12:00 PM ET, November 5, 2005
Kenan Stadium, CHAPEL HILL, NC
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) -- The kick came low and short, bouncing to Wallace Wright at his own 10-yard line. With defenders racing toward him, he nervously bobbled the ball a couple of times before finally gaining control.
Then he started running.
"My whole mentality was to pick up the ball and go, find somewhere to go," Wright said. "Protect the ball first, then get up-field and get whatever yards I can get."
He got them all.
Wright returned that opening kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown, Connor Barth broke out of a season-long slump with three field goals and North Carolina held off No. 19 Boston College 16-14 Saturday.
Jesse Holley set career highs with eight catches for 125 yards for the Tar Heels (4-4, 3-2 Atlantic Coast Conference), who got their second consecutive upset at home. Two weeks ago, they beat then-No. 23 Virginia 7-5, and their defense was every bit as stingy in this one.
"Well, that may not have been as pretty as some people would like it to be," North Carolina coach John Bunting said, "but it certainly is what I have been looking for in terms of having a complete game. It was a whole effort."
After the Eagles (6-3, 3-3) drove 63 yards on their opening drive to tie it 7-7, they gained only 274 the rest of the way.
But North Carolina tight end Justin Phillips recovered the ensuing onside kick to hand BC its second loss in a row. The first came about 10 days ago at Virginia Tech and dropped the Eagles out of contention for the Atlantic Division title, and this one means they are left fighting for bowl positioning down the stretch in the crowded ACC.
"You've got to give it to them, obviously they addressed it all after that first drive," Porter said. "I thought we'd get into a rhythm and get it going."
Wright set the tone early, even though his return hardly was a thing of beauty. He appeared hemmed in deep in his own territory before breaking a tackle, then picked up a nice block from Brandon Tate to reach open space along the sideline.
It was the second time this season North Carolina scored on the opening kickoff, with Tate going 100 yards for a TD against Utah.
"It's the best feeling in the world," Wright said. "I've been waiting for years for that to happen. It couldn't have been a better day."
Barth did his part, too. The sophomore came in 3-for-11 in 2005 -- with misses on his previous three kicks -- but was perfect against the Eagles. His 20-yarder late in the first quarter gave the Tar Heels the lead for good, and he added one from 44 yards in the third quarter to stretch the margin to 13 points.
"Everyone has so much support for me, especially my teammates, just keeping me up, telling me how much confidence they have in me," Barth said. "And it's just awesome to have teammates like that. That's what's helped me so much."
That proved to be more than enough to hold off BC, particularly with a plodding-yet-consisent offense providing just enough for an edge in field position. Matt Baker was 20-for-32 for 211 yards and one interception, while Ronnie McGill gained a bruising 75 yards on 20 carries.
"We had them on their heels," Baker said. "We tried to keep the ball, I thought they looked a little tired. So we just kept pounding the ball."
And Holley continued his impressive season. Early in the fourth quarter, the Tar Heels took over on their own 9 when Holley was at his best. He reached behind him to rip a pass out of the hands of linebacker Tyronne Pruitt that went for 17 yards on third-and-10, then later put North Carolina in field goal range with a dazzling, leaping catch over DeJuan Tribble.
The 29-yard gain put North Carolina on BC's 30, and although Baker threw his lone interception on the next play, the Eagles were out of chances.
"Man, I got in the zone," Holley said. "It just was like nothing else mattered. I didn't care what coverage they were in. I didn't care who was draped over me, where the ball was thrown."
O'Brien wouldn't commit to a starting quarterback next week against North Carolina State, and by now, Porter and Ryan both probably should be ready. Each has played in seven of the eight games.
"Whatever happens next week, happens," Ryan said. "I'm just disappointed that we lost."
Top 25 Overview
It was over when... North Carolina's Justin Phillips recovered an onside kick after BC scored a TD to pull within two points in the final minute.
Gameball goes to... Jesse Holley. The Tar Heels wide receiver set career-highs with eight catches for 125 yards.
Stat of the game... 274: The total yardage allowed by the Tar Heels' D after BC drove 63 yards on its first possession.
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||6-15||9-18|
|4th Down Conversions||1-1||0-0|
|TD||14:43||WALLACE WRIGHT II 90 YD KICK RETURN (CONNOR BARTH KICK)||0||7|
|TD||9:24||ANDRE CALLENDER 3 YD RUN (WILLIAM TROOST KICK)|
Drive info: 12 plays, 63 yards.
|FG||0:23||CONNOR BARTH 20 YD FG|
Drive info: 13 plays, 72 yards.
|FG||4:05||CONNOR BARTH 22 YD FG|
Drive info: 16 plays, 75 yards.
|FG||4:14||CONNOR BARTH 44 YD FG|
Drive info: 11 plays, 53 yards.
|TD||0:44||LARRY LESTER 10 YD PASS FROM MATT RYAN (WILLIAM TROOST KICK)|
Drive info: 11 plays, 80 yards.