Here is a look at the good and the bad of UNC's fifth consecutive victory in a bowl game.
Willie Parker – Parker hit the holes hard and low. Although most of his carries went for short gains, his ability to explode – as he did with bursts of 43, 22 and 10 yards (touchdown run) – is why the staff kept going to him. Overall, he ran for 131 yards on 19 carries.
Ryan Sims – Sims was in Auburn's backfield all night. He was either plugging holes or chasing the Tigers' QBs. He was in on six tackles, including a sack as he was voted the defensive MVP by the media.
David Thornton – Thornton, who led the Heels with five solo tackles and was in on eight for the game, exemplifies the attitude of this defense and its head coach. His finally earning a scholarship and being awarded the team's defensive MVP for the season is a great story. To see him wreaking havoc in a quality bowl game was special because of how hard he has worked and what he represents.
Julius Peppers – Peppers set the tone defensively with a great first half. He was all over the field making five first-half tackles and chasing down runners from sideline to sideline. His presence made life easier for Sims, Anthony Perkins, Joey Evans and the rest of Carolina's defensive linemen.
Dexter Reid – Reid reminds many of former Heel Omar Brown with his physical style and hard-hitting blows. He blitzed well and was a presence in the secondary and had a hand in eight tackles.
Quincy Monk – Monk was a monster in his last game as a Heel being a part of six tackles. He tipped two passes and did a nice job dropping into coverage, limiting short pass plays. He also had an awesome sack that helped keep Auburn in lousy field position.
Ronald Curry – Curry didn't have a great game but his 62-yard TD run was classic Curry and was enough to help earn him offensive player of the game as voted by the media. He also had a few other nice runs - three times gaining a first down - but his overall numbers (67 yards rushing) suffered because he was sacked a few times.
Chesley Borders – The block by Borders on Curry's TD run was sensational. He cleared his man from the Auburn 20-yard line and ran him right through the end zone enabling Curry to waltz in for a touchdown.
Defense – The "D" was awesome all night. They hit hard, were exceptionally quick from sideline to sideline, and read Auburn well. They also held to Tigers to 31 yards rushing on 32 attempts and 176 total yards – 71 of which came with less than six minutes remaining in the contest.
John Bunting – The Heels' approach and ultimate victory illustrate that Bunting has changed the face and attitude of this program. For the first time in a long time the Heels aren't timid and will go after anyone. Bunting had his squad prepared for Auburn and to play in such a big game. The team was extremely focused.
Another bowl win – With the victory UNC evened its all-time bowl record at 12-12 and has also won the last five bowl games it has played.
Ground attack – The Heels gained two yards or less on nearly 20 rushing attempts despite managing 174 yards on 40 rushes for the game. Although Parker had a great statistical day, a more consistent running game would have made this one a total blowout.
Sacks/Long ball – Curry and Durant were sacked six times, a number that would have been higher if not for their (especially Curry's) ability to get out of trouble. UNC was unable to throw the long ball back because of Auburn's consistent pass rush. Sam Aiken's 41-yard reception late in the second quarter was mostly gained after the catch. Senior Kory Bailey didn't catch a pass in his last game.
Penalties – The Heels were flagged nine times for 73 yards. Some calls, however, were questionable, including a halo call and pass interference on Kevin Knight. None were more ridiculous than the personal foul called on Sims.
Play calling – Although the conservative approach was sensible for the most part, there were some calls that made little sense. On third-and-one at midfield with less than seven minutes left in the half, Curry threw a screen pass to Sam Aiken, which Auburn snuffed out forcing a three-yard loss. Had the play called for Curry to roll out, he likely could have crossed the 49 for a first down. Toward the end of the half, the Heels had the ball inside the Tigers' five but never rolled Darian Durant and the heels settled for a Jeff Reed field goal.
Late score – For the third time this season the Heels allowed the opposition to get a late score forcing an onside kick situation despite Carolina's dominance in the game. Each time UNC got the ball.
The season is complete. UNC opens up next season at Syracuse.
Andrew Jones is in his sixth year covering football and basketball for Inside Carolina. He is also in his fourth year as a copy editor and staff writer for the Wilmington Star-News and hosts a nightly radio show on WAAV-AM980 in Wilmington. He has also written for ACCNews and once published The College Game and the former Total Sports. He can be reached via e-mail at: AJWAAV@aol.com.