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RB Johnson Injured As Miami Escapes UNC

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Duke Johnson rushed for more than 80 yards in the first quarter Thursday before leaving with an apparent head injury, though coach Al Golden said his star running back should be OK. Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images.
Duke Johnson rushed for more than 80 yards in the first quarter Thursday before leaving with an apparent head injury, though coach Al Golden said his star running back should be OK. Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images.

Miami star running back Duke Johnson exited the game in the first quarter and never returned as the Hurricanes needed a late touchdown to avoid an upset in Chapel Hill, N.C., winning 27-23.

Stephen Morris threw for 322 yards, but otherwise had a forgettable night as North Carolina intercepted him four times.

Johnson ran for 83 yards on eight carries before heading to the locker room with an undisclosed injury. The 5-foot-9, 196-pound back entered Thursday second in the ACC with 114.4 rushing yards per game. Johnson was caught from behind on a 59-yard scamper and later left with an apparent concussion. 

Receiver Phillip Dorsett also caught two passes for 68 yards before exiting with an apparent knee injury. He later was shown using crutches on the sideline.

Backup running back Dallas Crawford gashed the ACC's worst rush defense in North Carolina by gaining 154 total yards and scoring two touchdowns, including the game-winner with 16 seconds left.

A Tar Heels receiver grabbed a last-second pass in the back of the end zone that would've won the game, but had it knocked away almost immediately. North Carolina drove to the Miami 28-yard line for the final play.

UNC quarterback Bryn Renner had one of his best games this season, completing 28-of-36 for 297 yards and a touchdown, but a fourth-quarter interception deep in Miami territory prevented the Tar Heels from expanding a 23-20 lead.

The coaching staff praised Johnson's durability just last week. After the game, Al Golden, calling the running back by his given name, told ESPN, "I think Randy will be OK."

North Carolina (1-5, 0-3) now must win five of its last six games to become bowl eligible. Miami (6-0, 2-0) will be a big favorite at home against Wake Forest a week from Saturday with or without Johnson, but the Hurricanes need their stud back as they travel to Florida State and host Virginia Tech in the next two games.