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.
"It definitely has meaning to me," said Bernard, who attended St. Thomas Aquinas in nearby Fort Lauderdale before turning down a scholarship offer from the Hurricanes and enrolling at North Carolina. "Just being able to play out there with my brothers and out there in my hometown, it's a good feeling — but the main thing is getting the win."
A three-play flurry by the Tar Heels late in the second quarter will likely go down as the difference in this one.
Facing a fourth-and-6 from the Miami 33, Bernard got loose to make a stumbling catch of what became a 16-yard pass from Bryn Renner — a play where the Hurricanes nearly had a sack, and one that left Miami defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio punching the air in disappointment.
His mood turned even more sour just seconds later, when Bernard quickly went in from 17 yards out.
"Gio, he's a complete player," North Carolina coach Larry Fedora said. "It doesn't matter if it's pass blocking, catching the football, running the football, returning kicks — he'll do whatever he can to keep the football team in the game."
And the Tar Heels caught Miami napping with a two-point conversion, with Tommy Hibbard taking a quick snap and throwing to Eric Ebron for a 15-7 lead on a play where Golden thought the Hurricanes had a breakdown and were left with only 10 men on the field.
That proved huge, too. In the fourth quarter, Miami's final two drives ended with turnovers on downs — with the Hurricanes in field-goal range both times, but trailing by four anyway. Had North Carolina kicked the extra point after Bernard's second TD, it theoretically would have been a three-point margin.
Bernard went in from 10 yards out to cap the opening Tar Heels' drive: a seven-play, 61-yard waltz. It stayed 7-0 until the midpoint of the second quarter, though easily could have been much worse.
Renner was picked off by Miami's Eddie Johnson near the goal line on one possession, and Casey Barth missed a 33-yard field goal with 10:53 left in the half. A roughing-the-kicker penalty on a Miami punt gave the Hurricanes a break, and James plowed in from a yard out on that extended possession to tie the game at 7-all with 5:21 remaining.
Morris scored from 5 yards out with 5:06 left in the third to end a 12-play, 94-yard drive and get the Hurricanes within 15-14 — a sequence where Miami apparently wanted to try going for a two-point conversion as well. But officials flagged the Hurricanes for snapping the ball too quickly, and Miami settled for just an extra point.
"Obviously, we left some plays on the field," Golden said.