Dec 30, 2013; San Antonio, TX, USA; Texas Longhorns head coach Mack Brown reacts during the post game press conference after a game against the Oregon Ducks at Alamo Dome. Oregon defeated Texas 30-7. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
5. 1997 Gator Bowl
The 1996 Tar Heel team went 10-2, but there is some debate to whether it was better than its 1997 successor who went 11-1. This is because of the presence of Leon Johnson in the back field. The 1996 team saw the arrival of transfer Chris Keldorf and also the injury of Keldorf in the season finale and playing sophomore quarterback Oscar Davenport for his first start in the bowl game.
The team lost to Florida State per usual, but the loss to Virginia that year was a bitter one. The defense was becoming the high grade unit that dominated the teams the next year. Greg Ellis would take over the mantle of pass rush king from the departed Marcus Jones.
The real bright spot on defense was the arrival of freshman Dre Bly who turned in a tremendous season at the cornerback position. The team got to 9-2 and finished second in the ACC. They were returning to the Gator Bowl for the first time in three years and were ranked twelfth in the AP.
Their opposition was the West Virginia Mountaineers with their well-travelled fan base coming into Jacksonville for the throw down. The Mountaineers were 8-3 and sported a tough defense of their own and a top 25 ranking (#25).
Davenport would play the game at quarterback and he score the first touchdown of the game over the top to Octavus Barnes in the second quarter of action. The defenses had stymied each other in the first quarter. A Robert Williams pick led to a field goal to make the lead 10-0 soon after. Davenport would score on a keeper to make the game 17-3 before the half.
After the half it was West Virginia’s turn to try and get back into the game. A big pass to David Saunders cut the lead to 17-10. Turnovers got in the Mountaineers way of truly coming back. An Amos Zereoue fumble led to a Tar Heel field goal to put the lead at ten points. Bly picked off two passes to add to his All-American resume and frustrate the Mountaineers. A late West Virginia field goal following a Carolina fumble offered some hope.
The defense held off the final Mountaineer effort on downs to preserve the victory and reach the top ten ranking.