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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Eric Ebron kept finding himself wide open in the first half, racking up big gains that had North Carolina poised for an upset. The tight end finished with a record performance, though it wasn't enough to keep the Tar Heels in front.
Ebron finished with eight catches for 199 yards, a program single-game record for a tight end, in the 27-23 loss to No. 10 Miami on Thursday night. That included a 71-yard catch-and-run touchdown in the first quarter.
"It's a dream," Ebron said about his stat line. "It's something that everybody always wants to happen. But eh, it didn't come with a win so I'm not really as proud of it as I should be."
Ebron, a 6-foot-4, 245-pound junior, already had a career-high yardage total by halftime (144 yards).
"I just ran my routes and played the ball like a tight end's supposed to," he said. "I have no idea why I was so wide open. I don't know what their defensive scheme was or what they came into the game with. You know, it just happened."
But after six catches in the first half, he managed only two catches after halftime.
That's when Dallas Crawford took over for Miami, scoring the go-ahead 3-yard touchdown with 16 seconds left.
Crawford's short score ended a 90-yard drive by the Hurricanes (6-0, 2-0 Atlantic Coast Conference), who lost top rusher Duke Johnson to an early injury. But Crawford finished with 137 yards on 33 carries — surpassing his season totals in both categories — and two touchdowns to help the Hurricanes barely avoid a big upset.
The Hurricanes won despite Stephen Morris throwing four interceptions, as many as he had thrown all year, while the defense surrendered a season-high 500 yards against the Tar Heels' no-huddle scheme.
But Miami got the stop it needed at the end, with Bryn Renner's final heave into the end zone from the Miami 28 falling incomplete on the game's final play.
The loss was the latest stinging setback for the Tar Heels (1-5, 0-3), who entered the year with hopes of winning the ACC's Coastal Division but now find themselves off to their worst start since 2006. They led this one 23-13 early in the fourth only to see Crawford score twice in the final 11½ minutes to erase the deficit.
North Carolina was going for its first win against a top-10 opponent since beating then-No. 4 Miami here on a last-second field goal in 2004.
Instead, the Hurricanes are 6-0 for the first time since that season, keeping themselves in prime position in the division race to reach the ACC championship game.
That looked like an iffy proposition early when Johnson, who came in averaging 114 yards rushing, left with an undisclosed injury in the first quarter after running for 83 yards on eight carries.
Things got worse for the Hurricanes when receiver Phillip Dorsett suffered an apparent left knee injury on a reverse in that same period. He was helped from the field and eventually to the locker room before returning to the sideline on crutches late in the first half.
Miami got a boost when Ladarius Gunter returned a blocked field goal 67 yards for a touchdown early in the second quarter. Meanwhile, Crawford, a 5-foot-10 redshirt sophomore, kept the offense moving even as Morris kept turning the ball over against the Tar Heels' maligned defense.