Friday, December 31, 2010

Tar Heels Win Road Bowl Game in Double OT, ACC Bowl Record Now 3-1

Casey Barth kicked a 23-yard field goal in the second overtime to send North Carolina past Tennessee 30-27 in a Music City Bowl that will be remembered much more for the crazy finish of regulation than how it ended Thursday night. In the end, there was plenty of crazy to go around.
Barth kicked a 39-yard field goal after officials reviewed what had been the final play of the game and decided to penalize the Tar Heels (8-5) for having "more than 11 men" on the field. The Big Ten officiating crew also announced T.J. Yates had spiked the ball with 1 second left. That allowed Barth to run out and kick the field goal that tied it at 20.

The chaotic series of plays, as well as the game as a whole, seemed perfectly emblematic of the Tar Heel’s entire season that started with such high expectations only to get bogged down by injuries, suspensions and players being declared ineligible by You-Know-Who In Indianapolis (formerly Kansas).

It got very interesting in the fourth quarter when Tennessee scored the go ahead touchdown in front of the orange clad partisan crowd of 69,143. Freshman QB Tyler Bray hit Justin Hunter with an 8-yard pass with just 5:16 left giving the Vols a 20-17 lead. Then it all started to unravel when UNC’s Donte Paige-Moss blocked Daniel Lincoln's extra point leaving the margin at three.

Carolina took the kickoff and launched a mini-drive only to be stifled on 4th and 20 when senior QB T.J. Yates his favorite receiver in the numbers with a 21-yard strike. Problem, was the normally reliable Dwight Jones dropped the pass and the Heels had to punt.

UNC burned their two time outs while stopping Tennessee’s next drive and regained possession at their won 20-yard line with to play. On first down, Yates hit Todd Harrelson for a 28-yard gain up the sideline. A Tennessee defensive back Janzen Jackson launched himself missile-like at Harrelson drawing a 15-yard penalty for a net gain of 43 yards. The play was reviewed to see if Harrelson’s acrobatic catch was legit, and the replay evidence was insufficient to overturn the completion call made on the field.

A pass and a run later, the Tar Heels were set to ground the ball, and bring in the field goal team for the tying attempt. It sounds relatively simple, but chaos ensued.

Yates got the team to the line and spiked the ball as a portion of the field goal team raced onto the field…Oops. The clock ticked to zero and head referee Dennis Lipski waved his arms. "Time has run out. The game is over," he announced. Head coaches Derek Dooley and Butch Davis shook hands at midfield. Tennessee players rushed the field while the partisan Volunteer crowd celebrated a 26th bowl victory.

But, not so fast. After a booth review, it was determined (correctly) that Yates had spiked the ball with one second remaining. Barth trotted out and nailed the 38 yarder to send the game to overtime.

The Vols and their faithful were not happy. Bottle and cups flew on the field and one Tennessee player threw his helmet. That drew another penalty flag for unsportsmanlike conduct which meant UNC would start the first overtime at the 12.5 yard line as opposed to the 25. They scored in four plays to take a 27-20 lead. Advantage, Tar Heels.

Now, all the men clad in sky blue had to do was stop the Vols from scoring a touchdown. They did not. Bray threw a perfect pass to Luke Stocker for the 25-yard TD on the very next play. This time, the extra point was good.

Tied at 27, the Tar Heels opted to play defense to start the second OT. Bray quickly completed a pass for one yard, but on second and nine he decided to throw the ball directly to UNC linebacker Quan Sturdivant, and Sturdivant, an All-ACC first teamer in 2009, decided to catch it.

North Carolina then set up the game winning field goal when what Draughn (their lone remaining uninjured, unsuspeneded, still eligible) tailback ripped off a sixteen yard gain.

Tennessee (6-7) was stunned at the sudden switch that cost the Vols an apparent bowl victory to cap Derek Dooley's first season. It was the second time this season that Tennessee has lost a game because of too many men on the field. The Vols lost to LSU on Oct. 2 when they got caught having too many defenders, giving the Tigers another chance to pull out a 16-14 win.

The winning field goal sparked a North Carolina celebration which marked an amazing end to a crazy season while a couple of Vols slumped to the field in disbelief.

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