MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — The Turnover Chain became the Touchdown Chain.
Miami tied a school record with three defensive touchdowns, N’Kosi Perry threw for a score in his first start and the No. 16 Miami downed North Carolina 47-10 on Thursday night.
Romeo Finley and Joe Jackson ran back interceptions for scores, Jonathan Garvin scooped up a fumble and rumbled in for another touchdown and the Hurricanes (4-1, 1-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) wound up forcing six turnovers in all.
“It was a sight to see,” Miami defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said. “We always say, turnovers, they seem to come in bunches. The fact that we turned defense into offense on those was quite a sight to see.”
Perry didn’t have to do much, completing eight of 12 passes for 125 yards with one touchdown and one interception in his debut as the Miami starter. Deejay Dallas rushed 11 times for 114 yards and a touchdown for the Hurricanes, whose 12th straight home regular-season win matches the school’s longest in 15 years.
Thanks to the defensive scoring, Miami had more points than plays — 47-46. And the Hurricanes’ quest for back-to-back ACC Coastal Division titles is off and running.
“We want to get back to Charlotte,” Miami coach Mark Richt said, referring to the site of the ACC title game. “That was a good start.”
Chazz Surratt, making his season debut after serving a three-game suspension for selling team-issued shoes, relieved North Carolina starting quarterback Nathan Elliott early and rushed for a touchdown for the Tar Heels (1-3, 1-1). But Surratt was intercepted three times, the Tar Heels also fumbled the ball away three times and they were a combined 3 for 16 on third and fourth downs.
“They put it on us today,” North Carolina coach Larry Fedora said. “They got us into some long-yardage situations and brought a lot of heat on third and long. And we didn’t handle it very well.”
Richt kept most everyone guessing on his decision whether to start Perry or incumbent Malik Rosier right up until kickoff; he told the quarterbacks his decision a couple days ago. Rickt lauded Rosier for the way he handled the news.
“He showed a lot of class,” Richt said.
Perry went the whole way, sans for a last-play kneel-down by quarterback Cade Weldon — though Miami’s defense was its best offense.
The three defensive touchdowns were a first for Miami since a game against West Virginia on Sept. 23, 2000. The Hurricanes became the first ACC team with three defensive scores in a game since Boston College in 2006, and are now one of two teams nationally this season to do so — along with Akron, which did it against Northwestern earlier this month.
It was Miami’s first time forcing six turnovers in an ACC game since a win over North Carolina State in 2012.
“We always talk about running the table,” said Dallas, who has been one of Miami’s most-vocal leaders since the season-opening loss to LSU. “The first game stung us and we came back, we came back hungry. I just think we can beat anybody.”
North Carolina: The Heels were their own worst enemies. Besides the six turnovers, they had goal-to-go situations twice and came away with a total of three points. A drive to the Miami 3 early in the game netted the field goal, and a drive to the Miami 7 in the third quarter became a third-and-goal from the 31. The result there was a missed 48-yard field goal try.
Miami: The Hurricanes’ 33 first-half points were their second-most by halftime of any ACC game, but the second half looked very ugly offensively. And a major storyline during Florida State week will be the status of LB Shaquille Quarterman, who sprained an ankle in the first half, returned to start the third quarter — and aggravated the injury early in the third quarter. X-rays were negative.
Miami will remain in the AP Top 25. The last time Miami was ranked going into three consecutive Octobers was from 2003 through 2005.
Elliott lauded Miami as “a great football team,” but also noted that he thought North Carolina beat itself. “We just gave them the ball too many times, in every way. We have to do better than that,” Elliott said.
North Carolina: Hosts Virginia Tech on Oct. 13. The Tar Heels had two weeks off because their game against UCF was cancelled because of Hurricane Florence, then played twice in five days, and now have another two-week break.
Miami: Hosts Florida State on Oct. 6. The Hurricanes snapped a seven-game losing streak to the Seminoles with a dramatic win last season — and now will try to snap a six-game home slide against their rivals. FSU last lost at Miami in 2004