MIAMI (AP) — Giovani 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.
Playing not far from where he starred as a high-schooler, Bernard ran for 177 yards and two first-half touchdowns and North Carolina survived 15 penalties to beat Miami 18-14 Saturday, handing the Hurricanes their first loss in Atlantic Coast Conference play this season and creating a logjam in the Coastal Division.
"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."
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 the outright division lead on Saturday. Quarterback Stephen Morris, who set a league record with 566 passing yards against North Carolina State earlier this season, went down with what appeared to be a left ankle injury midway through the fourth quarter.
Morris was helped off, had an icepack strapped to the ankle, then trainers placed it in a walking boot and escorted him away from the sideline. He wasn't with the Hurricanes for the final moments, when they came up short after getting the ball back with 1:47 remaining — turning the ball over on downs after getting to the North Carolina 26.
"I just heard him when he was on the ground," said Miami coach Al Golden, who added that Morris would have X-rays taken. "I have no idea if he got caught up or if he landed funny. I just didn't see it."
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. Morris and Mike James — who had career-bests of 22 carries and 96 yards — had rushing touchdowns for Miami.