MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — North Carolina may not be sitting in the driver’s seat in the ACC Coastal Division race, but it’s right next to it.The Tar Heels (5-2, 3-1 ACC) took a big step in enhancing their chances to get back to the ACC Championship Game by riding a 17-point halftime cushion to a 20-13 victory over 16th-ranked Miami on Saturday afternoon.Coupled with Virginia Tech’s 31-17 loss at Syracuse, the win puts the Tar Heels alone in first place in the Coastal Division, a half-game up on the Hokies (4-2, 2-1). The discrepancy in the number of games played will be ironed out by the end of the season, and the Hokies do hold a potential tiebreaker by virtue of their win over North Carolina.But another stumble by the Hokies, who host Miami 0n Thursday night, puts the Tar Heels back in full control.”We knew that one loss probably wasn’t going to be the difference in the conference play,” North Carolina coach Larry Fedora said. “But I don’t think our guys thought a whole lot about it. We knew we just had to come down to Miami and get a win and whatever happened, happened.”After seven weeks into the season, I’m pretty pleased with where this team is right now.”With a second conference loss in three games, the Hurricanes need help to get to the ACC title game for the first time.”It’s like I told them — everybody — if you look across the league, everybody is battling every day,” Miami coach Mark Richt said. “You know for sure what can happen. You want to put yourself in position just in case something breaks your way because it can come around.”You just have to keep fighting.”The Tar Heels came up with what Fedora would call probably their best defensive effort of the season in throttling the Hurricanes, and quarterback Mitch Trubisky bounced back from his worst performance of the season a week ago (13-of-33 vs. Virginia Tech) to go 33-of-46 passing for 299 yards and two touchdowns in the win.”I just erased the last game out of my memory,” Trubisky said. “Everything that happened last week was uncharacteristic of myself and the offense. We just watched the film and tried to learn from it.”Miami struggled to get its offense going early. The Hurricanes managed only a field goal in the first half, had another blocked, and turned the ball over on downs on an incompletion on fourth-and-1 at North Carolina’s 25-yard line in the second quarter. They finally scored on running back Joe Yearby’s 2-yard run in the third quarter.Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya completed only 16 of 31 pass attempts for 224 yards. He didn’t have an interception — neither did Trubisky — but he lost a fumble on Miami’s final possession.”I feel like everybody just needs to do their job for every play and go 100 percent at that,” said tight end David Njoku, who had 82 yards on four catches to lead Miami’s receivers. “And I think we’ll be okay coming into the next few games.”Miami had closed to within seven points with on Michael Badgley’s field goal with 4:50 left in the game, but the defense, which had kept the Tar Heels from scoring with a big fourth-down stop inches away from the goal line to start the fourth quarter, couldn’t get North Carolina off the field fast enough on the ensuing possession.Only 1:45 remained when Miami got the ball back for what turned out to be just two plays.The Tar Heels led 20-3 at the half on the strength of two short touchdown passes from Trubisky to wide receivers Austin Proehl (5 yards) and Ryan Switzer (1 yard) and Nick Weiler’s field goals of 42 and 52 yards. Tailback T.J. Logan had a 30-yard run to help spark the first touchdown drive and Trubisky had a 50-yard bomb to wide receiver Mack Hollins to set up the second.NOTES: North Carolina junior RB Elijah Hood, who hadn’t played since sustaining an undisclosed injury in the second quarter against Florida State on Oct. 1, started for the Tar Heels. … PK Nick Weiler’s 42-yard field goal on North Carolina’s first series were the first points scored in the first quarter against Miami this season. … Miami got a break in the first quarter when North Carolina’s recovery of an onside kickoff after it had scored to go up 10-0 was nullified because the Tar Heels’ Corey Bell was ruled to have made an illegal block. … The rain expected last week from Hurricane Matthew finally arrived at the 10:28 mark of the fourth quarter. … North Carolina LB Andre Smith was ejected for targeting in the fourth quarter.
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