It was going to be hard to upstage the debut of N’Kosi Perry as the new starting quarterback for No. 16 Miami but if anything could do it, it had to be the Turnover Chain. College football’s most famous sideline trinket made six appearances — and even found the end zone three times — as the Hurricanes controlled the game throughout their ACC opener in an eventual 47-10 thrashing of North Carolina on Thursday night at Hard Rock Stadium.
Perry, who took over under center from senior Malik Rosier last week, had a solid first half before trailing off a bit as the game wore on against the Tar Heels. The redshirt freshman finished the night with 125 yards passing in limited action with a touchdown and an interception, along with 26 yards on the ground. The electric playmaker also fumbled while trying to avoid a sack but generally picked up where he left off in helping the team move the chains without top receiver Ahmmon Richards for the third straight week.
Just the threat of Perry taking off with the ball and running seemed to open a few things up on the ground too as DeeJay Dallas recorded 114 yards rushing and a touchdown, while Travis Homer added another 88 yards of his own.
The story of the night for Mark Richt, outside of the QB position, was the Canes defense though. While it was a little concerning to see them give up 182 yards rushing, the team responded by breaking out the Turnover Chain six times to raucous applause from the relatively strong mid-week crowd at home. All told, Miami scored the most points (33) in the first half of a conference game in over a decade and their defense alone outscored the Tar Heels with 21 points of their own (tying a school record).
Defensive end Jonathan Garvin kicked things off with a scoop-and-score off a fumble in the first quarter and he donned the Turnover Chain again in the second half with another fumble recovery. Fellow end Joe Jackson wasn’t one to get left out either as he took a pick-six 42 yards not long after to turn the game into a rout. Romeo Finley’s 83 yard interception return for a touchdown just as the fourth quarter began was a cherry on top of the effort Thursday night.
If there was one negative defensively for Miami it was that star linebacker Shaquille Quarterman, who forced the Garvin fumble that was returned for a score, missed most of the second half with what was reported to be an ankle injury.
As for the Tar Heels, just about everything that could go wrong offensively, did. Nathan Elliott got the start at quarterback but threw for only 104 yards and also fumbled. He was replaced by Chazz Surratt under center in the sophomore’s first game back from suspension for selling Air Jordan shoes. It probably would have been better had he actually sat this one out after completing four passes to his own team and three more to the Hurricanes. At least Surratt did find success running the ball with a nice 69 yards rushing and a score in about the only bit of positive film for Larry Fedora to take back to Chapel Hill as his team dropped to 1-3 on the year.
The win, even against a lackluster UNC squad, should give Miami plenty of confidence going into next week’s rivalry game against Florida State. Given Josh Jackson’s injury at Virginia Tech and the rest of the ACC Coastal division looking somewhat shaky, it wouldn’t be surprising at all to see the Canes become the favorite once again to make it to Charlotte and face off against Clemson yet again at the end of the year. The jury is still out on Perry at quarterback long-term but he’s shown enough flashes and will certainly be able to benefit from leaning on one of the most opportunistic defenses in the country.