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For a single half, North Carolina was nearly perfect.

Interceptions, blocked punts and long runs had Kenan Stadium rocking and Miami seeing red as head coach Butch Davis directed his Tar Heels to a dominant 27-0 halftime lead against the program he turned around a decade ago.

But if the first 30 minutes were something of a dream for UNC, the second half was nothing less than a scream-until-you're-blue roller coaster ride. In the end, the Tar Heels used some key defensive plays to hold off a furious Hurricane comeback and claim a much-needed 33-27 victory in front of 59,000 spectators.

"We knew at halftime that Miami (4-2, 1-1), as talented as they are … we knew we were going to get a shot from them," Davis said. "And I think that these are the lessons as a young football team that you like to learn; you certainly like to learn them on the end when you win a game."

After suffering from several slow starts this season, UNC (2-4, 1-2) came out firing Saturday. Immediately resurrecting its troublesome running game, North Carolina drove down the field on its second drive - highlighted by a 39-yard Anthony Elzy touchdown scamper.

Showing significant improvement with 183 rushing yards, UNC was able to win the time of possession battle for a second straight game as T.J. Yates effectively led the offense and threw for 218 passing yards.

"Elzy sparked us … making that big long run," Yates said. "It just makes it so much easier for the defense, too. They get a lot more rest when we control the ball more."

After two Connor Barth-field goals gave UNC a 13-0 lead - Barth hit four total to extend his consecutive makes streak to a team-record 19 - freshman Quan Sturdivant blocked a Miami punt to set up another score.

And North Carolina had more tricks in the bag.

Following a reversed call that gave them a 21-yard completion, the Tar Heels called a reverse themselves as Brandon Tate took the ball down the left side of the field for a 54-yard touchdown.

"Historically Miami has always had such great team defensive speed," Davis said. "If you can execute and if the call comes at the right time … if you get them flying and chasing the ball in one direction … but you got to have somebody that has the speed."

While Miami looked pitiful in the first half, the Hurricanes came out of the tunnel with a swagger in the third quarter and attacked the youthful UNC secondary.

Quarterback Kyle Wright engineered three straight touchdowns - the third was a 97-yard touchdown pass that broke Kenan Stadium records for a UNC opponent.

"It wasn't a matter of assignment or anything like that, it was just a matter of intensity," safety Deunta Williams said. "And I felt like we were lacking a little bit on the sideline, with a big lead and everything and a big cushion. I felt like we just needed to crank it up a little bit."

A key third-down sack by senior Hilee Taylor stopped the next Miami drive to turn the momentum, and a combination of UNC interceptions and Barth field goals provided a workable lead for most of the fourth quarter, although the outcome wasn't cemented until Hakeem Nicks gathered in an onside kick with 1:17 remaining.

The secondary, which was further depleted by a season-ending injury to Kendric Williams, gave up 302 passing yards but picked off four passes. In what he affirmed as his "coming-out party," Sturdivant claimed one of those interceptions to go along with the blocked punt.

And although Miami gained almost 300 yards in the second half, the defense's ability to create four turnovers allowed it to hold off the comeback.

"I've said it so many times that the turnover is the No. 1 most indicative statistic that I think that determines whether you win or lose football games," Davis said.

The thought of No. 7 South Carolina visiting next week should put a stop to any extended celebration - UNC will likely need two perfect halves in that game - but the Tar Heels were doing plenty of smiling in the locker room after arguably the program's first significant win in the last two seasons.



Contact the Sports Editor at sports@unc.edu.

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