MIAMI (AP) — Here's what Miami lost on Saturday: A division game, an unblemished record in the Atlantic Coast Conference and quite possibly its starting quarterback.
To make matters even worse, Giovani Bernard reminded the Hurricanes what might have been.
Playing near where he starred as a high-schooler, Bernard ran for 177 yards and two first-half touchdowns, leading North Carolina past Miami 18-14. He shined at running back for the Tar Heels in a game where the Hurricanes lost starting quarterback Stephen Morris to a lower left leg injury during the fourth quarter, and fell from the ranks of the ACC unbeaten.
"It's very tough," said Hurricanes running back Mike James, his head tilted back against a wall as he spoke postgame. "I mean, this is a tough game to lose."
James had career-bests of 22 carries and 96 yards for the Hurricanes, and he scored Miami's first touchdown on a 1-yard run. Morris scored from 5 yards out in the third quarter, but went down near the Miami sideline with 8:26 left to play. He was helped to the bench area by trainer Vinny Scavo, then had his left ankle wrapped in ice, and eventually limped off the field during the last Miami drive while wearing a walking boot.
Miami coach Al Golden said Morris would get X-rays. School officials were not expected to issue any updates about Morris' condition before Sunday afternoon.
"I just heard him when he was on the ground," Golden said. "I have no idea if he got caught up or if he landed funny. I just didn't see it."
When the final whistle sounded, the entire look of the ACC Coastal race changed.
Miami (4-3, 3-1), North Carolina (5-2, 2-1), Virginia Tech (4-3, 2-1) and Duke (5-2, 2-1) all have one loss in conference play — but the Hurricanes may have lost much more than that. Morris has been unquestionably the team's brightest star this season, setting a league record with 566 passing yards against North Carolina State and emerging as the Hurricanes' leader.
Adding to the complexity of the Morris matter: Miami plays rival Florida State next week.
"I talked to him in the locker room for a little bit," said Ryan Williams, who relieved Morris. "He seems to be doing good. I don't exactly know what's wrong with him. I don't know when he'll be back."
Morris finished 12 for 26 with 155 yards and two interceptions. Williams was 9-for-13 passing with 80 yards for Miami, which was outgained 486-415.
Bernard begged about 20 tickets away from his North Carolina teammates, giving them instead to friends and family who wanted to see his homecoming. And he rewarded their benevolence with the two scores, helping the Tar Heels overcome a 15-penalty afternoon.