After missing the first four games of the season,  Freshman running back Jaylan Knighton is back in Miami’s rotation and on Saturday, his big-play ability  paid dividends for the Hurricanes. UMAthletics

After missing the first four games of the season, Freshman running back Jaylan Knighton is back in Miami’s rotation and on Saturday, his big-play ability

paid dividends for the Hurricanes. UMAthletics

On December 12 , 2020, the 8-1 and #9 in AP poll Miami Hurricanes hosted North Carolina at Hard Rock Stadium. The football program’s fortunes changed drastically that ill fated day as the Canes gave up 778 yards, including 554 on the ground to the Tar Heels in an embarrassing 62-26 loss. Miami has not defeated a PowerFive opponent since that day.

Canes Nation was expecting a fired-up, focused Hurricane payback performance against the Tar Heels at Kenan Stadium last Saturday. It was not to be and there are no excuses.

After a tough home loss to Virginia two Thursdays ago and a bye last week, Miami had 16 days to prepare for NC, yet Miami played uninspired falling behind by as much as 18 points in the first half and totaling only 80 yards offense. QB Tyler Van Dyke was 5 of 15 passing for 59 yards and UM only managed 21 on the ground. Carolina QB Sam Howell himself was 12-20 for 104 and two TDs. Heels RB Ty Chandler added two first half rushing scores including a 51 yard burst on NC’s 7 play 75 yard drive on their first possession. Only DE Jahfari Harvey’s pick six and Jaylan Knighton’s speed and hard nosed running kept the halftime score at Carolina 31- Miami 17.

It looked like a different Cane team came out for the second half. Miami took the second half kickoff and drove 75 yards in 11 plays closing the deficit to 31-24 on a 3 yard Cory Brown rush. UM had 59 rushing yards on the scoring drive. We’re they back in it ?

Not quite yet!

The poor tackling where Miami defenders seemed satisfied just throwing shoulders into opposing ball carriers with no thought of wrapping runners up that led to falling so far behind earlier continued on Carolina’s next possession a 4 play 75 yard drive capped by a 30 yard touchdown scamper by Howell who must have wondered where the defenders were as he made his way to paydirt and a 38-24 lead. Miami cut it to 38-27 on a 43 yard Andres Borregales field goal with 5:49 left in the third.

Then, lo and behold, NC went 3 and out punting to the UM 35 with 3:42 left in the period.

Inspired by the rare stop the Canes responded quickly and efficiently. Van Dyke led a 3 play 65 yard drive bringing the U to within four with a 60 pass and run TD to Knighton on his first reception of the season. Remarkably UM stepped up on D with another 3 and out as the third period ended 38-34; Canes ball on their 37.

The 4th quarter was on. Miami had 1st and 10 at the Heels 49, went for it on 4th and 3 turning it over on downs at the Carolina 42. Poor tackling again bit the Canes as NC drove 58 yards on 8 plays with Howell again running it in this time from the 11.

Multiple missed tackles on the drive and especially the score put the Canes down 11 again 45-34 with 9:22 left. Miami could not move the ball and punted with 8:19 to go. Another Carolina 3 and out gave Miami the ball back on their own 3, down 11 with 6:40 left.

With backs to the wall, the Hurricanes responded going 97 yards on 12 plays in 3 minutes and 34 seconds. Knighton finished the Van Dyke led drive with a 4 yard run and a Van Dyke to Charleston Rambo 2 point conversion made it 45-42 with 3:06. For the fourth time in five drives Miami held Carolina to 3 and out and got the ball back on the UM 28 with 2:46 to go. Van Dyke again excelled taking the Canes 56 yards to the NC 16 where heartbreak again reared it’s ugly head. Miami had time for one throw into the end zone for a win before kicking a game tying field goal taking the game into overtime.

Van Dykes’s pass was tipped at the line and intercepted with 0:05 remaining.

A Tale of Two Halves , the second being the Best of Times and the Worst of Times.

Next up NC State at Hard Rock 7:30 PM on Saturday, October 23.

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