CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Players and coaches for eighth-ranked Miami weren’t apologizing for keeping their unbeaten season intact Saturday afternoon.
But the Hurricanes had a tougher-than-expected tussle with stubborn North Carolina, so they identified areas that need upgrades going into the final month of the regular season.
“Good things happened (but) not clean enough for me,” Miami coach Mark Richt said after a 24-19 win at Kenan Stadium. “We’ve got to get a lot of things cleaned up.”
Malik Rosier threw for 356 yards and three touchdowns for the Hurricanes. Miami (7-0, 5-0 ACC) has a 12-game winning streak for its longest stretch of success since 2002 and has its best start in conference play since joining the ACC.
Miami offensive tackle K.C. McDermott said the offense wasn’t as efficient as it should have been, but he said the day’s goal was achieved.
“We did our job well enough to win,” McDermott said. “We need to be better. … You can focus on the good and improve it in practice.”
It was Miami‘s fourth victory in a row by eight points or less.
The Hurricanes didn’t gain much breathing room until the final 10 minutes — and that didn’t last long.
Rosier threw a 5-yard scoring pass to Braxton Berrios as Miami stretched its lead to 24-13 with 9:26 remaining with an 85-yard drive.
Beau Corrales scored on two touchdown receptions for North Carolina (1-8, 0-6), which has lost six games in a row. The Tar Heels have dropped seven consecutive home games dating to last season.
“Everybody is human,” Richt said. “You can’t hardly ignore people’s records and things of that nature. I think everybody has a healthy respect for North Carolina.”
The second Corrales touchdown catch came with 3:03 left, with a failed two-point conversion pass leaving the score at 24-19.
North Carolina failed to recover an onside kick, but Miami fumbled on the next play and the Tar Heels moved into Hurricanes territory. The Hurricanes got the ball back on running back Jordon Brown’s fumble at the Miami 34, and then ran out the clock.
“There’s no doubt in my mind our guys are playing hard,” North Carolina coach Larry Fedora said. “There’s no quit in them.”
North Carolina turned to third-string quarterback Nathan Elliott in the first quarter when starter Chazz Surratt was injured on a roughing-the-passer penalty. Backup Brandon Harris wasn’t in uniform because of an injury.
North Carolina tried a variety of trick plays, and four players threw at least one pass.
Rosier completed 16 of 38 passes with one interception. Elliott was 16 of 39 for 173 yards and three interceptions.
“I don’t question what we’re doing, how we’re going about doing it,” Fedora said. “I know what we’re doing and the way we’re doing things are proven. You’ve got to keep grinding.”
Miami didn’t score until tight end Christopher Herndon IV’s 51-yard catch from Rosier with 1:58 left in the first half. Herndon broke free from would-be tacklers to cover about the final 25 yards on the play.
The lead grew to 14-3 on the second snap of the second half when Rosier’s threw a 78-yard pass to Jeff Thomas. That was Miami‘s longest play of the season.
Jonathan Garvin of the Hurricanes blocked a North Carolina punt, but even though the Hurricanes started at the Tar Heels’ 13 they managed only Michael Badgley’s 21-yard field goal.
The Tar Heels responded with a 53-yard drive in four plays, with receiver Anthony Ratliff-Williams throwing 18 yards to Corrales, a freshman who scored his first career touchdown with 7:59 remaining in the third quarter.
North Carolina took three possessions into the Miami red zone in the first 23 minutes but managed only three points. The Tar Heels failed on fourth-and-goal from the 1 on one drive and didn’t convert on a fake field goal on another.
Freeman Jones booted a 24-yard field goal in the first quarter and added a 45-yarder with 3:48 left in the second quarter.
The Tar Heels moved into Miami territory again in the final minute of the half before an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty thwarted that possession.
NOTES: North Carolina’s two-game winning streak in the series was snapped, but the Tar Heels still lead 11-10. … Sophomore TE Michael Irvin Jr. was back in uniform for the Hurricanes after a one-game suspension. … Harris, who started two games (including two weeks ago at home vs. Virginia), was in street clothes and out with an undisclosed injury. He played a week earlier at Virginia Tech. … RB Michael Carter, a freshman leading North Carolina in rushing, did not play because of an undisclosed ailment. … Miami, which plays its next three games at home, takes on Virginia Tech next Saturday, while North Carolina is off next weekend before going to Pittsburgh for a Nov. 9 game.