North Carolina Tar Heels: Ranking ALL the Bowl Games

30 of 32

Nov 16, 2015; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Houston Texans quarterback T.J. Yates (6) reacts as he walks off the field after the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium. The Texans won 10-6. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

3. 2010 Music City Bowl

The 2010 North Carolina Tar Heels team was supposed to be the best team that Butch Davis had put together at the school. This was mostly because of the defense and its linemen. He had brought in Marvin Austin, Robert Quinn, Tydreke Powell, Quinton Coples, and others. The linebacking corps had Bruce Carter and Quan Sturdivant. The secondary had Deunta Williams and Da’Norris Searcy at safety.

Then they were mostly gone. Most of those guys missed the LSU game which the Tar Heels almost won anyway. Some came back at various points of the season. Austin and Quinn would never return. Defensive line coach John Blake was fired. Ultimately Davis would be gone too the next year.

Left to build something out of the season the Tar Heels played freshmen like Kareem Martin and Jabari Price. They leaned on T.J. Yates to guide the offense without wideout Greg Little, also suspended in the investigation. Fortunately the offensive line included big left tackle James Hurst. The Heels went 7-5 on the season and 4-4 in the conference, losing again to State and to all three Coastal foes of note (GT, Miami, and VT).

That season got them a trip to Nashville to face the similarly angst driven Tennessee Volunteers. Tennessee was having a season full of bizarre finishes that they came out on the short end of, like in their game against LSU that year.

The game was full of Tennessee fans with only a narrow band of blue marking the Carolina section. The game might well have been in Neyland except that would have 50,000 more Volunteer fans.

Carolina struck first with a 59 yard run by Shaun Draughn, the team’s latest answer to find a running back. Unfortunately freshman Giovani Bernard was injured and reshirted. Draughn did well enough on this day. The Heels entered the second quarter on a kick from Casey Barth for a 10-7 lead.

Tennessee freshman quarterback Tyler Bray gashed the Heels near the end of the first half with a big pass to Da’Rick Rogers. Rogers converted the play into a 45 yard score and it looked like it would be a Tennessee lead at the half at 14-10.

T.J. Yates had other ideas, taking the offense swiftly down the field and finding Erik Highsmith for a forty yard touchdown of his own and changing the score to read 17-14 in favor of the Heels.

The fourth quarter was the scene of the real fireworks. Bray found Justin Hunter for what looked to be the tying touchdown only for the extra point to be missed, which would leave the game at a field goal margin. After the pass, Tyler Bray did his throat slashing gesture. There were only five minutes left in the game.

There was about thirty seconds left when Yates was given the ball to once more conjure some magic, which no one really believed he could do anyway. Then he completed a pass to Todd Harrellson that the wide receiver caught then got speared to move the ball fifteen yards closer. The Tar Heels ran the ball with Draughn, but with no timeouts there was confusion on whether Yates should spike it or the field goal unit should kick it.

In the end, both happened. The game was declared over with Tennessee the winner. Then the referees started talking and decided that Yates had snapped and spiked it with a second still remaining. The Tar Heels were penalized for having too many men on the field, which meant a longer kick for Casey Barth. He made it though and the game went to overtime.

Both teams scored on their first possessions. Bray was finally humbled when he threw a pick to Quan Sturdivant in the second overtime. Barth then converted the field goal on the Tar Heels possession to win a game where the game had been proclaimed over, but somehow the Heels came back to win.

The NCAA instituted a rule as a result of this game that procedure penalties in the last minute of games would require a ten second runoff if the team chose not to take a timeout. Which means the 2010 Music City Bowl is an experience that cannot be repeated.

Next: 2