RALEIGH - The North Carolina Tar Heels went in front of a hostile crowd on their rivals' home field and came away with the win, 17-9. It was their first road win this season, and it pushed them to 2-1 in the ACC, something noted by Carolina head coach John Bunting.
"We are 2-1 in the ACC, which is extremely important to us," said Bunting.
It wasn't easy, it wasn't necessarily pretty, and it was a hard fought contest by both sides. " I don't remember it being that tough thirty years ago," said Bunting.
The contest was also in doubt until the final drive by N.C. State. A touchdown and a two-point conversion would have sent the game into overtime, as the Tar Heels held an eight point lead late. The Wolfpack, led by a game Phillip Rivers, began a drive with 2:21 left in the game on the State twenty-yard line. He completed a 31-yard pass to Bryan Peterson on the second play of the drive. He needed 22 yards on a third down play to keep the drive alive, and he connected on a 26-yard strike.
Rivers finished the day with 306 yards passing, completing 24 of 42 passes. It wasn't enough. Rivers was only sacked twice, but was hurried on many occasions.
What was Coach John Bunting feeling during this drive? "I was nervous as hell," admitted Bunting, "hoping somebody's going to step up and make a play."
The furious comeback by N.C. State would fall short on an incomplete pass on fourth down. The Tar Heels took over, and ran out the final 00:28 left on the clock.
The victory still left the Tar Heel head coach unsatisfied, at least in one area. "The only thing that disappoints me today is the turnovers."
Neither team capitalized on turnovers in the first half. Both Durant and Curry threw interceptions, but N.C. State was unable to get points on the board after the picks. N.C. State fumbled twice, once after gaining possession after an interception.
North Carolina would turn the ball over once more, a fumble by true freshman Jacque Lewis that lead to a field goal by the Wolfpack to put the outcome of the contest in doubt.
Both defenses played well in the first half, the Tar Heels yielding on 17 yards rushing on 13 N.C. State attempts. The N.C. State defense allowed only 139 total yards to North Carolina, while the North Carolina defense gave up 165 yards to the Pack.
The Tar Heels struck first, when an exchange of punts gave the Tar Heels possession on the Wolfpack 27-yard line. A personal foul penalty on second down moved the ball half the distance to the goal. Darian Durant then connected with Kory Bailey for a touchdown.
N.C. State drove the ball 71 yards in the second quarter, Rivers connecting with true freshman Devote Edwards for the touchdown. The extra point missed, and the teams ultimately headed into their lockerooms with the Tar heels ahead, 7-6.
In the second half, two back-to-back drives by the Tar Heels ate up over eleven minutes off the clock. The first drive resulted in a 36-yard field goal by Jeff Reed. A three-and-out series handed the ball back to North Carolina, and the Tar Heels drove the ball 83 yards for a touchdown, culminating with 19-yard touchdown pass from Darian Durant to Kory Bailey.
NC State was unable to close the gap, and their bid to send the game into overtime ended when Michael Waddell made the critical stop on NC State's final drive.