CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — Jacory Harris had an opportunity to look at his statistics, but he declined. He already knew everything he needed to know.
Harris passed for 267 yards and three touchdowns to help Miami beat North Carolina 30-24 on Saturday.
“I’m just happy we got the W,” Harris said.
The Hurricanes (3-3, 1-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) nearly lost a 24-point lead, surviving a sluggish second half for their first road win under Al Golden.
Miami, which gained 263 of its 311 total yards in the first half, avoided the first 0-3 start in league play in program history. The Hurricanes also picked up their first win in five tries at North Carolina.
“This was very key,” linebacker Sean Spence said. “We feel like we’re back in the ACC race now.”
Bryn Renner passed for 288 yards and two touchdowns for the Tar Heels (5-2, 1-2), who trailed 27-3 late in the second quarter.
Giovani Bernard rushed for 110 yards and a touchdown, becoming the first North Carolina player to rush for at least 100 yards in five consecutive games since Ethan Horton in 1984.
The Tar Heels scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns, cutting Miami’s lead to 30-24 on a 20-yard catch by Reggie Wilkins with 46 seconds remaining. Curtis Campbell recovered the onside kick for North Carolina after Miami’s LaRon Byrd was unable to secure the ball.
North Carolina moved the ball to Miami’s 30 before Spence sacked Renner. The Tar Heels had a final play from the Miami 37, but a pass to Bernard with laterals to Erik Highsmith and Jheranie Boyd was stopped after a 13-yard gain.
The Tar Heels finished with 429 total yards, although 183 came in the fourth quarter against a softened Miami defense.
“We did not have any rhythm all day,” Renner said. “But we came back to fight, and that’s a credit to our character.”
Miami’s Lamar Miller entered the game as the ACC’s leading rusher, but his streak of five consecutive 100-yard games ended. He managed just 29 yards on 16 carries.
Miami found other ways to move the ball, jumping on the Tar Heels for a 17-0 lead after one quarter. North Carolina had outscored its opponents by a combined margin of 42-3 in the first quarter before the Hurricanes rolled into town.
“We didn’t want to be their next victim,” Golden said. “I think we started fast, but you still have to execute. I think we did that today.”
Miami led 14-0 before its defense ever took the field.
Harris marched the Hurricanes 71 yards for a touchdown on the game’s opening drive, capping the 13-play series with a 4-yard scoring pass to Mike James.
North Carolina’s T.J. Thorpe lost a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, setting up the Hurricanes on the UNC 27. Harris found Tommy Streeter, who got open deep after an end-around fake to Travis Benjamin, on the next play for a touchdown.
“Turnovers and big plays were the difference in the game,” North Carolina coach Everett Withers said. “We can’t give up a big play and then turn the ball over to such a good team.”
After North Carolina’s Thomas Moore kicked a 20-yard field goal to cut Miami’s lead to 17-3, the Hurricanes answered with a field goal of their own.
Then they capitalized after a 13-yard punt by North Carolina’s Thomas Hibbard gave them the ball at UNC’s 40. Harris connected with Benjamin on a deep pass down the right sideline for a 30-yard touchdown and a 27-3 advantage.
The fact that the Hurricanes scored on their first five possessions helped them overcome a second half in which they punted five consecutive times and managed just two first downs. Harris passed for 233 yards in the first half, the highest output for a half in his career.
“Coach told us we wanted to score five times in the first half,” Harris said. “That was our goal. But we wanted five touchdowns.”
Criticized heavily throughout his career for being turnover-prone, Harris finished without an interception for the third consecutive game. Before he took a knee to close out the first half, Harris had led the Hurricanes to points on 10 of their last 11 possessions dating to their 38-35 loss at Virginia Tech last week.
“If it’s not there, he’s not going to force anything,” Streeter said. “He’s grown up in that department.”