NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee dropped North Carolina from its schedule for the next two years.
Good call. The Volunteers don't want to see the Tar Heels again after Thursday's wild and controversial Music City Bowl.
UNC won 30-27 in double-overtime after a bizarre and confusing finish to regulation which saw UNC's Casey Barth kick a 39-yard field goal after referee Dennis Lipski declared the game over.
Barth's 23-yard field goal in the second overtime gave the Tar Heels (8-5) their first bowl win since 2001 and their eighth win of an eventful season marred by an NCAA investigation but also marked by resilience.
"This game typified our season and the heart and character of this team," UNC coach Butch Davis said.
Tennessee canceled games between the border states in August. The teams ended playing a year early in a memorable bowl matchup.
Tennessee (6-7) thought it had won the game in regulation. UNC trailed 20-17 with 16 seconds left and the ball on Tennessee's 25-yard line. Without any timeouts, Shaun Draughn rushed right for 7 yards.
As the clock wound down, quarterback T.J. Yates tried to scramble the offense to the line of scrimmage to stop the clock. At the same time, a portion of UNC's field goal unit rushed onto the field, which caused confusion -- and a penalty.
The clock hit all zeroes, Lipski called the game, and Tennessee stormed the field, an eerily similar scene to Tennessee's last-second loss to LSU on Oct. 2. The review confirmed Yates spiked the ball with 1 second left.
"I figured I'd give it a shot and spike it anyway just to see what happens," Yates said. "We got lucky."
With 1 second put back on the clock, Barth stepped in and hit a 39-yarder to force overtime. Yates (23-of-39, 234 yards) capped a penalty-shortened drive in the first overtime with a 1-yard sneak to give UNC a 27-20 lead.
Tennessee responded with with a 20-yard touchdown pass from Tyler Bray to tight end Luke Stocker to tie the score after an extra point. The freshman quarterback (27-of-45, 312 yards) threw for four touchdowns, but his third interception of the game, in the second overtime to senior linebacker Quan Sturdivant, set the stage for Barth's winning points.
"I knew once we got a second chance we'd win," Sturdivant said.
Bray's third touchdown pass, an 8-yarder to Justin Harper with 5:16 left in the fourth quarter, looked like the game-winning points. But Daniel Lincoln's PAT was blocked by UNC defensive end Donte Paige-Moss, which left the score 20-17.
UNC, which led 7-0, 10-7 and 17-14, was as resourceful as it has been for the duration of this trying season. Draughn, subbing for the suspended Anthony Elzy, ran for a career-best 160 yards and was named the game's MVP.
The teams traded big plays, and the lead, in the first half. Bray's 45-yard home run to Da'Rick Rogers at 1:30 in the second quarter put the Vols up 14-10.
Yates responded with a taut 72-yard drive down the field, helped by two completions to tight end Ryan Taylor (nine catches, 85 yards). Yates finished the drive with a 39-yard pass to receiver Erik Highsmith to take a 17-14 halftime lead.
UNC, which had lost three bowl games since beating Auburn in the 2001 Peach Bowl, led 7-0 after a 58-yard touchdown run by Draughn.
Tennessee tied the score on a 29-yard touchdown catch by Gerald Jones, taking advantage of a UNC secondary which lost safety Deunta Williams to a gruesome leg injury on the series.
Williams got his right leg caught underneath him while he tackled Stocker at 5:32 in the first quarter and broke his fibula. Williams' injury added to the string of injuries to UNC's senior class.
The Heels never had senior stars Greg Little or Marvin Austin because of the NCAA investigation, which threatened to derail the season before it started.
UNC lost eight players for the season and 14 for at least one game because of the investigation into academic misconduct and agent-related improper benefits.
Still, with personnel losses, a revolving door at running back and the steady arm of Yates, the team rallied around the senior class to post a third straight eight-win season.
And an ending that no one will soon forget.
UNC 30, Tennessee 27 (2OT)
UNC--Draughn 58 run (Barth kick), 10:58. Tenn--Jones 29 pass from Bray (Lincoln kick), 2:10.
UNC--FG Barth 28, 10:24. Tenn--D.Rogers 45 pass from Bray (Lincoln kick), 1:30. UN C--Highsmith 39 pass from Yates (Barth kick), :27.
Tenn--Hunter 8 pass from Bray (kick blocked), 5:16. UN C--FG Barth 39, :00.
UNC--Yates 1 run (Barth kick). . Tenn--Stocker 20 pass from Bray (Lincoln kick)..
UNC--FG Barth 23. .
Time of possession
Rushing: North Carolina--Draughn 23-160, Harrelson 1-12, Boyd 1-7, Yates 4-(minus 28). Tennessee--Poole 11-40, Neal 9-28, Team 1-(minus 1), Jones 1-(minus 3), D. Rogers 2-(minus 7), Bray 5-(minus 30).
Passing: North Carolina--Yates 23-39-1-234, team 0-1-0-0. Tennessee--Bray 27-45-3-312.
Receiving: North Carolina--Taylor 9-85, D. Jones 5-51, Draughn 3-6, Wilson 2-17, Adams 2-8, Highsmith 1-39, Harrelson 1-28. Tennessee--Jones 9-89, Stocker 5-58, Moore 4-69, Poole 4-16, D. Rogers 1-45, Rivera 1-15, Hunter 1-8, Neal 1-7, Z. Rogers 1-5.
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