: Eric Espada, Miami Athletics

After a shocking last-second upset win over Miami by Georgia Tech last week, the Hurricanes turned their attention to Chapel Hill, looking to regain their confidence with a win over No. 12 University of North Carolina (UNC).

Unfortunately for the ‘Canes, their struggles in big games came back to haunt them once again. North Carolina came away with the 41-31 victory on Saturday night, knocking Miami out of the AP Top 25 rankings and leaving it still winless in ACC games this season.

Miami’s performance was littered with a host of mistakes, shortcomings and self-inflicted wounds that contributed to its defeat at Kenan Memorial Stadium.

With Miami now sitting at 4-2 on the season, here are some of the key takeaways from Saturday night’s loss.

Discipline is key

With the number of penalty flags that flew for Miami and UNC on Saturday, one would think that Saturday’s match had turned into a flag football game.

Saturday’s game was anything but, as both teams combined for 216 penalty yards, with Miami being flagged seven times for 69 penalty yards.

Penalties were a key component of Miami’s loss of momentum at times, with two of them being unsportsmanlike conduct penalties that contributed to scoring opportunities on UNC’s part.

Momentum killed by turnovers

Miami’s four turnovers were another major player in their loss to UNC on Saturday. The Hurricanes lost two fumbles to UNC that ended promising drives down the field, with the loss of momentum they caused being a theme of Saturday night’s game.

Henry Parrish Jr., a mainstay of Miami’s offense since last season, fumbled in the endzone midway through the first quarter on what would have been a touchdown. Later on in the second, center Matt Lee had a bad snap that turned into a recovery by the Tar Heels.

Despite a solid performance of 391 yards on 31 completions for four touchdowns, Tyler Van Dyke threw two interceptions, with a costly one going to UNC’s Cedric Gray at Miami’s 14-yard line, turning into a touchdown three plays later.

Ball security and avoiding turnovers have been the Achilles’ heel for the ‘Canes in recent weeks, and such an issue will need to be fixed urgently to ensure success in conference play.

The defense showed promise, but it badly needs help

First-year defensive coordinator Lance Guidry has shown plenty of promise manning Miami’s defensive side of the ball so far. The Hurricanes only allowed 14 points from UNC in the first half Saturday, giving Miami an encouraging 17-14 lead going into the half.

Regrettably, it seemed as though the defense had run out of gas as the second half went on, struggling to defend key pieces, and the Miami offense did the defense no favors after seemingly flaming out as well.

The Tar Heels scored 21 unanswered points in the third quarter in what was a dismal second half for Miami, powered chiefly by running back Omarion Hampton, who rushed for 197 yards and a touchdown while averaging 8.2 yards per carry, as well as wide receiver Devontez Walker, who scored a hat trick of touchdowns to power UNC ahead.

Miami did not score again until midway through the fourth quarter, but its comeback attempt was too late. Offensive improvement and complementing a stout defense will be non-negotiable if Miami wants to remain in contention for the ACC. After promising showings early in the season, the last couple of performances leaves a lot to be desired.

In Miami’s second conference matchup and second ranked matchup of the year, the ‘Canes made a litany of costly mistakes and could not get it done. Miami will need to make adjustments – and make them fast.

The Hurricanes will have their chance to rebound as Clemson comes to Hard Rock Stadium on Saturday. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. on ACC Network.