I could watch highlights from the 2009 UNC Miami game all day long. There was something about that game, and that highlight reel, that is really fun to watch. Maybe its memories of Woody Durham and his timeless charm calling games. Maybe its the Blue Zone-less Kenan Stadium and views of that old scoreboard. But there is something about that game, about the way UNC played that day, that is so different from how the last few years have gone for Carolina.
Miami was ranked 12th in the country and came into Kenan Stadium on a beautiful fall day in November. UNC would win the game 33-24, in convincing fashion, but it was how they won the game that makes the difference now. UNC’s offense didn’t play all that well, putting up over 300 yards but only getting one offensive touchdown. It was the defense, and its swagger and its talent, that won the game. Kendrick Burney got three picks in that one game! Two of them were returned for touchdowns! Can you even imagine UNC getting three picks in one game this year, let alone one player getting three picks?
Its hard to believe that game was only four years ago. So much has changed now for UNC’s defense. Long gone are the days of all UNC’s talent and skill being able to compete and beat the 12th ranked team in the country. No more Charles Brown, Kendrick Burney, and Da’Norris Searcy ballhawking and dominating on defense. No more Marvin Austin, Quinton Coples, and Robert Quinn pressuring the quarterback. After some furious Google searching, I figure that around 15 Tar Heels from the box score on that day have played or are playing in the NFL. Just on defense.
Miami is ranked in about the same spot as they were in 2009 when these two teams faced off, but something tells me this game is going to be very different. Miami is a good offensive team, but not that good. Our defense just lacks the punch, talent, and swagger that the team in 2009 had. Lets take a closer look at the Miami skill position players.
Name to know: Stephen Morris
Stats to know: Morris has thrown for 950 yards this year, nine touchdowns, and is averaging 190 yards per game.
Morris is a good quarterback for Miami, efficient and ready to make the big throws when he has to. Morris has only thrown four picks all season, so don’t get your hopes up for any three pick performances by our secondary. However, the senior hasn’t really lived up to the hype this season and has a nagging ankle injury limiting his effectiveness. Look for the Heels to try and pressure Morris into making the throws. Also watch Morris’s ankle to see if it affects him at all on Thursday Night.
Name to know: Duke Johnston
Stat to know: Johnston has run for 590 yards, four TDs, and an average of 114.4 yards per game this season.
Johnston is Miami’s best offense player, and he has the ability to rip apart North Carolina’s defense. A close player comparison to him would be Gio- think explosiveness, vision, and quickness from the backfield. But Duke has had a recent streak of fumbles and like Gio, some question his durability. He is only 5’9″, so he can be hard to find running behind Miami’s big o-line. But the bottom line is Johnston is very good, and can change the game any time he touches the ball.
Names to know: Allen Hurns, Stacy Coley, and Phillip Dorsett
Stat to know: Five different Hurricanes have caught more than two touchdown passes.
Miami runs a pro style offense, complete with a tight end and a fullback. But the Hurricanes can still sling it and have some real talent at the wide receiver position. Dorsett and Hurns are veterans on this team, and will be a tough match-up for UNC’s DBs. Coley is just a freshman but is second on the team in receiving and has caught the most touchdowns for the Hurricanes.