Dallas Crawford turned in a big performance in relief of Miami’s star runner to keep the No. 10 Hurricanes unbeaten.
Crawford ran for a 3-yard touchdown with 16 seconds left to give Miami a 27-23 victory over North Carolina on Thursday night in Chapel Hill, N.C.
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.
Eric Ebron had eight catches for 199 yards — a game record for a Tar Heels tight end. North Carolina was going for its first win against a top-10 opponent since beating 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-inch redshirt sophomore, kept the offense moving even as Morris kept turning the ball over against the Tar Heels’ maligned defense.
Test for Louisville
Eighth-ranked Louisville and Central Florida meet Friday night for the first time since 1985, and there is a lot riding on this one-shot showdown as they battle for the American Athletic Conference’s BCS berth.
With the host Cardinals (6-0, 2-0) heading to the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2014, UCF (4-1, 1-0) hopes to make this lone league meeting a memorable one.
It will be Louisville’s third game in 13 days.
‘‘This game is a big one,’’ Louisville coach Charlie Strong said this week. ‘‘Central Florida was able to go to Penn State and win on the road in Happy Valley. Then they played South Carolina close.”
N.E. school punished
The NCAA is placing Maine Maritime’s team on probation for two years and vacating its participation in the 2009 Division 3 tournament because of scholarship violations.
According to the NCAA Division 3 Committee on Infractions, Maine Maritime failed to properly monitor creation and awarding of four scholarships that improperly included athletics participation as criteria. Two of the scholarships gave preference to students-athletes, while the other two required participation in athletics for eligibility. All told, nine student-athletes received more than $5,000 between 2007 and 2012. During that period, Maine Maritime played in the first round of the 2009 tournament but failed to advance.
The NCAA, school, and individuals agreed to the summary disposition. Additional education on NCAA rules is part of the settlement. There was no immediate comment from Maine Maritime.
Long staying put
Jeff Long said he is committed to remaining the athletic director at Arkansas, even if he is approached by another school about another job. Long was announced as the chairman of the 13-member College Football Playoff selection committee Wednesday, a high-profile position that has led to speculation about his future with the Razorbacks. Long said he’s ‘‘not interested in listening to anybody about anything.’’ His contract was extended last year and runs through June 30, 2017 . . . Mississippi junior defensive end C.J. Johnson will have season-ending surgery on his right ankle. Johnson hasn’t been fully healthy since he suffered a broken right fibula in March. He played in the first four games this season, making 12 tackles, including four for a loss. He led the Rebels with 6.5 sacks in 2012. Johnson expects to qualify for a medical redshirt . . . Winless Grambling State has changed coaches for the second time this season. Defensive assistant Dennis Winston, a former NFL linebacker, was named interim coach of the Tigers (0-7), replacing George Ragsdale, who was promoted from running backs coach in September when Doug Williams was fired. The move was aimed at reuniting players, who were angered by a meeting with administrators on Tuesday and boycotted Wednesday’s practice. Ragsdale was reassigned in the athletic department . . . Michigan and UCLA announced a home-and-home series next decade, in 2022 and ’23.