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Golden credits defense for bending, not breaking against UNC

UM coach Al Golden spoke with WQAM broadcaster Don Bailey Jr. after Thursday night's thrilling 27-23 come-from-behind win at North Carolina.

Golden called the victory "a gutsy win" and lamented UM's four turnovers. But he also praised the overall defensive effort, the MVP performance from Dallas Crawford, the blocked field goal by freshman Artie Burns and the guts Miami showed on its game-winning drive late.

The Hurricanes (6-0, 2-0 in ACC play) lost running back Duke Johnson (head), safety Kacy Rodgers (ankle) and receiver Phillip Dorsett (knee) to injuries. Golden told ESPN he thought Johnson would be okay, but didn't discuss the other injuries.

Crawford, Thursday night's hero, said of his game-winning TD run: "Four yards out, I just knew I can't be denied. It's what you work out for, what you live for -- situations like that. I just knew I couldn't be denied."

The Hurricanes won despite a lot of ugliness. This was the third straight game UM turned the ball over four times. Stephen Morris threw four interceptions and simply looked off his game, finishing 19 of 35 for 322 yards, but nearly costing UM the game.

"Again, we got to take care of the football," Golden said. "We have to improve by taking care of the turnovers. But really gutsy by the defense to overcome four turnovers. 23 points on 80 plays and four turnovers. What does that say about the defense? Again, I know we have to fix some things. We let [North Carolina tight end Eric] Ebron get into the secondary too much. I know all that. At the end of the day they only scored 23 points on 80 plays and you give them four turnovers -- it says a lot about how tough they finish drives. Every time they intercepted or held them to a field goal that kept us in the game. If any of those go to 14 or 17 that thing is running away from us."

Golden praised Crawford not only for his running, but his blocked punt as well. Burns had the blocked field goal that led to UM's first touchdown.

"Artie Burns -- what can you say?," Golden said. "He shaved the outside leg, laid up, not out. I'm just proud of him man. We needed that. That takes away one of the interceptions when you score on defense. Just proud of the effort we gave."

As for Crawford, UM's hero with two late touchdowns and a career-high 137 yards on 33 carries, Golden said the team put the game on his back.

"And he wanted it," Golden said. "He never got cautious with the football. He continued to see the same reads, made the same cuts with confidence. I'm real proud of him and real proud of OT [Eduardo Clements], who came in when he got tired there and made a couple big runs."

Miami marched 90 yards on 13 plays for the game-winning drive.

"Are you kidding me? To do that on the road you got something in your bowels, you got a foundation to work off of," Golden said. "I'm proud of those guys."

Miami's defense gave up 500 yards including 395 through the air, but came up with two huge turnovers.

"Is it pretty? Do you want to walk out of here with 500 yards or whatever? No," Golden said. "[But] think of it in terms of possessions because of the turnovers. To end up holding them to 23 [points] says a lot about red zone defense and our stamina and conditioning. To hang in there, not let them in. Look, we'll fix a lot of things when we get back to Coral Gables. But make no mistake this is a big win for the Miami Hurricanes."

Cornerback Tracy Howard came in with one career interception. He had two Thursday including a huge one in the fourth quarter to stop a UNC drive at the UM 10.

"Tracy's got a good sense for football, a good football mind," Golden said. "We're just going to keep coaching him on just making sure he's playing the defense. I know he missed the tackle on Ebron on the big one [71-yard touchdown]. We'll get him coached him up on that. Again, give them credit. They were hyped. They were ready. That was a turkey shoot for awhile there. But you're going to have this during the year. If you want to be a good team you got to maybe not play your best or not execute your best and find a way to win. We found a way to win."

What is Golden most proud of leaving Chapel Hill?

"What I said. We played until four zeroes [showed on the clock] and we had every opportunity along the way to say 'Well, it's not our night' or not have the courage to finish. They chose to deserve victory," Golden said. "That's what they chose. They chose to win, stay together, fight, stand their ground until the end and because of that they gave themselves an opportunity to win the game."

Golden had told the team in Wednesday night's meetings the Hurricanes were going to have to fight until the very end to beat North Carolina (1-5).

"If they weren't believers before I told them just now in the locker room by the time you land you'll be a believer," Golden said. "We knew what we were going to face here tonight. This was a circle the wagons game tonight for them. This was all the energy you can absorb and then try to fight back. So it was a good win for our guys."

Here is what offensive lineman Jonathan Feliciano said after the win on Twitter...