NCF Nation: 2010 Music City Bowl

North Carolina defeated Tennessee 30-27 in double overtime Thursday night in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl.

Here’s an instant analysis from the game:

How the game was won: The Vols seemingly had the game won, but imploded in the final 31 seconds of regulation. The Tar Heels, with no timeouts left, connected on a 28-yard pass down the sideline and then picked up an additional 15 yards when Tennessee’s Janzen Jackson was whistled for a personal foul penalty for leading with his head. The Tar Heels tied the game on Casey Barth’s 39-yard field goal on the final play of regulation, but only after the officials put one second back on the clock after a review from the booth determined there was still one second remaining when North Carolina quarterback T.J. Yates spiked the ball. The Tar Heels were penalized for having too many men on the field when their field goal team tried to run onto the field, but they still got one last play because there's no 10-second runoff in college football similar to the NFL. Another 15-yard penalty on the Vols occuring after Barth's game-tying field goal gave North Carolina the ball on the 12 in the first overtime. After both teams scored touchdowns in the first overtime, Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray was intercepted by Quan Sturdivant in the second overtime, and Tar Heels won it on Barth’s 23-yard field goal.

Turning point: Tennessee took the lead with 5:16 to play on Bray’s 8-yard touchdown pass to freshman Justin Hunter, but Daniel Lincoln’s extra point was partially blocked. That made the score 20-17 and left the door open for North Carolina to tie the game with a field goal, which the Tar Heels were able to do on the final play of regulation.

Turning point II: Giving up the 28-yard completion on North Carolina’s first play there at the end of regulation was unforgivable. The only thing that beats you there, especially with the Tar Heels out of timeouts, is a big play, and the only thing worse than that was giving up a big gainer that becomes even bigger because of an ill-advised personal foul penalty.

Player of the game: Bray’s late interception was a killer, but he has a great future and made some big-time throws against the Tar Heels. He finished 27-of-45 for 308 yards with four touchdown passes and three interceptions. Other than the interceptions, the other thing he can afford to cut down on are the throat-cut gestures and salutes.

Stat of the game: The Vols had three personal foul/unsportsmanlike conduct penalties in the final 31 seconds of regulation and during the first overtime period.

Second guessing: The Vols got overly conservative at the end of regulation and decided to run the ball straight up the middle three straight times, which came back to bite them. Don't you have to try something there other than a run right up the middle? One first down, and the game's over.

Record performance: Bray had career highs in attempts (45) and completions (27).

What it means: The Vols (6-7) suffered through their third losing season in the past six years, which will be even more difficult for them to stomach when you consider they lost two games this season when they were actually celebrating at the end of the game because they thought they’d won. It was a similar scenario in the LSU loss back in October when the Vols had 13 defenders on the field at the end of the game, giving the Tigers one last shot. Granted, that last offensive play by North Carolina in regulation was quirky with the second being added back on the clock after a review. But ultimately, the Vols have only themselves to blame for not finishing the game. They had hoped to go into the offseason with some momentum. Instead, they go into these next few months trying to figure out how they let this game slip away in the final seconds in what was essentially a home game in Nashville. And with the loss, Tennessee has now lost four straight bowl games to ACC teams.

Here’s a quick recap of North Carolina's 30-27 win in two overtimes over Tennessee in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl:

How the game was won:With instant replay. Thanks to an official review, the Tar Heels got one more chance and one second back on the clock in regulation -- just enough time for Casey Barth to tie the game at 20 with a 38-yard field goal. Regulation ended with terrible clock management by North Carolina, as the Tar Heels let about 11 seconds run off the clock before spiking the ball. The officials said “the game is over” and mass confusion ensued before they decided on putting a second back onto the clock. Tennessee imploded with three costly penalties in the final 30 seconds, including a 13-yard personal foul that landed the Heels on the 12-yard line to start overtime. UNC quarterback T.J. Yates scored with a 1-yard run in overtime, but Tennessee answered right back, sending it into a second overtime. Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray, who got a little brash in the first overtime, threw an interception in the second overtime and Barth kicked the game-winning, 23-yard field goal.

Turning point: With 25 seconds remaining in the game, Todd Harrelson’s catch for 28 yards was reviewed, upheld, and a 15-yard personal foul was tacked on, setting the Tar Heels up with a first down on the Tennessee 37-yard line. It was the play in regulation that kept UNC's hopes alive for a chance at a field goal to send the game into overtime.

Stat of the game: North Carolina held Tennessee to just 27 yards rushing.

Player of the game: UNC kicker Casey Barth. His 39-yard field goal tied the game at 20 and sent it into overtime, and his 23-yard kick gave the Tar Heels their first bowl win since 2001.

Unsung hero of the game:UNC running back Shaun Draughn. Filling in for suspended starter Anthony Elzy, Draughn ran for 160 yards and one touchdown with an average of 7 yards per carry.

What it means: UNC took the next step in the postseason under coach Butch Davis and won the close game, snapping a three-game bowl losing streak. It was a fitting end to a season defined by Carolina's relentlessness through the NCAA investigations. North Carolina hasn't been at full strength all year because of injuries and the investigations, but they've dug deep all season to find ways to win, and this game was a microcosm of that effort.

North Carolina enters the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl undermanned once again, but the Tar Heels are determined to win with what they have. With the game in Nashville, UNC will also have to overcome what should amount to a home-field advantage for Tennessee. Here’s a closer look at the Music City Bowl:

WHO TO WATCH: The backups. With North Carolina starting tailback Anthony Elzy suspended, Shaun Draughn is the only proven runner remaining on the roster. His backup will be Hunter Furr, whose career-high is 27 yards. Elzy will not compete because he failed to meet his obligations as a student-athlete at UNC. The Tar Heels will also be without starting offensive guard Alan Pelc and starting linebacker Bruce Carter, both of whom are injured. Travis Bond, a sophomore, is Pelc's backup at right guard, but the problem extends to center, where Pelc was the backup to Cam Holland. At linebacker, Herman Davidson, a career reserve, is No. 2 behind Carter. There could be some shuffling at linebacker and offensive line as a result, and the Heels can’t afford to have Draughn get hurt again.

WHAT TO WATCH: Turnovers. These teams are so evenly matched on paper that one slip-up could be the difference. The Tar Heels have committed 15 turnovers in five losses this year and turned the ball over just six times in their seven wins (three of those six were in the victory at Rutgers).

WHY TO WATCH: To see if North Carolina can squeeze one more win out of a roster that hasn’t been at full strength all year. This team has been ravaged by injuries and suspensions, yet somehow still found a way to win seven games.

PREDICTION: UNC 21, Tennessee 17. The experience of UNC quarterback T.J. Yates will be enough to overcome the Vols’ home-field atmosphere, and North Carolina’s defense -- even without Carter -- will be good enough to force true freshman quarterback Tyler Bray into some mistakes.
The bowl season for the SEC kicks off Thursday at 6:40 p.m. ET when Tennessee plays what will amount to a home game in Nashville against North Carolina.

Here’s a quick preview of the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl:

WHO TO WATCH: When the regular season ended, Tennessee true freshman Tyler Bray was one of the SEC’s hottest quarterbacks. He threw 12 touchdown passes and only four interceptions during the Vols’ four-game winning streak and also piled up 1,234 passing yards in those four games. A bit of a gunslinger in the Brett Favre mold, Bray has a big arm and isn’t afraid to make the tough throws into tight windows. He’s also pretty crafty in the pocket. And even though he’s only a first-year player, he’s well ahead of his years when it comes to having a feel for where the pressure is coming from and where he needs to go with the football.

WHAT TO WATCH: Tennessee’s defense played better during the four-game winning streak and made several key plays in the finale to hold an explosive Kentucky offense to 14 points. But this will be the Vols’ stiffest test defensively since the South Carolina game on Oct. 30. Sophomore safety Janzen Jackson is back with the team after missing all of the pre-Christmas practices for personal reasons. The Vols will need him at his best. Also, is this defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox’s last game with the Vols? He’s in play at Texas and could be headed to Austin as the Longhorns’ defensive coordinator after the game.

WHY WATCH: For a while, it looked like we wouldn’t get to see North Carolina and Tennessee play football after Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton pulled the plug on the series earlier this year. The Tar Heels and Vols were scheduled to play in both 2011 and 2012, but Hamilton felt like the schedule was too difficult this early in Derek Dooley’s tenure and paid the penalty to get out of the series. It wasn’t the best PR move for the Vols, and the perception nationally was that they were running from an ACC team. Here’s a chance to get some of their “cred” back and end the season on a five-game winning streak after starting out 2-6.

PREDICTION: Tennessee 27, North Carolina 21. It’s a good mix right now for Tennessee of seniors determined to go out the right way and freshmen eager to build some more momentum heading into the offseason. There have been times in the past when the Vols merely went through the motions at bowl games. Not this year. They’re genuinely excited to be here and will play that way in front of what will be a decidedly orange-coated crowd at sold-out LP Field.

Stepping up in the bowls: Tennessee

December, 27, 2010
Tennessee is back in postseason play for the second year in a row, taking on North Carolina in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl on Thursday in Nashville.

After a 2-6 start, the Vols (6-6) rallied to win their final four games in November to become bowl eligible. They were originally scheduled to play the Tar Heels during the 2011 season, but Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton paid the penalty to get out of that series to help soften up the schedule during the early part of Derek Dooley's tenure.

Who's going to step up for the Vols?

Sophomore safety Janzen Jackson: The best news for the Vols upon their arrival in Nashville was that Jackson also reported. He missed all of the bowl practice time in Knoxville and was back home in Louisiana for what Dooley said was personal family issues. Jackson was Tennessee's best defender this season, and the Vols are a much different defense when he's on the field. He's a big hitter with a nose for the ball and also intercepted four passes this season. The Vols are just as comfortable using him on the blitz as they are in coverage situations, and he's one of those players on the back end of your defense that helps mask mistakes other players make. North Carolina quarterback T.J. Yates was one of the ACC's most improved players this season and will test Tennessee down the field with the deep ball. Jackson's value is helping to keep those big plays to a minimum, but he's also a game-changer with his ability to force turnovers and set up short fields for the offense. He's missed a lot of practice time, but Dooley doesn't think he will be too rusty come Thursday.