UNC's Shaun Draughn (20), who had a career-high 160 yards rushing, races 58 yards for a touchdown. ROBERT WILLETT - email@example.com
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee dropped North Carolina from its schedule for the next two years.
Good call. The Volunteers don't want to see UNC again after Thursday's wild Music City Bowl.
UNC won 30-27 in overtime after a controversial and confusing finish to regulation which saw UNC's Casey Barth kick a 39-yard field goal to force overtime after head official 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.
Tennessee canceled games between the border states in August in order to lighten the schedule for first-year coach Derek Dooley. The teams ended playing a year early.
Tennessee (6-7) thought it won the game in regulation. Down 20-17 with 16 seconds left — and without any timeouts — UNC opted the run the ball with Shaun Draughn from Tennesse's 25-yard line.
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 ran onto the field, which caused confusion — and a penalty.
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 the penalty for too many men on the field but also showed Yates spiked the ball with 1 second left.
With 1 second put back on the clock, Barth stepped in and hit a 39-yarder to force overtime.
Yates' capped a penalty-shortened drive with a 1-yard sneak to give UNC a 27-20 lead in overtime.
Tennessee responded with a touchdown on its first possession of overtime. Freshman quarterback Tyler Bray hit Luke Stocker for a 20-yard touchdown — Bray's fourth TD pass of the game.
Bray threw his third interception of the game in the second overtime, to senior linebacker Quan Sturdivant to set the stage for Barth's winning points.
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.
UNC needed Draughn's ground game to offset Bray's passing fireworks. Bray completed 27-of-45 passes for 308 yards with touchdowns of 29, 45 and 8 yards in regulation.
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, five-play, 72-yard drive down the field, helped by two completions to tight end Ryan Taylor (9 catches, 85 yards). Yates scrambled left and found receiver Erik Highsmith down the left sideline for the 39-yard score.
UNC, which had lost three bowl games since beating Auburn in the 2001 Peach Bowl, jumped out to a 7-0 lead at 10:58 after a 58-yard touchdown run by Draughn. Draughn broke left, got a good kick-out block by tight end Christian Wilson, and then juked Tennessee corner Janzen Jackson for the longest run of his career.
Tennessee tied the game 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. On the same drive, UT got a pass interference call from cornerback Jabari Price and then turned Price around on Jones' touchdown pass.
Williams' injury added to the string of injuries to UNC's senior class, which was also missing running back Johnny White (clavicle), guard Alan Pelc (shoulder), linebacker Bruce Carter (knee) and tight end Zack Pianalto (leg).
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 for academic misconduct and agent-related improper benefits.
Still, with revolving door at running back and the steady arm of Yates, the team rallied around the senior class to post a third straight winning record and make a third straight bowl trip.
And it ended with wild, memorable win.