CHAPEL HILL, North Carolina — North Carolina's season-long ascent is picking up speed.
Marquise Williams accounted for four touchdowns and Ryan Switzer had a 78-yard punt return for a score, leading the 17th-ranked Tar Heels' dominating performance in a 59-21 win against Miami in Saturday's home finale.
Williams ran for 101 yards and three touchdowns and threw for a TD for the Tar Heels (9-1, 6-0 Atlantic Coast Conference, No. 23 CFP), who won their ninth straight to stay alone atop the Coastal Division and move within a victory of a berth in the league championship game.
"This team's playing as a team," coach Larry Fedora said. "Everybody's there to pick each other up ... they're doing the things that a team does. And this is a damn good football team."
Elijah Hood ran for 132 yards and a score for UNC, which didn't put up the gaudy yardage numbers from last week's 66-31 rout of Duke. But the Tar Heels took advantage of penalties, turnovers and mistakes by the Hurricanes (6-4, 3-3) to turn the game into a romp — complete with Williams and Switzer commandeering Miami's "The U" hand sign in mocking celebrations of first-half scores.
UNC has scored a program-record 125 points in its last two games, and hasn't committed a turnover in three straight games while notching seven takeaways in that span — three coming against Miami. UNC quickly converted two of those into touchdowns.
"I think it says a lot about not just the older guys but the younger guys, to not get caught up in success and know we've got to keep consistently bringing it the same way we have every week," senior offensive guard Landon Turner said. "Because nothing should change."
North Carolina came into Saturday with a chance to qualify for the ACC title game, though that ended when Pittsburgh won at Duke in a game that started 3 1/2 hours earlier.
Now the Tar Heels can earn a date with top-ranked Clemson on Dec. 5 with a win in either of their last two games — road dates with Virginia Tech and rival North Carolina State — or a Pittsburgh loss in either of its last two games.
The Tar Heels already have more wins than in any season since Mack Brown left to coach Texas in 1997. UNC is also 6-0 in the ACC for the first time since winning its last ACC crown in 1980.
Brad Kaaya threw for 326 yards and a score for Miami, which lost for the first time in three games under interim coach Larry Scott. Miami was still alive in the Coastal but ended up flirting with the worst loss in program history for the second time in four games.
"Everything we asked them to do they did, and they did it well," Scott said of Miami's preparation. "We practiced hard. We felt that when we came into this game that we would be ready to go. Obviously the results didn't lend to that."
Three weeks after losing 58-0 at home to Clemson in a game that led to the firing of coach Al Golden, the Hurricanes trailed 31-0 at halftime, and then watched the Tar Heels quickly tack on two more touchdowns to make it 45-0 with 10:26 left in the third.
Miami finally scored on Kaaya's 8-yard TD throw to Lawrence Cager with 6:30 left in the third, almost a perfect mirror to last year's meeting when Miami led 44-6 with 7:12 left in the third of a blowout win.
Miami finished with 12 penalties for 103 yards, continuing its trend as one of the nation's most penalized teams.
Switzer's TD return was the seventh of his career, one shy of tying the NCAA record.