CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Mack Brown knew he needed to coax some confidence out of his North Carolina players after inheriting a team that frequently found a way to give up leads last season.
Two games in, the Tar Heels are playing like they’re free from that burden — fittingly led by the composed true freshman who isn’t the least bit interested in experiencing any of that frustration.
Sam Howell directed a clutch final drive and found Dazz Newsome just inside the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown with 1:01 left, lifting the Tar Heels to a second fourth-quarter comeback in as many weeks and a 28-25 win against Miami on Saturday night.
“I just have confidence in myself, I have confidence in this team,” Howell said. “I have confidence in all 10 guys on the field with me. This is what we do.”
Howell’s perfect throw found Newsome dragging his toes inches from the sideline from 10 yards out. That capped a stunning 75-yard march that included him hitting Rontavius Groves for 20 yards on a fourth-and-17 to keep the drive alive, which came only minutes after the Tar Heels had surrendered the lead on a late Miami touchdown.
Michael Carter’s diving-for-the-pylon 2-point conversion pushed the lead to 28-25, only to see Miami (0-2, 0-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) drive past midfield to set up a tying field-goal attempt. But Bubba Baxa’s 49-yard kick went wide left, sending several Tar Heels players sprinting toward the student section to celebrate even though there were still 5 seconds left.
No matter. The Tar Heels (2-0, 1-0) are 2-0 for the first time since 2014 after this one, which followed a comeback from 11 down in the fourth to beat South Carolina 24-20.
“For a team that’s struggled over the last couple of years to win fourth-quarter games, I’m so happy to see them do it twice, two weeks in a row,” Brown said. “It’s really special.”
Howell completed 16 of 24 passes for 274 yards, including a 62-yard touchdown throw to Dyami Brown as part of UNC’s 17-3 game-opening burst.
The Hurricanes dominated the second quarter to climb back in it, then appeared ready to pull this one out when Jarren Williams found Will Mallory for an 11-yard score and a 25-20 lead with 4:38 left.
“It’s a tough one to take for sure, but we’re all staying together,” Williams said. “We’re a team and we know we’ve got to work harder.”
The Hurricanes host Bethune-Cookman on Saturday in their home opener.