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Game Scout: Miami at North Carolina

The SportsXchange

KICKOFF: Thursday, 7:30 p.m. ET

GAMEDATE: 10/17/13

SITE: Kenan Stadium, Chapel Hill, N.C.

TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

SERIES: North Carolina holds an 8-7 edge over Miami in the series history after winning 18-14 in Miami last year. The Hurricanes had won the two meetings before that, including a 30-24 win in Chapel Hill in 2011.

AP RANKINGS: Miami No. 10, North Carolina unranked

KEYS TO THE GAME

Senior Stephen Morris moved into the Top 10 among Miami quarterbacks for career passing yardage earlier this year.

Now he is poised to take a significant jump up the ladder when the Hurricanes play at North Carolina in a nationally televised affair Thursday night.

With 243 more yards, he will move past Vinny Testaverde and assume the No. 4 spot with a career total of 6,059 yards.

He is averaging only 190 yards passing a game, but that doesn't take into consideration the time he missed after injuring his ankle and the time spent on the sideline watching his teammates complete routs of Savannah State and South Florida.

He has pretty much missed more than the equivalent of an entire game after sitting out more than half of those two games.

He passed for 324 yards in Miami's last outing, a 45-30 win over Georgia Tech.

His currently is No. 8 in the record book, though he wasn't aware of it. If he gets to 6,059 yards, he would have an outside chance of catching No. 3 Gino Torretta, the Heisman winner who finished his career with 7,690 yards -- assuming his sore ankle doesn't flare up again.

"Once someone told me I cracked the Top 10, I found that to be a big accomplishment," Morris said. "I just kind of let that stay on the side. But if I ever do that, that's a big accomplishment."

No. 1 on the list is Ken Dorsey with 9,565 yards and No. 2 is Morris' former teammate, Jacory Harris, who finished his career in 2011 with 8,826 passing yards.

"My main man Jacory," Morris said, smiling.

The bye week has given the Heels an opportunity to regather themselves as they look to the finishing stretch that begins Thursday (Oct. 17) when unbeaten and 10th-ranked Miami comes to Chapel Hill.

There especially is a sense of urgency among the seniors, who include quarterback Bryn Renner, tailback A.J. Blue and left tackle James Hurst on offense and end Kareem Martin and backs Tre Boston and Jabari Price on defense.

"They know the end is coming, it's coming fast," coach Larry Fedora said. "I think these guys have done a good job. They're the ones that hold this team together.

"They're responsible for this football team, and how good we become and how good we are, and whether or not we continue to fight like I know we're going to."

With two ACC losses (Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech), the Tar Heels need to run the table to have a shot at getting a share of the Coastal Division title.

More important, if they lose to Miami, they must win five of their last six games to get the six wins needed for bowl eligibility.

One thing in the Tar Heels' favor: The Hurricanes are the last ranked opponent on their schedule.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Hurricanes

--Sophomore RB Duke Johnson is someone to keep an eye on in kick returns as well as when Miami is running plays from scrimmage. He is No. 1 in the ACC in all-purpose yards per game (190.8 average), No. 1 in kickoff return average (30.5), and No. 2 in rushing (114.4 per game).

--Senior WR Allen Hurns is Miami's leader in receptions and receiving yardage. He has 20 catches for 382 yards, a 19.1 average that ranks fifth in the ACC.

--Junior LB Denzel Perryman is a versatile defender who is strong against the run as well as quick enough to drop back in coverage. He leads Miami in tackles with 34 stops (1.5 for losses) and has broken up three passes and forced two quarterback hurries and one fumble.

--Junior CB Ladarius Gunter has solidified his starting position with an outstanding season. He has two receptions, tying him for fourth in the ACC with six other receivers.

Tar Heels

--Sophomore WR Quinshad Davis got off to a slow start to the season with just eight catches in the first three games combined. The last two outings he has had 11 receptions for 205 yards, and he also threw a touchdown pass in the loss to East Carolina.

--Senior QB Bryn Renner is scheduled to be back in the starting lineup after missing the loss at Virginia Tech because of a foot injury. He leads ACC quarterbacks in passing yards per game with his average of 279.3.

--Sophomore LB Jeff Schoettmer, a former walk-on, continues to impress. He had 13 tackles against Virginia Tech in Carolina's last outing and leads the team with 44 stops.

--Junior LB Norkeithus Otis looks to be a key figure as the Tar Heels try to stop or at least slow Miami's passing attack. He leads the Heels in sacks with 3.5 among his 24 tackles.
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