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No. 10 Miami hangs on for comeback win at UNC

Miami lost its two best playmakers and was down big on the road, but somehow it found a way to beat UNC.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- " Tom Brady. Tom Brady."

Those were the words Miami offensive coordinator James Coley kept saying to his senior quarterback, Stephen Morris, as he prepared to take the field for Miami's last chance at staying undefeated.

Weird, right? After all, Morris had looked nothing like Tom Brady through much of Thursday night's game at North Carolina. He was wildly inaccurate and he threw four interceptions. It got so bad that former Hurricane Jonathan Vilma even tweeted that Miami needed to stop calling pass plays.

And Miami didn't look much like the No. 10 team in the country, either.

Ultimately, though, both Morris and his team were able to do what good teams do: win games they have no business winning. 

Morris didn't have to do much on the final drive anyway. It was 13 plays and running backs Dallas Crawford and Eduardo Clements combined for 56 yards on 10 carries, including the go-ahead touchdown by Crawford with 16 seconds left.
Morris wasn't asked to throw until the seventh play of the drive. His last three passes had gone incomplete (including his fourth interception). And still he kept hearing "Tom Brady. Tom Brady." 

"Meaning of that was a lot of things weren't going (Brady's) way when he was playing his game (against the Saints) and somehow, he just pulled it out on that last drive to lead his team down and get a touchdown and score. So that was my mentality," Morris said.

"Obviously everything went terribly wrong for me offensively. Our biggest focus was let's try to just put that behind us and focus on this last drive, really."

His three attempts on the drive were all completions, for 34 yards. He did just what he had to, and he was on target. And he was the one his teammates were looking toward, even with all the mistakes he had made. 

And the drive might not have happened without former Miami star Clinton Portis, either. He pulled Crawford, who was in for an injured Duke Johnson, aside before the 90-yard, game-winning march began. 

"Any time you can get a pep talk from a great like Clinton Portis, it calmed me down," Crawford said. "He told me, 'This is your moment. This is what you’ve been waiting on.' It paid off."

With starters and key contributors going down left and right, starting with star tailback Johnson and then wideout Phillip Dorsett and a number of others getting banged up, things looked dire for the Hurricanes as they trailed 17-13 at halftime.

And actually, Vilma's tweet was right on the money. Miami changed its approach when the second half started.

Miami's offensive line, which had been pushed around in the first half, asserted itself in the second. The Hurricanes ran the ball at will. 

"What clicked was at halftime when we were in the locker room, we were just going over things -- it was really just the offensive line and me just sitting down, and we were just talking," Morris said. "We just had to start running the ball on first down. We had too many negative plays on first down, allowing us to get in terrible third-and-long situations, allowing the (UNC) defense to go into all their crazy coverages. I really wanted to put that on the offensive line’s shoulders -- let’s run the ball."

They did. And it's probably not a coincidence that Miami didn't face a third down longer than 2 yards on its final drive. 

Miami head coach Al Golden seemed like he was still in a state of shock after the game. He was too exhausted to even give an opening statement. After losing the turnover and time of possession battles on the road, not to mention trailing by double digits, the Hurricanes were more than fortunate to win, and he knew that.

But for this team to be special, it has to find a way to win games like that. And that's precisely what this team did.

"We have four interceptions. We lose pivotal players. And everybody just rallies," Golden said. 

"It just says a lot about the guys, man. There's no turning back for this group right now. They're not turning back. There's no finger-pointing. They're too invested in each other and what they've given and what they sacrificed to turn back. I told them all week, we're going to have to win this game by playing till there’s four zeroes and man, it was right to the very end."

In the past, Golden pointed out, Miami has lost games like this. Too many times, the Canes have come out on the wrong end of a close game. 

You have to be lucky and good, but Golden said there’s something else at play, too. Belief.

And Miami believes again. 

"All I can say is we've lost a bunch of those. Sometimes you lose those because you don't believe that you're going to win or you start thinking about the outcome and you don't execute, or you really didn't pay the price all year long and you can't finish with the other team from a conditioning standpoint or a mental toughness standpoint," Golden said. 

"None of that was the case in this game."