Good thing for Bunting his Tar Heel seniors were listening because they did not give up either. Led by senior quarterback Ronald Curry and defensive tackle Ryan Sims, UNC bounced back to win eight of its last 10 games and capped Bunting's first season back at his alma mater with a 16-10 win over Auburn in the Peach Bowl.
Ronald Curry had 67 yards rushing and completed five of six passes for 25 yards.
"These guys were tough all along and all they kept saying was we're going to get it done, we're going to get it done and they did," Bunting said of his seniors. "These guys were not about to give in one inch in terms of their preparation. They were going to prepare harder. They wanted to win so bad and I was so anxious for them to get one win so they could start feeling confident and feeling good about themselves."
Curry and Sims were the stars of the Peach Bowl victory for the Tar Heels as each earned the respective offensive and defensive MVP honors for the game. Curry did more of his damage on the ground than through the air. He rushed five times for 67 yards, including a career-long 62-yard touchdown run that proved to be the game winner.
The play Curry scored on was designed to be a screen pass to the right, but the Tiger defense had the intended receiver covered and Curry did the rest. "It was a great run and I had great blocking," Curry said. "It was a broke down play and one of those things where you make something out of nothing. It seemed like everybody was on the same page and it was suppose to happen." On that drive alone, Curry made something out of nothing on three pass plays that turned into scrambles for 82 yards.
"He is like having an extra runner out there," Bunting said.
"I couldn't be prouder for anybody on this football team than what Ronald Curry stands for and how he carries himself," Bunting added. "The way he has hung in there through some tough times. I am really proud of that young man."
While Curry was improvising and leading the Tar Heel offense, it was Sims that led a defense that allowed the Tigers to gain just 176 total yards and only allowed only 31 yards rushing on 32 Tiger attempts.
"I knew this was my last game in the Carolina Blue and I wanted it to be a memorable game," Sims said. "I wanted to go into the New Year with a good tone. The coaches put us in position to make plays and that it what we did today."
Bunting said he was going to savor his first season as the Tar Heel head coach. "I am never going to forget this team," he added. He was especially proud for his seniors. "They are the glue of most good football teams," Bunting added. "If you don't have a good senior class, you are going to struggle."
The first-year head coach can only hope he has as solid of a senior class in 2002 as he did in 2001 because he knows next season will have its own struggles. "We've got to get back work."