CHAPEL HILL, North Carolina — Miami's penalty problem resurfaced again, along with turnovers and mistakes that never gave the Hurricanes a chance of pulling a road upset at No. 17 North Carolina.
The Hurricanes committed 12 penalties for 103 yards and had three turnovers, two that led to quick touchdowns, in a 59-21 loss to the Tar Heels on Saturday.
"We just kept kicking ourselves in the foot," tight end Christopher Herndon IV said. "When we made big plays, sometimes it would get called back. Or if we would get some momentum, it would get called back. We just hurt ourselves today."
One play offered a perfect example. With Miami already trailing 17-0 in the second quarter, Stacy Coley made a terrific catch for a 34-yard gain, only to draw an immediate 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct for taunting a UNC defender.
Miami, who set a school and ACC record with 23 penalties for 194 yards against Duke two games ago, had nine penalties for 80 yards by halftime.
"I understand that you're frustrated and that sometimes it's a result of how much it means to you," interim coach Larry Scott said. "But composure is the biggest piece of that and playing together and still staying together and not letting it get you to the point where you do things that hurt the team."
For North Carolina, Marquise Williams accounted for four touchdowns and Ryan Switzer had a 78-yard punt return for a score.
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.
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 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.
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 Scott. Miami was still alive in the Coastal Division but ended up flirting with the worst loss in program history for the second time in four games.
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.
The Tar Heels have a program-record 125 points in the past two games, and Switzer's TD return was the seventh of his career — one shy of tying the NCAA record.