CHAPEL HILL – On a third-and-1 with just fewer than five minutes remaining Thursday, North Carolina was up three points with a chance to put away No. 10 Miami.
The Tar Heels were leading, 23-20, and had the ball at their own 49-yard line, but before the play, they made a late substitution.
The officials, trying to give Miami the mandated three seconds to match the substitution, stood over the ball, which caused a delay of game penalty on North Carolina.
After a false start and a sack, North Carolina was forced to punt, and Miami scored the game-winning touchdown on the following possession, winning 27-23, at Kenan Stadium.
“We substituted and (the officials) felt like they needed to stand over the ball, and we couldn’t snap it,” North Carolina coach Larry Fedora said after the game. “I’m not sure I still understand it yet, so I’ll have to get an interpretation there.”
The debate was whether the Tar Heels made the substitutions in time for three seconds to elapse before the play clock expired.
Fedora thought North Carolina made the subs in time.
“I just didn’t think they were going to hold it up all the way to the end,” Fedora said. “That’s my responsibility. I should have called timeout.”
When the head official announced the delay of game penalty, North Carolina quarterback Bryn Renner was picked up protesting the call by the official’s microphone. After the game, Renner was asked if the officials gave an explanation for the call.
“I think (the officials) called a great game all game, and I really don’t want to comment on it,” Renner said.
North Carolina pinned Miami at its own 10-yard line following the sequence and had a Hail Mary attempt as time expired, but the Tar Heels couldn’t finish off the Hurricanes.
The Tar Heels haven’t beaten a ranked team since 2009, and a team ranked in to the top 10 since 2004.
Fedora took the blame for the penalty.
“That’s my responsibility,” Fedora said. “That’s my fault we didn’t get that off.”
Nick Piotrowicz can be reached at 407-9952 or npiotrowicz @rmtelegram.com