How appropriate on so many levels.
First and foremost, like Syracuse in the Pinstripe Bowl, North Carolina absolutely, 100-percent earned this 30-27 win over Tennessee. All the credit should, and surely will, go to Butch Davis and his players.
It should also be pointed out that UNC quarterback T.J. Yates is one helluva gamer. For all the NCAA distractions from earlier this year, coupled with the criticisms of his inconsistencies and cries for a change at QB, Yates has persevered and led a dramatic 31-second comeback at the end of regulation.
And, for that, I applaud him wholeheartedly.
However, it should also be noted that North Carolina got a little help, too — and no, not from Big Ten officials. While the last 30 seconds of the game included a few more flags and official reviews than one would hope, none of the calls were really that egregious. If anything, Tennessee might have gotten away with a few unsportsmanlike conduct calls against quarterback Tyler Bray.
The personal foul, leading-with-the-helmet penalty on Tennessee after Todd Harrelson caught a 28-yard pass from Yates on North Carolina’s final drive of regulation was justified, and there was no sufficient evidence to overturn the call on the field of a catch.
Arguably, there could have been another personal foul penalty on Tennessee for a late hit one play later on a 12-yard completion to UNC’s Dwight Jones.
And, yes, there was one second left on the clock when Yates spiked the ball, even though UNC had too many men on the field in what quickly became LSU 2.0 for Tennessee.
The personal foul penalty on Tennessee at the end of regulation, which was assessed 15 yards in favor of UNC in the first overtime, didn’t appear to be fully explained, but it ultimately became part of a larger theme:
Simply put, Tennessee committed too many mental errors and allowed North Carolina to stay in the game.
With that said, there may not be a guy I feel for more than Vols coach Derek Dooley.
Dooley has had a lot thrown on him as a first-year coach at Tennessee, and all things considered, has done a really great job. He was handed a young team with not a lot of depth and a handful of NCAA probes, yet managed to get 6 wins in the toughest conference in college football.
And he wasn’t awarded any breaks, either. In many ways, Dooley was the anti-Les Miles.
All in all, though, North Carolina’s game-winning field goal in double overtime was a fitting end to what has been a tumultuous season for both the Tar Heels and the Vols.
Surely, it’s one that won’t be forgotten, either.